FLEMINGTON, N.J. -- Lawyers for a man who believes he is the kidnapped son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh said Monday they plan to file suit to force New Jersey officials to release records that may prove his story is true.
Lawyers for Kenneth Kerwin of Biddeford, Maine, also contend the information will posthumously exonerate Bruno Richard Hauptmann of charges he killed the Lindbergh's 20-month-old infant child in 1932.
Hauptmann, then a 35-year-old German-American carpenter from New York City, was arrested for the crime in September 1934 and convicted in February 1935 despite his pleas of innocence. He was executed in April 1936.
Kerwin said the suit, which names as defendants Gov. Brendan Byrne, state Attorney General John Degnan and State Police Superintendent Col. Clinton Pagano, will charge the state 'has refused access to the records, fingerprint records and other investigatory materials' held by the state police.
His lawyers contend that state officials have admitted 'all the investigative evidence is still available other than the child's prints,' but have refused to release the information despite repeated requests.
The suit argues that New Jersey's freedom of information law permits the release of the data, particularly 'more than 48 years after the alleged kidnapping since many of the persons involved in the incident and crime are dead.'
Stephen Schechter, a spokesman for Kerwin, said the plaintiff's foster parents told him in 1948 that he was actually the Lindbergh baby.
Kerwin -- who says he is 48 by the records of his foster parents but would be 50 if he were the Lindbergh child -- spent years hitchhiking around the country gathering physical evidence to prove he was Lindbergh's son.
During his investigation Kerwin also was hypnotized to relive the day of the crime on the Lindbergh estatee, Schechter said.
In February 1976, Kerwin initiated legal action in Hawaii in an attempt to have the courts name him the heir to the Lindbergh estate, valued in the millions of dollars.
But that suit has been delayed because Kerwin must prove he is actually the Lindbergh baby.
Kerwin is now unemployed, awaiting his doctor's permission to return to work as a clothing factory cutter after a surgical knee implant.
Robert Bryan, a San Francisco lawyer representing Kerwin, said he has amassed more than 34,000 pages of previously unreleased FBI records that show New Jersey authorities disregarded some evidence, refused to cooperate fully with federal investigators and generally conducted 'one of the shoddiest police investigations in history.'
In a letter to Byrne in August, Bryan claimed New Jersey officials were refusing to release materials that could prove Hauptmann was innocent.
The Lindbergh child was kidnapped from his second-story nursery at the family's Hopewell estate on the evening of March 1, 1932, by someone who used a crudely built ladder and left a note demanding a $50,000 ransom.
The money was paid to the kidnapper in a cemetery in New York City one month later but the child was never returned.
On May 12, 1932, the body of an infant was found in a woods off Princeton-Hopewell Road near Mt. Rose, N.J., but the corpse was so badly decomposed that the examining physician could not determine its sex.
Despite the deterioration, however, Lindbergh and the baby's nurse quickly identified the victim as the kidnapped infant, and Hauptmann was later arrested.