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IA June 9-10, 1912: The Villisca Axe Murders - Villisca, Iowa

Discussion in 'Historical Cold Cases - Pre 1950' started by Blue G 3, Jan 17, 2019.

  1. Blue G 3

    Blue G 3 Well-Known Member

    At 5:19 a.m. the morning following the murders, the Reverend Lyn George Jacklin Kelly left Villisca on board the westbound number 5 train and allegedly told fellow travelers there were eight dead souls back in Villisca, Iowa — butchered in their beds while they slept, he said — even though the bodies had not yet been discovered.

    Kelly recanted his confession at trial, and his case went to the jury on September 26. The jury deadlocked eleven to one for acquittal. A second jury was immediately empanelled, but acquitted Rev. Kelly in November.

    No one else has ever been tried for the murders, and the crime remains one of the most horrific, unsolved mass murders in American history.

    https://iowacoldcases.org/case-summaries/villisca-axe-murders/
     
  2. Blue G 3

    Blue G 3 Well-Known Member

    The bloody, mysterious Villisca Axe Murders have stumped authorities for over a century, despite numerous suspects, two trials, and a confession.

    On June 10, 1912, the Moore family was sleeping peacefully in their beds. Joe and Sarah Moore were asleep upstairs, while their four children were resting in a room down the hall. In a guest room on the first floor were two girls, the Stillinger sisters, who had come for a sleepover.

    Shortly after midnight, a stranger entered through the unlocked door (not an uncommon sight in what was considered a small, safe, friendly town), and plucked an oil lamp from a nearby table, rigging it to burn so low it supplied light for barely one person. In one hand, the stranger held the lamp, lighting the way through the house.

    In his other, he held an axe.

    https://allthatsinteresting.com/villisca-axe-murders
     
  3. ima.grandma

    ima.grandma Believer of Miracles

    The Villisca Ax Murder House in Iowa is the kind of attraction that speaks for itself. It doesn’t need added kitsch or loads of billboards to bring in visitors. The name of the place says it all, and the gruesome legends surrounding the house are the only advertisements needed. The publicity comes naturally, mostly from true crime and ghost enthusiasts.

    Eight people murdered in their beds
    In the very early morning hours of June 11, 1912—sometime between midnight and 5 a.m.—eight people were bludgeoned to death with an ax inside the home of the Moore family, including all six family members and two friends of one of the daughters. Six of the victims were children.

    [​IMG]
    An article on the murders in The Day Book, from June 14, 1912. The crime was covered heavily in the press. | Photo: The Library of Congress
    The night of June 10, mere hours before the killings, the family had gone to church, which ended at 9:30 p.m., and arrived back at the house around 9:45 or 10. Cigarette butts in the attic led investigators to believe that the killer snuck into the attic while the family was out and hid there until they fell asleep. Like most people in Villisca at the time, the Moore family didn’t lock the doors to their house when they went to church.

    The parents, Josiah and Sarah Moore, were the first victims. The killer only used the blade of the weapon on Josiah, who received the most brutal beating; the rest of the victims were murdered with the blunt side of the ax, which had belonged to Josiah. The family friends who were staying in the guest room—Ina Mae Stillinger, age 8, and Lena Gertrude Stillinger, age 12—were the last to be killed. All of the victims except Lena appeared to have been asleep when they died. Lena was the only one who appeared to have defensive wounds, and was lying across the bed.

    [​IMG]
    The guest room where the Stillinger girls were killed. | Photo: Anna Hider
    The ax was left in the guest room, next to a four-pound piece of slab bacon. At some point, the killer had covered all of the mirrors in the house with blankets and clothes, and cooked himself a plate of food, which was left untouched in the kitchen. He also left behind a bowl of bloody water. There’s something so hauntingly intriguing about little details like this in unsolved murders.

    The gruesome killings were discovered the next morning, when Mary Peckham, the Moores’ neighbor, noticed that the family hadn’t started their morning chores around 7 a.m. She called Russ Moore, Josiah’s brother, who let himself in with his copy of the house key. After discovering the bodies of the Stillingers, he called the local peace officer, who called in investigators.

    There were plenty of suspects, but the murder was never solved. One suspect, Reverend George Kelly, was actually tried for the murders. Kelly was a traveling minister who was in town the night of the crime. He was at the service the Moore family attended before their deaths, but inexplicably left town between 5 and 5:30 a.m. the next morning. He showed a suspicious interest in the murders, though, and after being in and out of trouble with the law for sending obscene material through the mail and a stint in a mental hospital, he was arrested for the murders in 1917. He confessed, then recanted, and was eventually tried and acquitted. It seems that most people didn’t believe that he was mentally or physically capable of the murders.

    [​IMG]
    The room where the four Moore children were killed. | Photo: Anna Hider
    https://roadtrippers.com/magazine/villisca-ax-murder-house-iowa/
     

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