The Story of the Villisca Axe Murder House (Part Two)

Two bodies lay on the beds. The sheets, which had been white, were dark with blood that was still drying in the morning air. With his stomach in his throat and his heart pounding, Ross returned to the front porch. He told Mary what he had seen and he went with her to call the sheriff.

With that phone call the word began to spread. As the sheriff and his men approached the house, others from the town were already coming out of their houses to see what was happening. Before the morning was over it was reported nearly 100 people were hovering around the house and, more disturbingly, would walk through the house and completely disrupt the crime scene.

Once the sheriff was inside he and his men saw something that their minds were almost unable to comprehend. Everyone inside the home was dead. Eight people were deceased and six of them were children. The Moore family had been wiped off the map in the most brutal way possible.

In the bedroom on the first floor lay two girls huddled in a single bed. These were not Moore children, but the children of neighbors who had spent the night. Lena Stillinger was 12 and she lay bloodied and battered to death near the side of the bed closest to the center of the room. Next to her, closest to the wall, lay little Ina Stillinger, age 8. Lena was the only who looked as if she might have been awakened during the crime. One leg was kicked out from under the sheet and her nightgown had been slid up her body and she was not wearing any underwear. It appeared as if she had slid down upon being struck.

This is what greeted the men as they stepped into the home. Blood covered the bedclothes. Blood had dripped and spattered on the floor beneath the bed. At the foot of the bed was a kerosene lamp. The glass chimney had been removed and the area where the wick stood was blackened. Against one wall lay the murder weapon. It was an axe, still bloody from its nights work, but it looked as though someone had tried to clean it. Near the axe, strangely, lay a side of bacon, wrapped in what appeared to be a dish towel and placed near the axe. The slab weighed nearly two pounds.

While their brains were still attempting to digest the horror in the downstairs bedroom, what lay above them was even worse. The men climbed the small staircase that lead to the bedroom of Josiah and Sarah Moore. More blood lay in wait for them there. In their bed, as if they had not heard a sound, lay the bodies of Josiah and Sarah. Sarah was the only one to have been hit, it appeared, by the sharp end of the axe. One blow had cut into her head. The others appeared to have been bludgeoned with the flat side of the axe or the metal, blunt, back end of the axe. In the ceiling, above the bloodied, battered and destroyed faces of the two Moore parents were deep gouges. Apparently the back-swing of their murderer had caused the axe to leave those marks there.

At the foot of the bed of the couple lay another kerosene lamp. Once again, its chimney was gone and found under the bed. The lamp had been burned black.

The men turned left at the top of the stairs, staring into the bed. They took in the blood. They noted the gouges on the ceiling. They smelled the odor of death and blood and they knew that more was waiting for them as they walked through the bedroom to the room just beyond that of Josiah and Sarah. This was the room the rest of the children occupied.

Inside that room lay the rest of them. They lay in their beds as if sleeping. The only major difference was that blood covered the floors and soaked the sheets. Each of their skulls had been brutally crushed, deforming their features. Herman Moore was only 11. Katherine Moore was nearby and she was 9. Not far away was Boyd Moore, his life having ended at the age of 7. Finally, the youngest victim, Paul Moore, lay in his bloody bed, his life over at age 5.

There were common denominators for each of the victims, but the various components of those common themes were completely baffling and added little to explaining the horror at which the men were looking. In addition to each member of the family being bludgeoned to death, their skulls crushed, all of their faces had been covered with sheets or blankets after they had died. The curtains had all been drawn except for two, where there were no curtains, and in those rooms the windows had been covered with clothing belonging to the victims. The kerosene lamps at the foot of the beds seemed to indicate some kind of ritual.

The axe used in the crime was in the room on the first floor. The head still had stains on it, but it was obvious to those looking at it that there had been some attempt to clean it. When the axe was examined it was shown that it belonged to Josiah Moore and had been leaning outside near the house before the night had fallen.

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