Newspaper report Georgia: The Athens Watchman notices the trial in that place of one Thomas O. Kelly, for the horrible treatment of his wife for the space of several years' time, and which finally produced her death "in tin* Winter of 1856. His trial for the brutal affair has just been brought on. The woman has been partially deranged, and her husband confined her in a pen for some ten years. In this pen, or more more properly den, there has been no fire, no bed or bedding, and the poor creature was nearly or quite nude. For several years, at least, she has been thus kept, and nearly at the point of starvation. On a very cold morning in the Winter of 1856, she was found stiff, on her hands and knees, at the door of the hole. She is said to have been a sensible and respectably educated woman. The details of the case are sickening. The brute of a husband was indicted for murder, but most unfortunately he was not convicted, the verdict of the jury being manslaughter, and a sentence of only three years in the Penitentiary was the result.
Webmaster comment: I suspect there is a lot more to this story because Thomas was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter by a jury and not the more serious offense of murder and he was sentenced to only three years when the maximum was four years. I have not yet found evidence to prove that this Thomas D O'Kelly was the same Thomas O. Kelly given in the above press release but it seems likely because in most family pedigrees Elizabeth Sandridge date of death is given as January 24 1856 or in the "Winter of 1856". Alethea Jane Macon only tells her readers that she died in Walton Co in 1856. How many Thomas O. Kelly could there be who had a wife died in 1856? I also have been unable to find any other 1860 Census for Thomas D O'Kelley giving reason to believe that he is the person listed on the prison census of 1860 . There is one final clue, the above newspaper report was found in a California newspaper in its Georgia Section date April 2 1858 and it credits the Athens Watchman as its source yet nothing about the above incident appears in any of the editions of the Athens Southern Watchman nor does it appear in the Milledgeville Paper the location of the prision and I checked all the papers between Dec 31, 1855 and April 2 1858, there are cases of other murders some that occurred in other states, but nothing about a Thomas O'Kelley or any other spelling who murdered his wife and such a case should have appeared if the claims were true. This causes me to suspect that there is a great deal more to this story that might cause us to understand that it wasn't exactly the way the paper described or because Thomas had considerable wealth that it gave him the clout to prevent the story from appearing in the paper. I think it is likely a reporter covered the trial, wrote the story but his editor, John H Christy. fearing it might cause a loss in local subscribers choose not to publish it so it was sold to far away papers after all it is the kind of story that causes a reader to desire to know more, it sells papers. As a retired criminal investigation I have personally seen in my own cases, how wealthy persons received different treatment by both law enforcement, courts, and the press than the more common persons. We must remember that this was a much different time than we live. To aid us to understand read here about how justice was administered in the neighboring state of North Carolina near this time.
There is another more likely possibility as Elizabeth was 53 at her death and the average age of menopause in her time was 45. Menopause wasn't really known at that time, women were often considered "deranged", thought to be under the influence of Satan, or many other strange conclusions and our ancestors even at that time would bleed themselves as a cure so I think it likely that Elizabeth may have died as the result of a medical treatment for her hot flashes that went wrong, she may have been exposed to the cold to cool her. She died in a time when people were arrested, tried and hung in just a few days but this trial appears to have finished on April 2 1858 or more than two years after her death and it does not appear in any Georgia Newspaper archives so there appears to be a lack of community outrage causing me to suspect it was a medical treatment that went wrong but because she was the daughter of a LA US Senator that her husband was eventually arrested and tried receiving a very light punishment.
Another very real possibility is Elizabeth may have died as the result of an unorthodox treatment for "Consumption" or Tuberculosis. Recent DNA studies of the bones of 7000 year old mummies have found evidence of Tuberculosis. It has now been estimated that for thousands of years 3 out of 10 humans died very miserable and painful deaths due to Tuberculosis which was so contagious that it ran in families and cause of Tuberculosis wasn't discovered or understood until the late 1800s, many decades after Elizabeth's death. Elizabeth's eldest son Dr John D O'Kelley died of Tuberculosis May 26 1861 barely 5 years after his mother's death and that was in a time when exposure to cold air was one of the many new experimental treatments causing me to wonder if Elizabeth may have died from exposure and that explains why her husband received such a light sentence as a result of her death.
Thomas D O'Kelly and Elizabeth S SANDRIDGE were married on 8 December 1829 in Elbert Co GA. They appeared in the census in 1840 in Oglethorpe Co, GA.36 Slave owner Elizabeth S Sandridge was born in 1803 in Elbert Co GA. She died on 24 January 1856 in Walton Co GA.11
Thomas Dean O'Kelly and Elizabeth S Sandridge had the following children: