Mattie Howard: The Untold Story of Kansas City’s Queen of the Underworld

Dan Kelly
Missouri Valley Sundays
black and white image of mattie howard
Sunday, August 6, 2023
2:00 pm
Helzberg Auditorium
In Person Event

Mattie Howard cracked safes and robbed banks. She was a fugitive, an adulteress, and to law enforcement officials a criminal mastermind who associated with the Midwest’s most notorious outlaws. But was she a murderer?

In a discussion of his new book The Girl with the Agate Eyes: The Untold Story of Mattie Howard, Kansas City’s Queen of the Underworld, journalist Dan Kelly recounts the most notable chapter in the colorful life of a woman described in her day as the “most dangerous criminal ever in Kansas City.” In 1918, when she was 23 and only a few years removed from spending most of her childhood in a convent, Howard gained national notoriety for her alleged involvement in the beating death of a Kansas City pawnbroker, Diamond Joe Morino.

The saga spilled across multiple states, entailing manhunts, shootouts, killings, and love affairs. Kelly details Howard’s murder trial – “one of the most spectacular in Kansas City’s court history” – in which she was defended by Jesse James Jr., son of the infamous outlaw.

A native of Kansas City, Kelly has been a reporter for The Kansas City Star since 2009. He previously worked at the Columbia Daily Tribune, The Miami Herald, and the Louisville (Kentucky) Courier-Journal, and was a member of the University of Missouri School of Journalism faculty for six years.