Iowa’s A Fun State…
Moments. America, just like everywhere else, has its fair share of moments. Some last forever while others are lost in the annals of time. 1912 proved to be a moment that Iowa would not soon forget when the Moore family was found dead in their home from severe axe wounds. The case still open and the killer was never found.
June 9th was just another day for the Moore family. Husband Josiah B. and wife Sarah were enjoying the afternoon with their four children Herman Montgomery, Mary Katherine, Arthur Boyd, and Paul Vernon. In fact, the only surprise for the well known and well loved family was the company of Mary Katherine‘s friends Ina Mae and Lena Gertrude Stillinger who were spending the night at the Moore residence for a sleepover. Later that evening the Moore family and the two girls attended the Children’s Day Program at the Presbyterian Church and around 10pm left to go back to their home.
The morning of June 10th was vastly different. Noticing that the Moore‘s had not left the house for their daily chores, neighbor Mary Peckham decided to check on them and see if everything was alright. Finding the front door locked and hearing no response to her calls, Peckham became worried and called Josiah‘s brother Ross Moore to come down and take a look. After his failed attempts at knocking and calling for the Moore‘s, Ross opened the door with his copy of the house key. Since no one was in the parlor, he moved to the guest bedroom where he found Ina and Lena Stillinger dead. He immediately told Peckham to call for Officer Hank Horton. Horton found the family along with the Stillinger girls were killed with an axe while still lying in their beds and the coroner concluded that the murders took place between 12 and 5am.
The crime scene was horrific. It is believed that the killer started in the master bedroom where Josiah and Sarah were sleeping. Josiah was hit with the blade of the axe so many times that his eyes were missing. Sarah was killed with the blunt edge of the axe with the four children and two girls suffering the same fate. After slaughtering the whole family and the Stillinger girls, the murderer returned to Josiah and Sarah‘s room to inflict more damage to the deceased couple, knocking over a shoe brimming with blood along the way.
Multiple people were suspected to have murdered the Moore family including Andrew Sawyer who claimed to know how the killer escaped but his case was later dismissed, Reverend George Kelley who told officers he witnessed the murders but after two trials was acquitted, and William Mansfield who was rumored to have murdered multiple people across various states including Kansas, Illinois, and thought to be the infamous axe-man of New Orleans, was released due to lack of evidence. Citizens also brought forth various claims of hearing three men (One of them being William Mansfield) in the woods plotting to kill the Moore family and how local citizen Sam Moyer (Josiah‘s brother in law) had threatened he would kill him before. Still, no one was ever found guilty of manslaughter.
The only evidence that pointed to one or more persons who could have butchered the Moore family were two spent cigarettes found in the attic leading officials to believe that the killer or killers waited patiently until the family was asleep.
There are both daylight tours for the faint of heart and night time tours for those who are a bit more daring. Visit their website here for hours. If you really want to experience all the house has to offer, you can also spend the night! Are YOU brave enough to enter the Villisca Axe Murder House?