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Man, 79, says he's Lindbergh's 'baby'

Shanna McCord

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SANTA CRUZ — The man who opened the door of an Ocean Street hotel room offered a deadpan introduction.

"I'm Charles Lindbergh Jr. Please, come in."

A 79-year- old man claiming to be the kidnapped Lindbergh baby, Charles Lindbergh Jr., lives in a hotel in Santa Cruz.

Immaculately dressed in suspenders, a starched white shirt, tie and gray dress slacks, the 79-year-old launched into detailed stories of a troubled childhood and why people should believe he's the son of Col. Charles A. Lindbergh — aka "Lucky Lindy," the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic in the famed Spirit of St. Louis.

Most people accept that Charles Lindbergh Jr., the first son of the famous aviator, was kidnapped and killed before turning 2 in 1932.

Many would be highly suspicious of anyone claiming to be Lindbergh Jr., alive and living penniless in a Santa Cruz hotel room with his cancer-stricken wife Adua, surrounded by all of their personal belongings.

"That's a doll made of me in 1930," he said, pointing to an antique on the hotel bed, which he says was purchased from a Lindbergh memorabilia collector in Los Gatos.

The widely known story is that baby Lindbergh was taken from his second-floor nursery in the family's home near Hopewell, N.J., and after a series of ransom notes, the little body was found eight weeks later, badly decomposed in a shallow ditch.

But Lindbergh Jr., who also has used the name Paul Husted and has spent his career selling life insurance, contends there was no murder, only a cover-up by his "coldhearted" father.

HE asserts that Lindbergh conspired with gangster Al Capone to get rid of his baby son because he was physically imperfect, born with crossed toes.

"When Al Capone was in jail, he asked my father, 'Will you get me out if I give you your baby back?'," Lindbergh Jr. said Wednesday. "My father agreed to help Capone get out if he didn't get his son back. My father was a very cold guy."

Lindberg Jr., who is on his third marriage and has three grown children, has spent a lifetime exhaustively researching a connection to the Lindbergh family.

He's undergone polygraph tests, attempted to form relationships with Lindbergh's children — all of whom have dismissed his claims and refused DNA tests — and hired a San Francisco attorney to help prove he is the aviator's eldest son.

He said he sent a Mother's Day card every year for 40 years to Lindbergh's wife, Ann Morrow Lindbergh, but never once received a response.

His name has been legally changed to Lindbergh Jr., which is on his driver's license and is the name used for Social Security benefits.

He has what appears to be baby Lindbergh's original birth certificate, which he keeps wrapped in foil.

Lindbergh Jr. say he hopes one day his testimony will be validated, and he'll be paid the $1 billion he believes he's owed from the aviator's estate.

"It's the money," Lindbergh Jr. said. "My siblings didn't want to split the money."

He can recite names and dates, and provide details of places and events that would make doubters think twice.

Boston-based investigative reporter Linda Rosencrance was hired by Lindbergh Jr. last summer to write his biography, "My Kidnapped Life."

She found his story "very, very intriguing," and after lengthy research and interviews with law enforcement around the country, she's concluded there might be some truth to what he's saying.

"There's things Charles knew that he would have no way of knowing," Rosencrance said. "There's no way he could have done the research. There's something to this story."

However, there are holes in the story that cast uncertainty.

"There is no way to be sure unless there's a DNA test done," Rosencrance said. "That's the only way to know — and the family won't do one."