Nathan Leopold seemed to live a charmed life: a published, polyglot college graduate by the time he was 19 and from a prominent, wealthy Chicago family. So, it was a shock to everyone when he and his lover, Richard Loeb, confessed to killing their 14-year-old neighbor Bobby Franks “for a thrill.”
During the summer of 1924 the world watched in fascinated horror as the pair were defended by the famous Clarence Darrow in what many labeled "the trial of the century." There was a massive public outcry when the murderers were spared the death penalty, and once they were behind bars, most hoped they would never be heard from again.
33 years after the murder, it seemed that Nathan Leopold was a changed man. In prison he ran a high school and library, worked as a nurse, and helped find a cure for malaria. He was deemed rehabilitated and paroled to a tiny town in the mountains of Puerto Rico. There he got a degree in social work, raised funds to build a hospital, and advocated for the abolishment of prisons and capital punishment. When he died in 1971 there was an outpouring of support for the “gentle” “reformed” killer. Yet his life was not what it seemed.
100 years after the murder, this groundbreaking new biography uses previously unseen archival collections to look at the full life of Nathan Leopold and reveal the motivations behind Bobby’s death and the secrets kept hidden from history.
Erik Rebain is an archivist who works for the Chicago Tribune and Chicago History Museum. He has spent ten years researching the life of Nathan Leopold in over forty archives across the United States.
List of Abbreviations
Part One: Childhood
Chapter 1: Growing Up
Chapter 2: A New Relationship
Chapter 3: Wild Lives
Part Two: Crime
Chapter 4: Planning
Chapter 5: Execution
Chapter 6: Caught
Part Three: Sentencing Hearing
Chapter 7: Incrimination
Chapter 8: The Hearing Begins
Chapter 9: The Hearing Ends
Part Four: Prison
Chapter 10: A New Code
Chapter 11: Turbulence
Chapter 12: The Prime of Life
Chapter 13: Loss
Chapter 14: Depression and New Hope
Chapter 15: Image Rehabilitation
Chapter 16: Parole
Part Five: Freedom
Chapter 17: A New Life
Chapter 18: Emerging from Seclusion
Chapter 19: Freedom
Chapter 20: Notoriety Becomes Celebrity
Chapter 21: High Life
Chapter 22: Decline and Death
About the Author
Fascination with Nathan Leopold, and his partner in crime the ‘evil’ Dickie Loeb, seems to survive decades of changes in fashion and taste in celebrities. This volume usefully sheds light on Nathan Leopold’s childhood and return to society after imprisonment. Crime and its reception always a mirror of its social context, when and where it happened, and later.
Arrested Adolescence is an engrossing account of one of the most sensational crimes of the 1920s. Through meticulous research, Rebain gives us a careful and astute retelling of the life of Nathan Leopold, his 'crime of the century,' and his life after prison. What emerges is a complex portrait of a privileged and gifted youth, a self-avowed hedonist, and an unapologetic conman, unspooling a life that has been layered in so much myth and legend for decades.
In Arrested Adolescence, author Erik Rebain delves deeply into the life of Nathan Leopold, challenging the lurid portraits and self-serving narratives surrounding the infamous murderer. At the book's heart, Rebain wrestles with the question of Leopold’s rehabilitation and whether he was truly a reformed man. Looking closely at Leopold’s 33 years in prison and the 13 years in Porto Rico after his release, Rebain tells a new story, one that differs dramatically from Leopold’s and his supporter's carefully crafted tale of redemption. Utilizing a vast array of archival materials, Rebain presents Leopold in all his human flaws, a man whose life, behaviour, and motivations could never escape his teenaged obsessions, entitlements, desires, and crime.
Erik Rebain is the go-to expert on the Leopold and Loeb case. He has spent years researching the crime, and generously sharing his knowledge with fellow Leopold and Loeb obsessives. He brings a much-needed queer perspective to Leopold's later years, showing the ruse of his late marriage, his mutual admiration society connection to Roy Cohn, and the other gay power-brokers of mid-Century America. Leopold does not come across as sympathetic in any way, and yet he is also cleared of the actual wielding of the deadly chisel in this fellow-expert's mind. Methodically researched, and written with a clear eye, Rebain uncovers the life that Leopold created years after the Bobby Franks murder in tight, riveting prose.