Villisca Axe Murder House

Villisca Axe Murder House

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  1. Villisca is a town located in Iowa, a small town far from any other town that has a population of one thousand. It is an isolated place, the only way to get into Villisca is by a two-lane highway, but Villisca was not always like this.

    In the 1900’s Villisca used to be an up and coming booming city, with more than 2000 people. The streets were filled with businesses and people living their day to day lives, trains visited this town often. It was a very busy town in those days with all kinds of shops, a theater and restaurants.

    Villisca was close community, but on the night of June 10, 1912 history was changed forever in this small, quaint town.

    Villisca in June the weather can be warm and that evening it seemed to be unusually warm and as the sun was setting everyone in the town was starting to settle down for the evening. Dinner times had passed now for the residents and they would go out to their porches to cool off after the heat of the day. Down the street at the church the services were ending and you could hear the sounds filtering out into the streets, the children’s programs were ending at 9:30pm and everyone started heading to their homes to end the day.

    J.B Moore along with his wife Sarah and children, Herman, Boyd, Catherine and Paul and with two other young girls that were friends of the Moore children, Lena and Ina Stillinger, who had came home with the Moore’s to spend the night said goodbye to everyone and left for home.

    The next morning, June 10th, a local resident and neighbor of the Moore’s, Mary Peckham, stepped out of the back door of her home to hang some laundry on the line, as she worked around in her backyard she realized that not only had the Moore’s not been outside to start their own chores that morning but that the house itself seemed unusually still. Mary thought this to be odd, Mr. Moore was always up early leaving for work and Sarah was up getting breakfast way before now. Mary remembers the Moore house to be very loud everyday around this time. Mary decided to walk over to the house, she knocked on the door, no one came to answer, it was very quiet and she was beginning to wonder, Could something be wrong?, they must be in bed sick or something. Mary waited a few minutes more and decided to knock again, when no one came this time, Mary tried to get into the house it was locked from the inside.

    Mary decided to go out to the Moore’s barn back behind the house and let out the chickens to the yard, trying to help Sarah, thinking she must be sick. Mary went back to her home but the more she thought about it, and as the time came and went and still nothing from the Moore’s she had to do something. She called Mr. Moore’s brother, Ross Moore, she explained what was going on and he promised he would be over as soon as he could.

    Ross Moore arrived at his brother’s house, and with Mary Peckham by his side went into the house, he noticed there was no movement and the house was very dark. He went through the house and going into the first bedroom screamed that there had been a murder, Mary Peckham ran to call the police.

    When the police arrived they searched the house, two bodies in the downstairs bedroom were the two girls that came to spend the night with the Moore children the night before. Lena Stillinger, 12 and Ina Stillinger, 8. The rest of the Moore family was found upstairs. Everyone in the house had been brutally killed, their heads smashed in with an ax. Victims of the murders included, Josiah Moore, 43, Sarah Moore, 44, Herman, 11, Catherine, 10, Boyd, 7, and Paul, 5, along with the Stillinger sisters.

    This was the most brutal crime to ever hit Villisca, Iowa; News had spread of the murders quickly. Crime scenes in 1912 were different back then, as people and onlookers came and went from the Moore house the police department quickly lost sight of the case, very few pictures were taken, no evidence collected, in short, investigators in rural areas like this simply did not see crimes of this magnitude in 1912. In spite of this, the investigators did manage to make some notes of the scene or all of the clues would have been completely lost. Any evidence left in the house was likely destroyed. 

    Thanks to this, the murders remain unsolved to this day.

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