How Organized Crime Saved a Kidnapping Victim

On Dec. 16, 1931, Nell Donnelly found out her life was worth exactly $75,000. For perspective, that would be $1,298.767 today. Nell was a prominent Kansas City fashion designer whose clothing could be found in closets all across the country and whose financial success was well known. On that fateful day, Nell had been bound and driven to a dilapidated house, where she and her chauffeur, George Blair, were held against their will. She was given a dire warning: Either her family would deliver $75,000, or the kidnappers would kill George. Although they said they would spare Nell’s life, they would blind her instead. Nell and George would soon discover that help was coming from the same criminal underworld that had put them in their predicament. When the ransom call was received by Nell’s parents, they immediately contacted their attorney, James Reed (pictured above), who in turn called upon John Lazia, a major figure in the Kansas City organized crime scene, for help in tracing Nell. Lazia sent known criminals on search parties, one of which located the house where Nell was being held and stormed the place. Following a telephone call, the police found Nell and George safe and sound at a candy shop where the gangsters had dropped them off. What happened to the abductors will have to be left to your imagination. Nearly two years after the kidnapping, Nell married James Reed, the attorney who had saved her life.