The ransom note had been drafted in elegant English, using a portable typewriter, indicating a high level of education in its composer. A pair of horn-rimmed spectacles was found near the body in the culvert, which were eventually traced back to Leopold. Police treated Leopold with the deference that might be expected, given the family’s wealth and social prominence, and interviewed him at a local hotel on 29 May, rather than taking him into police custody, where his questioning would certainly be reported in the press. They initially accepted his story, that he had lost the glasses whilst bird watching the week before; he was an unlikely suspect as the motive for the kidnapping was clearly money, and Leopold’s family had no shortage of that.
He was asked about his whereabouts on the night of the murder, and claimed that he and Loeb had been out with dates, but could provide no details about the girls. When a search of his room turned up some questionable gay literature, he admitted ownership, but strenuously denied that he and Loeb were intimate. They also confiscated Leopold’s typewriter, which proved not to be a match to the ransom note. A family employee, however, remembered that they had seen Leopold with a portable typewriter, which seemed to have vanished.
Leopold did not realise that Loeb was also being interrogated, in another room in the same hotel. Their stories did not agree: Loeb claimed that they had parted company in the early evening. However, during the long interrogation, Leopold managed to get a message to Loeb to square their stories, and police became inclined to believe them, although they continued to dig for further evidence that might incriminate the pair. This came via the Loeb family chauffeur, in an interview on 31 May: he was certain that Loeb’s car had been in the garage the entire evening of the 14 May. Loeb and Leopold’s story had them driving around in it, on the fictitious double date.
Faced with this evidence, Loeb broke first, admitting the murder, but claiming that Leopold had been the driving force behind the plan, and that he had struck the fatal blow on Franks. A consensus built up around the idea of the handsome Loeb having been influenced by the less popular, but brilliant, Leopold: the ‘evil genius’. Faced with Loeb’s confession, Leopold also capitulated, but claimed that the murder was Loeb’s idea, and that he had killed Franks.
Newspapers were dominated by the confessions, and the wealthy Jewish community of Chicago were aghast. The wider public, goaded by the press with its intimations of perversions amongst the pampered elite, demanded swift retribution. The Loeb family, desperate to spare their son from the gallows whatever the cost, engaged Clarence Darrow, the foremost criminal defence lawyer in the country at the time, to represent the pair at trial. Darrow was publicly passionate about his abhorrence of the death penalty.