Richard Loeb was the second of four sons of Albert and Anna Loeb. Albert Loeb, vice president of Sears, Roebuck, and hired a governess named Emily Struthers to assist in his boys' upbringing. As a boy, Richard was an avid reader, with a passion for historical novels and crime stories. At age 12, he entered the innovative University High School, adjacent to the University of Chicago campus. Richard was an outgoing and popular boy, and seemed to thrive in the rich learning and social environment that University High provided. He joined the Freshman Literary Society, the Discussion Club, and the Engineering Club.
At home, however, Richard grew increasingly resentful of his governess's unceasing demands that he study, even while most of his friends played baseball or fished. Loeb, in his own words, "formed a habit of lying...to get by her." Struthers, meanwhile, concluded that Richard was such an exceptional student that he should accelerate his studies and pushed him to complete his high school career in just two years. Richard struggled with the mounting burden of homework, but managed to graduate from high school just after his fourteenth birthday.
Socially and intellectually, however, Richard's rapid glide path left him unprepared for the demands of the curriculum at the University of Chicago. After a year of mediocre grades, Loeb met an intellectually intense and aloof boy who was preparing to the university the next fall, Nathan Leopold. The two boys, with dramatically different personalities and interests, seemed to have almost nothing in common. With his hovering governess now gone, Richard spent most of his evenings drinking, socializing with friends, or picking up girls--all activities which bored his new friend.
By 1921, Loeb had embarked on a course that would, four years later, take him to Joliet Prison. It began with cheating at cards and soon progressed to smashing car windshields and store windows with bricks. Crime thrilled Loeb, and over time his attention drifted to ever more serious offenses. Leopold accepted a role as Loeb's partner in crime in return for sex, which was Nathan's driving motivation. The boys' list of crimes grew to include arson and theft.
When Richard Loeb announced he planned to transfer to the University of Michigan in the fall of 1921, Nathan quickly decided that he needed to follow his crime partner and lover to Ann Arbor. At Michigan, the gregarious Richard became an active member of a fraternity and largely abandoned his former friend who was left to mope and study with a few other Jewish boys who shared his inaptitude for the frat scene. Loeb, despite devoting an inordinate amount of time to drinking and card playing, graduated from Michigan in 1923 at age 17, the youngest graduate in the history of the university.
Following graduation from Michigan, Loeb returned to the University of Chicago in September 1923 to enroll in a course in constitutional history. Leopold had enrolled in the University of Chicago Law School, and the two boys renewed their relationship. Soon thereafter began Loeb's obsession with commiting the perfect crime. By November, the plan had begun to take shape. It would involve the kidnapping of the son of wealthy parents and the demand for a hefty ransom. Of course, the boy would have to be killed to prevent later identification....
Following conviction for the murder of Bobby Franks, Loeb entered Joliet Prison. Later, he and Leopold were transferred to Statesville Prison. On January 28, 1936, while in the prison shower, Loeb was fatally assaulted by another inmate, James Day, with a straight razor. Day was not convicted for the assault, which he claimed was in self-defense.