Velma West – Iron Flapper – A sad ending to a sad life

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Virginia Brawdy

Two months later in September 1939, Virginia Brawdy was arrested in Van Wert, OH.  She had died her hair black and had been involved in several robberies of gas stations and stolen a car from a dealership saying that they wanted a test drive. She was returned to Marysville. In April 1941, Virginia was paroled.

Florence Sheline

October 1941 Florence Sheline turns herself into the Denver Police.  Florence did not go to Dallas with the other three, but went her own way.  She said she had been working as a waitress most of the time after her escape and had taken a Secretarial Class.  “I want to pay off my debt to society and make something of myself.  I suppose I’ll have about 2 years facing me when I get back but there will be no more attempts to escape. The temptation was just too much, I left with the other three.”  Florence was paroled January 1944.

Mary Ellen and Velma

Mary Ellen Richards, the one who had stayed with Velma throughout the escape was paroled December 1, 1943.

Velma West in her final days

From the time of the recapture, Velma was just an ordinary prisoner with no special privileges.  Her mother and sometimes her brother came and visited once a month.  Velma worked in the laundry and began have serious heart issues.

In 1950, The parole committee refused to hear from Velma, even though her mother pled with them to release Velma because of her bad health.  Velma had been classified by the prison as physically unfit to work for over a year.

Dr. George Watson diagnosis of Velma was ill with an almost complete heart blockage.  “It would be humane to release her, there is no question that her number is up.  But outside she would only live a couple of months, inside prison the good care and routine is all that keeps her alive.” 

Margueritte Reilley wrote a book Prison Bars with Curtains.  In that book she called Velma her famous failure. 


“I was the prize fool Mrs. Reilley.  I don’t have much time now:  I’d like to spend it with my mother.  We need each other.”

 “We’re both getting old Velma,” was all the Superintendent said.


In 1958, Velma was interviewed by the Chillicothe Gazette.

Velma has a heart condition and has lived on borrowed time for at least 5 years.  She weighs 98 pounds.  She has no duties at the reformatory and spends most of her time in bed.  The reformatory Drama Coach encouraged Velma to write songs.  She wrote over 134 popular songs and 10 sacred ones.  She spends at least an hour a day on her music.  Hammering out tunes on an old upright piano. 

“I have changed.  I have become a Catholic since coming here.  Don’t think I just jumped right into it.  One year after I had been here, I tried to kill myself.  It didn’t work.  I was just despondent.

 “It may sound corny, but this is true.  We pray more from others than ourselves.  I committed a crime, took another human life.  Regardless of whether you are justified, you just don’t do that.   Every time I say Communion it is for my husband.  If his soul can’t be saved, I don’t want mine to be.  I pray for him every day.  It is my belief that God has let me live this long to let me do this.”

October 27, 1959 Velma West died in the Marysville Reformatory.  She was only 52 years old and weighed only 86 pounds. 

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