Robert Zorn’s Research and Book Cemetery John Inspire Creation of PBS NOVA Documentary “Who Killed Lindbergh’s Baby?” 

In 2011, Robert Zorn met with legendary FBI profiler John Douglas and filmmaker/author Mark Olshaker. Douglas and Olshaker had concluded that Bruno Hauptmann, who went to the electric chair for the murder of the Lindbergh baby, may have been recruited into the kidnapping plot by someone in the German-American community. Zorn presented them with evidence to support his theory that his late father’s former South Bronx neighbor John Knoll – a German immigrant completely unknown to history – led the kidnapping plot and recruited Hauptmann into his scheme.

At the end of the meeting, Douglas called Knoll “the best suspect in the Lindbergh case in 80 years” and added that he saw “no holes” in Zorn’s theory. Douglas and Olshaker subsequently wrote the foreword to Cemetery John. A pitch was made to NOVA regarding this fresh new examination of the crime, and filming soon began, with Douglas interviewing Zorn at locations in the Bronx and in New Jersey. Co-producer Mark Olshaker said that “there would be no documentary” if it weren’t for Zorn’s work.

Cemetery John tells the story of how Zorn’s father’s life became haunted as a result of having inadvertently witnessed Knoll meeting with Hauptmann and speaking in German about “Englewood” – the town where the Lindberghs were living at the time. On his father’s deathbed in 2006, Robert Zorn made a promise to continue the investigation and tell Gene Zorn’s story to the world. The younger Zorn embarked on a three-year, full-time research odyssey and crisscrossed the U.S. and Germany in search of evidence that could shed light on whether his father’s conclusion about his former neighbor’s role in the crime was true or just another “grassy Knoll” theory about the Lindbergh case.



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What Others Are Saying

Zorn’s research is both meticulous and compelling. Had it been available during the original investigation and had I been advising the police, I would have said that [Zorn’s suspect] John Knoll is the guy you want to put on the front burner.”

– John Douglas, legendary criminal profiler who pioneered the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit 

“I read Cemetery John on a vacation road trip and couldn’t stop talking about it… More importantly, as a posthumous indictment of John Knoll (who died in 1980), Cemetery John is pretty convincing.”


– Maureen Corrigan, book critic for NPR’s Fresh Air

“[Zorn] marshalls a persuasive case that [his father’s former Bronx neighbor] John Knoll must be Cemetery John… a deft narrative.”


– The Wall Street Journal

“Based on the evidence, I estimate that there’s a 99.9% probability that John Knoll kidnapped the Lindbergh baby.”

– Dr. Edward I. George, chairman of the statistics department at The Wharton Graduate School of Business

“Based on strong and compelling evidence, Cemetery John identifies the two German immigrant brothers who teamed with Bruno Hauptmann to kidnap the Lindbergh baby. Long before I signed the executive order releasing 250,000 files on the case to the public, I’d always believed that Hauptmann was guilty, but that he worked with accomplices.  Cemetery John validates that conclusion.”

– The Honorable Brendan T. Byrne, former governor of New Jersey

“Eighty years after the kidnapping of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s baby from their Englewood, N.J., home, the case still raises questions, ones Zorn ably examines through an unusual lens… Retelling the by now familiar story of Charlie Lindbergh’s kidnapping, Zorn imbues it with novelistic suspense.”

 – Publishers Weekly