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

Photo by Tracy Williams

In the same room as the two Stillinger girls and the axe was a piece of a keychain. While, in the kitchen, there was a plate of food on the table as if the killer had decided to replenish his energy with a snack before leaving. There was also a pan of bloody water sitting on the table, near the food, as if the killer had washed up before eating. Also, all of the doors of the home had been locked.

In the upstairs bedroom, near the side of the bed where Sarah lay with her head split from a single blow from the sharp edge of the axe and then crushed with the flat side, were her shoes. However, one of the shoes had tipped over on its side and there was blood inside of it as well as under it. It was determined that the blood had run into the shoe when it was upright and then it had been knocked over, probably by the killer, spilling the blood. This prompted the theory that the killer had returned to each victim and continued to rain blows upon them even after they were obviously dead.

Finally, there was the slab of bacon. Half of the bacon was in the icebox in the kitchen. The other half, meanwhile, was in the bedroom with the bodies of the Stillinger girls. In the years since the murder it has been suggested that the bacon was used as a sexual aide. Little 12-year-old Lena had her undergarments removed and it was theorized that the killer had sexually assaulted her, using grease from the bacon to assist. However, it has also been stated that none of the victims showed any signs of sexual abuse.

By now the crowd outside the home had grown. Had this been a murder in the modern world the police would have shown up in force and immediately blocked off the crime scene. There would have been forensics teams and police tape all over. None of the spectators on the lawn would have been allowed in and no one would have been able to access the crime scene until all of the area had been viewed, checked and photographed. However, this crime was in a very small town, ill-equipped even in 1912 standards, to handle crimes like this. Back at that time the idea of taking fingerprints was still more theory than practice, especially in a town like Villisca.

As such, before the police in the small town could do much about it, the spectators on the lawn and from the town were walking through the home. They took souvenirs. A bartender would claim, for years, to have a piece of Josiah Moore’s skull in a box behind the bar. Whatever evidence might have been there was soon carted off my morbid curiosity seekers. From the beginning, then, the investigation was doomed.

Within a couple of days the story of the murders in Villisca was in newspapers across the country. Nothing quite like it had been seen in Iowa. The searchers used bloodhounds to search the area around the home for the possible killer or killers. They found nothing.

A theory developed that the killer might have entered the home while the family was at the events at the local school. Then, it was thought, waited for the family to come home, enter the house, and get ready for bed. An upstairs closet was thought to be the place where the killer lurked, waiting for the home to be quite, so he could sneak out into the silent home and strike. However, in the years since it has now been theorized that in a town like Villisca the Moore’s would probably have left their doors unlocked. The killer could have easily entered, killed them and then exited, using keys he might have found on his victim’s person to lock the door behind him.

The father of the family that had been slaughtered was Josiah Moore. He had been a prominent citizen in the town of Villisca. He had lived there for 13 years and had been employed by the most powerful man in town, Frank Jones, at the Jones Store. He and Jones had worked together for nine years and both of them had turned the store into a major success. Jones, meanwhile, had run for office and become part of the state legislature. He thought he had found a man to control his empire in Villisca with Josiah. However, Josiah had thrown him for a loop. He had left Jones and started his own store, taking a number of Jones customers with him. A rift had grown between the two men because of this. Then, rumors began to circulate about a possible inappropriate relationship between Josiah and Frank Jones’ wife.

None of the rumors of an affair were ever proven. However, the town did know about the rift between the two men. For many townspeople the first, and only, suspect in the murders was Frank Jones. He instantly became a villain and became shunned by the town. People would whisper as he walked past. He refused to leave the place that had been his home for so long.

In fact, Jones was investigated but no evidence linking him with the murders was ever found. He vehemently denied any knowledge of the murders or who had committed them. In fact, there are many who now feel that he might not have had anything to do with the murders. However, his reputation was destroyed from that point forward. He was never really a welcomed member of the community after that. He lived until the ripe old age of 85 but to many who knew him, he was never the same after that day.

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One Response to The Story of the Villisca Axe Murder House (Part Three)

  1. brywalaspa says:

    According to the official site of the Villisca Axe Murder House, regarding the shoe: “Linquist also made note of one of Sarah’s shoes which he found on Josiah’s side of the bed. The shoe was found on it’s side, however it had blood inside as well as under it. It was Linquist’s assumption that the shoe had been upright when Josiah was first struck and that blood ran off the bed into the shoe. He believed the killer later returned to the bed to inflict additional blows and subsequently knocked the shoe over.”

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