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More on the kidnapping of Gil Jamieson by Myles Fukunaga

The kidnapping of Gill Jamieson by Myles Fukunaga is the subject of Chapter V in Edward Dean Sullivan’s The Snatch Racket (Vanguard Press, 1932). Fukunaga’s first ransom note looked like the work of what Sullivan called “a half-mad and flighty individual” [page 75]. He was certainly educated, given to pompous language, a touch of cruel humor, and the melodramatic flourish. The note began,

“The fates have decided so we have been given this privilege in writing you on this important matter. We presume you will be alarmed at first. Nevertheless we hope that you will get over this surprise soon and listen to the writers namely. What is it all about?

“Your son has been kidnapped for ransom!”

The letter included the usual ransom note talking points:

  • Keep this a secret;
  • Collect the ransom in unmarked bills of specified amounts and denominations;
  • Follow my complex instructions for dropping off the ransom; and
  • Obey all instructions.

Already by 1928 kidnappers had become wary of the new techniques “scientific investigation” used to trace ransom notes back to their authors. Fukunaga was determined not to allow his message to betray him. Given a choice between writing or typing the note, he judged the pen safer than the keyboard. Sullivan describes [page 84] Fukunaga’s handwriting in a later note as “carefully and erratically altered in each paragraph,” and he probably used the same style from the beginning. Jamieson’s father was to return all ransom notes and he was ordered not to take samples of the writing. Although this command was unenforceable, the kidnapper expressed “no fear.” He felt safe enough in “avoid[ing] the tell-tale typewriter.”

Fukunaga remained free for about three months, issuing occasional messages dripping with cruel references to his bludgeoned victim and misguided notions of intellectual superiority. Ultimately little Gil’s abductor-murderer tripped up by spending ransom bills with serial numbers shared with every merchant in Honolulu. This first break led police to his parents’ home, and to their son’s room, where the lawmen found handwriting that, well, looked like some of the kidnapper’s. Fukunaga was soon spotted, arrested, tried, and convicted. Appeals took some time, and not until November 29, 1929 did he hang.

In the next post, the extent of the snatch racket crime wave in the years immediately before the FBI’s involvement.