The Strange Life of John Paul Getty III

December 15, 1973 – John Paul Getty III is found alive after being kidnapped in Italy.  Getty, 16,  was kidnapped in Rome. A ransom note was received, demanding $17 million in exchange for his safe return. When that ransom message arrived, some family members suspected the kidnapping was merely a ploy by the rebellious youngster as he had frequently joked about staging his own kidnapping to extract money from his frugal grandfather. He was blindfolded and imprisoned in a mountain hideout. A second demand was received, but had been delayed by an Italian postal strike. Getty II asked his father for the money, but was refused. Getty Sr. argued that were he to pay the ransom, then his 14 other grandchildren could likely be kidnapped as well. In November 1973, an envelope containing a lock of hair and a human ear was delivered to a daily newspaper with a threat of further mutilation of Paul, unless $3.2 million was paid: “This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits.”  At this point Getty Sr. agreed to pay a ransom, although he would only pay $2.2 million because that was the maximum amount that was tax-deductible. He loaned the remainder to his son who was responsible for repaying the sum at 4% interest.  The reluctant Getty Sr. negotiated a deal and got his grandson back for about $2.9 million. Getty III was found alive in southern Italy on 15 December 1973, shortly after the ransom was paid.  Nine of the kidnappers were apprehended.  Two were convicted and sent to prison.   Most of the ransom money was never recovered.  In 1977, Getty had an operation to rebuild the ear that had been cut off by his kidnappers.  In 1974, Getty married Martine Zacher who was 5 months pregnant. Getty was 19 years old when his son,  Balthazar was born. The couple divorced in 1993.  Getty was an alcoholic and drug addict. In 1981, taking a cocktail of  Valium. methadone, and alcohol resulted in liver failure and stroke leaving him a quadriplegic and nearly blind.  He died February 5, 2011.  

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