Timeline: The Kidnapping of June Robles
The June Robles Kidnapping
In the spring of 1934, six year old June Robles was kidnapped off the sidewalk as she walked to her aunt’s house after school. Here is a timeline of all interactions with the kidnappers.
June left her school in Tucson with her cousin, headed on foot to her aunt’s house. A man pulled up beside her and started beckoning her into the car. She refused to go in the car.
There were two witnesses to the crime--June’s cousin Barney and a woman named Marguerite Smith.
Barney was also 6 years old. He was eager to start after school play time and was running ahead of June. He looked over and saw a car he described as "little black car, smaller than daddy's — maybe a little Ford" pull over and call out to June. June went to the car and got in.
Marguerite Smith drove by after picking her son up at the same time. She saw a small, beat up car with a man trying to coax June into the car. It’s been reported she noticed June was reluctant. She assumed it was a family matter and she drove on. However, she did give a description of the man as wearing sunglasses and being in dirty clothes. She had the idea he was emaciated, as his clothes were just hanging on him.
A boy named Rosalio Estrada walked into the Robles Electric Company with a note for Fernando Robles, the father of June. The note was a demand for ransom. It demanded $15,000 and had what you would expect--directions for delivery and a warning not to go to the police. Rosalio said a man paid him 25 cents to deliver the note. By the time Fernando scrawled a quick reply and sent it back with Rosalio, the man was gone.
$15,000 in 1934 is the equivalent of about $270,000 in 2016. The letter was simply signed Z.
Rosalio gave a similar description of the man’s appearance but, having spoken to him, was able to identify him as an American.
With the police already overwhelmed with volunteers to help search for June, a second ransom note appeared. This one was addressed to Bernabe Robles, June’s wealthy grandfather.
This note read:
Mr. Robles. Child safe. We are willing to reduce the ransom to $10,000 if you act quickly. Child will be returned safely as per your instructions. Obey instructions. Signed Z.
Fernando Robles wrote and published a letter to the kidnappers in the newspaper. His letter said that he called the police off the case because their efforts have not been successful. He asked the kidnappers to make contact again and to include both a piece of June’s dress as proof of who they are and June’s answers to some personal questions to prove she was still with them and still alive.
The questions he asked were:
What do you do with your bunnies in the morning?
What do you call Corney?
What is the name of Betina's maid?
Where is your little box with the key in it?
A third note was delivered. This time, the letter was delivered by being shoved under the Pima County Attorney’s door at the courthouse. This was rather bold, but did not lead to any additional sightings of the kidnapper. The letter read:
"Now if you play dirty, we will play dirty. Your child is OK. ... Keep spies away. Why don't you do as told? ... You have tried to trap us. We know what you have done. If you had listened to us, your child would be with you.
Now down to business. Your child will be released 48 hours after money is delivered. We are going to shoot straight. We will keep our word. Now or never. XYZ. OBEY.
It is later reported that it included the answer’s to Fernando’s questions to June, however a contemporary newspaper quotes Fernando as saying, "If there were such answers I do not know about them. If there were any such answers in any note, I did not see it."
A confession came in. An American man already in custody confessed to being involved in the abduction. He said that June was in Santa Cruz, Sonora, Mexico with a Mexican couple and an American man. Prior to his arrest, he had given the couple a letter to deliver with June to a relative of his. The relative was to return June to the family in exchange for the ransom.
He gave authorities an address as to where to find June, but when they arrived, the man and girl were gone. The couple denied involvement and neighbors were not able to identify June as a girl that had been seen at the house. Some believe that it was June and her abductor and they had already cleared out and moved on by the time the confession was given.
The relative who was supposed to receive the letter and bring June home was taken into custody but released after they realized he had no idea what was going on. He did not have any letter on him.
June, the American man, and the letter were gone again if they were in fact ever even there.
Fernando publishes another plea in the newspaper. This time, he informs the kidnappers that he cannot raise the entirety of the ransom and cannot pay it in the manner the kidnappers requested. He asked the kidnappers to make further contact so he can negotiate. He also issued an open plea to law enforcement, the general public, and the media to stop anything that would interfere in his handling of getting his daughter back.
A letter was delivered by mail, postmarked from Chicago, to the governor of Arizona. It described an area in the desert where June could be found. Contrary to belief at the time, she was not in Mexico. The letter said that June was in the desert in Tucson. The searchers did not expect to find her alive because one line in the note read, “You will find the body covered with a load of cactus.”
After two hours of searching, June is found by her uncle’s boss, county attorney Clarence Houston. She is in a metal cage buried under the sand. The cage was about 3.5 feet high, and June was chained by the leg. According to June, she spent the entire 19 days in the cage with her abductors only coming to bring her food three or four times.
A federal grand jury determined it lacked the evidence needed to indict anyone and referred to the incident as an “alleged kidnapping,” fueling theories that it was a hoax. The grand jury proceedings were sealed, as is customary, and the case was closed.
June Robles grew up and raised her own four children in Tucson, Arizona. She was married to her husband for 64 years when she died in September 2014 at the age of 87 years old. Aside from one interview she gave days after her rescue, she never spoke publicly about her kidnapping.