Thursday, July 18, 2013

Happy birthday, Machine Gun Kelly

It is the birthday of notorious Depression-era desperado Machine Gun Kelly (1895), who is most famous for kidnapping an oil tycoon in Oklahoma City and extracting $200,000 ransom. Kelly's third wife (and partner in crime) gave him a Thompson submachine gun and gave him the nickname. She made a project of building his reputation, though until the kidnapping he was a minor criminal, part of the wave of midwestern bank robberies during the Great Depression. Kelly's undoing was his alert kidnap victim, who was blindfolded but remembered sounds that gave authorities clues about where he was held and left fingerprints to establish his presence there. Kelly was sentenced to life in prison and died in Leavenworth in 1954. Kelly's son from his first marriage, Bruce Barnes, wrote Machine Gun Kelly: To Right a Wrong (1992).

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