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Kidnapping of Oklahoma City oil man made national headlines in 1933

By Don Gammill, Senior Staff Editor Modified: July 9, 2014 at 3:26 pm •  Published: July 22, 2014

As a bank robber, George Barnes, better known as "Machine Gun Kelly," was considered rather proficient. But when his wife, Kathryn, convinced him to try kidnapping for ransom, his life of crime came to an end after one noteworthy incident.

Kelly and accomplice Albert Bates broke into the Oklahoma City home of oil man Charles Urschel late one night in July 1933, breaking up a card game of the Urschels and another couple, Walter and Kelly Jarrett. When the gunmen could not determine which man was Urschel, they kidnapped both, later freeing Jarrett.

Taken to a Texas hideout, Urschel was forced to write a ransom note a few days later. The $200,000 demanded was paid by a business associate of Urschel. He then was freed on a rainy night in Norman, with $10 in his pocket for cab fair.

Both kidnappers later were captured, along with more than a dozen other people linked with the crime. Tried under the new Lindbergh kidnapping law and found guilty partially because of a trail of marked ransom money, Kelly and his fellow kidnapper were convicted and sent to prison where both later died.

Kelly's wife also went to prison and was released in 1958. She died in 1985 in Oklahoma. The Urschels later moved to San Antonio, where they lived the remainder of their lives.

But the house where the crime occurred, 327 NW 18, still stands and the event remains an interesting part of Oklahoma history.

>>Read: Author gives 'Infamous' bad guy due credit (Published May 14, 2010)

>>Read: Depression-era gangsters in Oklahoma (Published Oct. 25, 2009)

>>Read: July 22, 1933 'Machine Gun' Kelly Kidnaps Wealthy Oilman (Published April 18, 1999)


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