In the sleepy town of Villisca, Iowa, a gruesome crime was committed on the night of June 9, 1912.
That night, an unknown individual snuck into the home of Josiah and Sarah Moore and murdered them with an ax, along with their four children and two girls who were there having a sleepover. They were all killed in their sleep except one.
Houseguest Lena Stillinger fought back. She had a defensive wound and was found across the bed. Her undergarments were removed and her nightgown had been pushed up, leading the police to speculate she had been molested.
All the victims had been stuck in the head with an ax that belonged to the family. Josiah was attacked more brutally than the rest. His body was found without eyes.
The next morning, the family’s neighbor became concerned. She tried to check on the family, but the door was locked so she called Josiah’s brother who had a key. He discovered the bodies.
The Villisca murder has never been solved. The crime scene was tainted as dozens of people came to gawk at the bodies before the house was cordoned off.
Police did discover some details:
- All the windows had been covered.
- The victims’ heads were covered after death.
- In two of the bedrooms, a lamp was left at the foot of the bed.
- The murderer had tried to wipe clean the ax and to wash himself.
- A slab of bacon was found in one of the bedrooms that matched a slab in the icebox.
- One of Sarah’s shoes was found completely covered in blood.
- Days before the murder a stranger asked the Moore’s niece for directions to the Moore house. Sarah complained the man had been seen around their property afterward.
There have been numerous suspects:
- Frank Jones: Jones was angry Moore had taken business away from him.
- George Kelly: A traveling minister, Kelly attended the same church service the Moores did the night of their death and left town before 6 a.m. the next morning. He had a fascination with the case. He was arrested in the case five years later, confessed but later recanted. One trial ended in a hung jury; he was acquitted in another.
- William Mansfield: Mansfield killed his family with an ax in 1914 and is believed to have killed another family with an ax in 1912. There were several other unsolved ax killings during the 1911-1912 timeframe. Details of many of the cases were similar. He was arrested but a grand jury did not indict him.
- Henry Moore: Another suspected serial killer whose weapon of choice was an ax.
- Sam Moyer: Josiah’s brother-in-law who had threatened to kill him.
- Andrew Sawyer: A transient and railroad worker, he was turned in to the police by his boss who thought he was behaving suspiciously. Sawyer had a fixation with the case and spoke about it often. He slept with an ax and apparently had knowledge of the Moore’s property. However, he had an alibi; he had been arrested in another town.
- Joe Ricks: He was arrested because he came to town with blood on his shoes. The Moore’s niece said he was not the man who asked for directions.
Today, the Villisca ax-murder house is a museum. It has been restored to look like it did when the Moores were alive.
The house reportedly is haunted, and many people who lived in the house prior to it becoming a museum have fled in terror.
Paranormal investigators have visited the home. EVP recordings taken in the home supposedly named Andrew Sawyer as the killer.
Who do you think is the murderer? Leave a comment below.
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