Kathryn Kelly: The Truth About Machine Gun Kelly's Wife

George Kelly Barnes, who was commonly known as "Machine Gun Kelly," was one of the most notorious gangsters of the early 1900s. Although he was known for robbing banks and bootlegging alcohol, the criminal is best known for kidnapping oil tycoon Charles F. Urschel and holding him for a $200,000 ransom.

As reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, federal authorities arranged for the ransom to be paid, and Urschel was released on July 31, 1933, without further incident. Two months later, George was arrested and charged with kidnapping. He was ultimately convicted and sentenced to life in prison. His wife, Kathryn Kelly, was arrested as an accomplice and was also convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Although some might say Kathryn simply became caught up in her husband's life of crime, the opposite is actually the case. As reported by Crime Museum, Kathryn was suspected of murder, arrested for robbery, and deeply involved in bootlegging before she even met George.

Kathryn's third husband, Charlie Thorne, was a well-known bootlegger throughout Fort Worth, Texas, where the couple settled. Crime Museum reports Thorne died of an apparent suicide shortly after an altercation with his wife. Although he could not read or write, a legible suicide note was found at the scene. And while Kathryn was suspected of killing Charlie Thorne, she was never charged or convicted of his death due to a lack of evidence supporting her involvement.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Kathryn and Machine Gun Kelly joined forces to become kidnappers

Shortly following the questionable death of her third husband, Kathryn Kelly was arrested and charged with armed robbery. However, she was released on a technicality, and the charges were later dropped.

As reported by Crime Museum, Kathryn eventually teamed up with George "Machine Gun Kelly" Barnes. In addition to inviting him to join her thriving bootlegging business, Kathryn bought her new husband a machine gun and gave him the nickname he would maintain for the rest of his days.

Inspired by a successful kidnapping — which made the Barker-Karpis gang $100,000 — Kathryn and George began plotting a kidnapping of their own.

Crime Museum reports the Kellys held Charles F. Urschel on a farm owned by Kathryn's parents. However, after the ransom was paid and Urschel was released, Kathryn and George fled. When authorities descended on the farm, Kathryn's parents were arrested and charged in connection with the oil tycoon's kidnapping. However, Kathryn and George were not captured until two months later.

Machine Gun Kelly died in prison in 1954. Kathryn was released from prison in 1958 after her mother convinced authorities that the FBI intimidated her daughter's attorney. According to reports, Kathryn and George did not have any contact following their arrests.

Following her release from prison, Kathryn moved to Oklahoma, where she lived under the name Lera Cleo Kelly. She died in 1985 at the age of 81.