Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

George "Machine Gun" Kelly

Kellys on the Run

The Kellys and Bates left Texas for Minneapolis where they quickly sold a portion of the ransom money. There the trio decided to split up. Kelly and his wife left town on August 5. That same day FBI agents, alerted to the fact that twenty dollar bills with serial numbers fitting the ransom money were discovered in the Twin Cities, made their first arrests in the kidnapping case. The men arrested were Minneapolis crime boss Isadore Kid Cann Blumenfeld, Sam Kronick, Sam Kozberg, Edward Barney Berman, and Clifford Skelly.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, on August 9 Harvey Bailey, Wilbur Underhill and others robbed the Peoples National Bank in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. Bailey had taken one of the machineguns that Kathryn had purchased for Kelly to use during the robbery. Bailey now returned to the Shannon ranch to lie low.

With all the information Urschel supplied, the FBI was able to pinpoint the Shannon ranch. On August 10, FBI Special Agent Edward Dowd drove to the Shannon ranch and posed as an inspector. After spending time at the ranch, he drove the short distance to Armons home. There he was able to identify by sight all of Urschels blindfolded memories including the squeaky well pump. Dowd asked for a drink of water and experienced the mineral taste for himself.

On August 12, a raiding party consisting of the FBI, police from Dallas and Fort Worth, including detectives Swinney and Weatherford, as well as Charles Urschel, swarmed over the Shannon ranch. After arresting Bailey, Ora and Boss Shannon, the raiders went to Armons house and arrested him and his wife Oletha.

The Urschel kidnapping money given to Bailey by Kelly and Bates was still on him. Where Bailey was actually captured seems to be a minor mystery. John Toland had him sleeping on a bed in the back yard. Rick Mattix had Bailey sleeping on the porch. A newspaper report had him on a small cot inside the house. Each account of his sleeping preference, however, had him well armed. Bailey was the headliner of the arrest as newspapers proclaimed the Kansas City Massacre chief had been apprehended.

A side note to the raid, another version of how the FBI found the ranch came to light in 1978. Aged kidnapper and bank robber Alvin Karpis told a former FBI agent that, two local cops (were) in on it and when they didnt get their split, they blew the whistle. Karpis was believed to have been referring to Swinney and Weatherford.

The same day that the Shannon ranch was raided, August 12, Albert Bates was arrested at a hotel in Denver. His capture came about after a man tried to use stolen money orders that had been taken from the Tupelo, Mississippi bank robbery the previous year. Bates was identified as the person who had sold him the money orders at a Denver restaurant. Bates had used the name George L. Davis when he was arrested and had a prisoner who was about to be released, contact his wife, Clara. Mrs. Bates then wired Fort Worth detectives Swinney and Weatherford with the following message:

GEORGE L. DAVIS HELD IN DENVER WANTED IN BLUE RIDGE, TEXAS, BANK ROBBERY. WILL WAIVE EXTRADITION. COME AT ONCE. ADVISE COMING BY AIRPLANE...GEORGE L. DAVIS

Bates was clearly worried. On his person at the time was over $600 of the ransom money. He tried to get rid of it by asking the police to forward it at once to his attorney. Instead, they held on to it. The police suspected Bates of being involved in several past bank robberies in the area. They brought in four witnesses who positively identified him as the lone gunman in the robbery of the National Bank of Louisville, Colorado in January 1920. However, law enforcement officers were astounded when Bates admitted his guilt, causing them to sense that he was involved in something much more serious.

When Swinney and Weatherford received the George L. Davis wire, they remembered Kathryns request the night of the party. The detectives contacted the FBI who went to Denver, confirmed that the money the police were holding was part of the ransom money, and took Bates into federal custody.

When the Kellys left Minneapolis on August 5, they were reasonably sure that they had not been identified as having taken part in the kidnapping. With the arrests of the St. Paul men, Kathryns family, and now Bates, panic began to set in.

By mid-August 1933, just two weeks after the release of Charles Urschel, the government was preparing its case in Oklahoma City against Kathryns mother, Boss Shannon, Armon Shannon, Bates, Bailey and the five money purchasers from St. Paul. On August 18, while in Des Moines, Kathryn sent a note to the Oklahoma Assistant Attorney General, Joseph B. Keenan, stating:

The entire Urschel family and friends, and all of you will be exterminated soon. There is no way I can prevent it. I will gladly put George Kelly on the spot for you if you will save my mother, who is innocent of any wrongdoing. If you do not comply with this request, there is no way in which I can prevent the most awful tragedy. If you refuse my offer I shall commit some minor offense and be placed in jail so that you will know that I have no connection with the terrible slaughter that will take place in Oklahoma within the next few days.

Kathryn then sent a telegram to a friend, Louise Magness, who was staying at her Fort Worth home, asking her to fly to Des Moines. When Magness arrived she drove the couple to Brownwood, Texas. Pretending to be George Kellys sister, she purchased a new car for them.

