Gladys Ryan Freed From Car Trunk : Airplane Builder’s Widow Victim of Kidnaping, Burglary

Times Staff Writer

The 85-year-old widow of T. Claude Ryan, the pioneer airplane builder whose company became Teledyne Ryan Aeronautical and earlier built Charles A. Lindbergh’s historic “Spirit of St. Louis” airplane, was found Tuesday morning locked in the trunk of her car. She had been abducted late Monday night from her Point Loma home.

Gladys Ryan was discovered, shaken but unharmed, in her car’s trunk on a frontage road near North Harbor Drive and Grape Street by a San Diego Harbor Police officer responding to complaints of loud music coming from an automobile, said Sgt. Bill Dovey, the San Diego police detective directing the investigation.

Mrs. Ryan told police that a man surprised her in her home, abducted her and drove her to the waterfront area.

The incident occurred about 9 p.m. Monday, Mrs. Ryan told officers, when she heard a knock at the front door of her home, in an enclave of older, expensive homes near the tip of Point Loma. Before she reached the front door, the kidnaper, already in the house, put his hand over her mouth and forced her to the back of the house. Mrs. Ryan was alone in the house at the time.

The man took about $20 from her purse and ransacked drawers and cupboards, but stole nothing else of value before walking Mrs. Ryan down to the driveway and putting her in the trunk of the car, Dovey said.


When officers found the car about 8 a.m. Tuesday, the radio was playing loudly and the keys were in the ignition. It wasn’t until the radio was turned off, Dovey said, that officers heard a pounding noise and realized someone was in the trunk.

Although a “little shaken and fatigued,” Mrs. Ryan required no medical attention. She asked to be taken home, Dovey said.

No arrests have been made in the case, and there are no suspects, police said.

T. Claude Ryan, who founded the company that built the aircraft Lindbergh piloted on the world’s first solo transatlantic flight in 1927, died in 1982 after a long career in aviation.