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Jerome Crowe, the FBI agent who delivered the ransom money in the Frank Sinatra Jr. kidnapping, dies at 93

Steve Marble, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- Jerome Crowe, a former L.A.-based FBI agent who delivered the ransom money in the Frank Sinatra Jr. kidnapping and led a SWAT team in the bloody SLA shootout, has died after a long struggle with Alzheimer's disease.

A lifelong law enforcement officer who is credited with assembling the FBI's first SWAT team in Los Angeles, Crowe died Nov. 26 in Hawthorne, his son Jerry said. He was 93.

Crowe was also a noted firearms instructor, and the FBI Regional Tactical Training Center at the former El Toro Marine base in Irvine was renamed in his honor in 2011.

In 1963, Crowe was handpicked to take the lead in a case that quickly captured the nation's attention -- the kidnapping of Frank Sinatra's 19-year-old son.

Sinatra, according to the biography "Sinatra: Behind the Legend," had been contacted by the kidnappers, who initially seemed uncertain how much ransom money to demand. While Sinatra waited, the kidnappers finally settled on $240,000.

"What the hell?" Sinatra replied. "What kind of figure is that?"

 

Eager to have his son freed, Sinatra pulled the money out of the bank and the FBI photographed each bill. Then, Crowe and the singer set off to make the ransom drop.

The two were initially told to go to LAX, and then a gas station, and then another gas station. Finally, they were instructed to drop off the attache case with the cash between a pair of school buses parked outside a Texaco station. Two undercover agents kept surveillance on the scene from an ice cream truck.

Sinatra Jr. was released quickly and the kidnappers -- a trio of out-of-work house painters -- were later arrested. Most of Sinatra's money was recovered.

It was a grimmer scene a decade later when Crowe took a lead in the two-hour shootout with members of the Symbionese Liberation Army, a radical crew from the Bay Area that had made headlines after kidnapping Patty Hearst, the granddaughter of famed newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst.

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