On Monday, June 10th, 1912, 8 people were found bludgeoned to death in Villisca, Iowa. The group of 8 consisted of 2 adults and 6 children, ranging from ages 5-12. The killings became the most notorious murders in Iowa History.
On the evening of Sunday, June 9th, Josiah and Sarah Moore took their 4 children along with two young neighbors, Lena and Ina Stillinger, who were going to spend the night, to the children’s day service at the Presbyterian Church. The service was an end-of-year Sunday school program, in which Sarah Moore was co-director. The children, along with other Sunday school members, performed speeches and recitations.
Following was social mingling that would last until 9:30 pm. No one suspected that this would be the last time the eight were seen alive.
By 7:30 am on Monday, June 10th, Mary Peckham, the elderly neighbor to the west, began to grow concerned by the amount of quiet coming from the Moore house. Mary called Josiah’s brother Ross, a local pharmacist, to come to check out the situation.
Ross arrived by 8 am, and in his inspection found two figures covered by a sheet in the back bedroom. As well as blood on the sheets. Ross made a call to Joe’s hardware store, telling an employee to fetch Marshall Henry “Hank” Horton, because “something terrible had happened”.
Hank arrived at the crime scene around 8:30 am, discovering “somebody murdered in every bed”. He also found the partially clean murder weapon in the bedroom where the Stillinger girls were found. The victims all had their heads covered with sheets with their skulls blundered with an axe 20-30 times.
Next to the weapon, the murderer had left a four-pound slab of bacon. He had also searched through the dressers in the house to find articles of clothing he used to cover the mirrors in the house and the glass in the entryway doors. He left a plate of uneaten food and a bowl of bloody water on the dining room table.
The morning following the murder Reverend Lyn George Jack Kelly allegedly told fellow train passengers about the murder that had not yet been discovered. Kelly originally arrived in Villisca the morning of the murders, where he attended the church service the Stillinger girls performed at, leaving early Monday morning.
The Reverend returned two weeks later where he pretended to be a detective and joined the investigation team. A grand jury indicted Kelly of murder, and he waited for trial in jail through the summer of 1917.
Kelly signed a confession of the Murders on August 31st, implying that god had told him “to suffer the children to call unto me”. However, Kelly recanted his confession during the trial, resulting in his acquittal.
To this day no one else has been tried for the murder and the case still remains unsolved.