On Labor Day, September 4, Harvey Bailey, who had earned a reputation for his ability to escape from jails and prisons, did just that. At the escape proof Dallas County jail, he bribed a jailer to smuggle in a gun and two hacksaws to him. After sawing through the bars, allegedly with the help of the jailer, Bailey escaped only to be captured the same day in Ardmore, Oklahoma. The jailer and a man who supplied the hacksaws received prison sentences. Years later, Bailey claimed the jailer brought the gun and saws in on his own with the plan to shoot Bailey and claim a reward.

On the same day Bailey was enjoying his short lived freedom, Luther Arnold and his wife, described as unemployed nomads of the Depression Era, were hitchhiking with their young daughter, Geraldine, near Hillsboro, Texas. Kathryn, who was driving a pickup truck and wearing a red wig, stopped to give them a ride. She drove the Arnolds to Cleburne, Texas and paid for their meals and lodging for the night. The following day she purchased clothes for Mrs. Arnold and her daughter and then offered the family some money.

Can I trust you? Kathryn asked.

In a somewhat desperate state, she revealed that she was Kathryn Kelly and gave Luther Arnold $50 with instructions to go to Fort Worth, get in touch with her lawyer, and find out why Keenan had not accepted her offer of releasing her mother in exchange for Kellys arrest.

Luthers next mission was to go to Oklahoma City with instructions to keep Kathryn posted on the trial. While there, Luther picked up a letter at the post office which gave him an address in San Antonio where he was to meet Kathryn and his family. When he arrived, Kelly was also there. Kelly stayed one night and left.

Now Kathryn had another favor to ask. She wanted to borrow the Arnolds daughter, Geraldine, to provide a cover for herself and Kelly while they traveled. The Kellys and Geraldine were soon headed to Chicago. On their way there, they made a stop outside Coleman, Texas to bury $73,250 of the ransom money on a farm owned by Kathryns uncle, Cass Coleman.

On September 19, Urschel received a threatening letter signed by Kelly himself. In it, Kelly swore to destroy Urschels home and family if the Shannons were convicted. He ended the letter with, it is up to you; if the Shannons are convicted, you can get another rich wife in hell, because that will be the only place you can use one. Adios, smart one. Your worst enemy, Geo. R. Kelly. I will put my fingerprints below so you cant say some crank wrote this.

The Kellys were not welcome in Chicago. Joe Bergl, a friend of Kellys provided them with a car, $200, and whiskey, so they would leave his place. On September 21, they headed for Memphis with the Arnolds daughter in tow. The day after their departure from the Windy City, members of the Barker-Karpis Gang drove a bulletproof Hudson automobile, equipped with smoke screen and oil slick devices, in the robbery of a Federal Reserve Bank messenger. During the escape, the bandits wrecked the car and killed a Chicago police officer. The car was traced back to Joe Bergl.

The police immediately suspected Kelly and Verne Miller, who was recently rumored to be in Chicago. The authorities theorized that the two men were attempting to raise cash to spring Harvey Bailey. The police and the FBI still believed that Kelly and Bailey were Millers accomplices in the Kansas City Massacre. Later, Pretty Boy Floyd and Adam Richetti would be accused of the Chicago robbery and murder.

The Kellys arrived in Memphis and hid at the home of John Tichenor. There they celebrated their third wedding anniversary. Kelly contacted Langford Ramsey, his first wife Genevas brother, who was a local attorney. Giving his ex-brother-in-law his automobile, he sent Ramsey to Texas to retrieve some of the buried ransom money. Kelly had Geraldine went with him as a guide to help find Cass Colemans farm. When the two arrived, Ramsey was informed that the FBI was watching the place closely and Coleman refused to allow him to dig up the money. Ramsey went to the local telegraph office and wired Kelly that, the deal fell through. He also wired the Arnolds in Oklahoma City that their borrowed daughter wanted to return and was being placed on a train. Unknown to Ramsey, or the Kellys, was that the Arnolds were already in FBI custody and talking. The agents also intercepted Ramseys wire informing the Arnolds about Geraldines return. The FBI met the young lady at the train station and Geraldine began to tell the story of her incredible sojourn...leaving out no detail.

In Bruce Barnes book, he tells a somewhat different story. He claims that when the Kellys left the Shannon ranch after releasing Urschel, they drove immediately to Cass Colemans farm and buried the money. Kathryn then bleached Georges hair blonde and the two headed for Juarez, Mexico passing through Midland and El Paso, Texas along the way. They left Juarez on August 3 and headed to Chihuahua. On August 12, while relaxing in a Chihuahua hotel room, Kelly heard on the radio that the Shannon ranch was raided, and that Kathryns family had been arrested. The news report also said that Albert Bates was arrested in Denver and that four men had been taken into custody in St. Paul. Bruce Barnes claims that Kelly understood the radio news broadcast because his father spoke fluent Spanish.

After hearing the news, the Kellys headed back to El Paso, stored their automobile, and flew first to Denver and then to Des Moines. Since Barnes states that when Bates initially left the Shannon ranch that he headed for Kansas City, he offers no explanation as to how the Blumenfeld syndicate got hold of the ransom money in St. Paul.

 

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