Another bed holds a girl — Katherine, 10 years old — who lies with her face mostly beneath a bed sheet and a dress curled up over her head. And the last bed holds two little boys. He locks the door. Horton runs for a doctor. On the way into town he tells a night watchman of the murders, asks him to keep order at the house. Seconds later he tells a city clerk to call the county sheriff, the county attorney, detectives in Omaha and the police in Beatrice, Neb.
He tells Drs. A drunk named Bert McCaull steals a piece of bone to display at his pool hall, claiming it belonged Joe Moore.
One hundred years after the murders, Iowa is a state begging to be visited, with plenty of Americana to offer. And the Midwest's most gruesome unsolved murder, now a guest host for ghost hunters, who pay hundreds of dollars to bring a sleeping bag and set up on the old hardwood floors.
After an hour of emptiness on this third-rate highway, amidst brown and eerie hills on an unseasonably cold, gray spring afternoon, the sign appears like a beacon. There are a few well-kept houses, a new-ish playground, a war monument, children playing baseball and a mother wearing a T-shirt from the local high school that last year graduated 28 kids. The windows of the Olson-Linn Museum are cloudy.
A sign with changeable letters says:. He wears overalls, a ball cap, a plaid shirt and a blue nylon coat.
https://kotigenquatt.cf They have different personalities. Come on in. Dusty and smelling slightly of mold. Everything inside intensely local. Black and white photographs everywhere, mostly portraits of stern-looking men. Behind the counter Darwin asks if this is my first visit.
Darwin would die not long after my visit. He wags his finger at the painting on the T-shirt depicting a white gothic house at sunrise. I said what do you need those for? And well I said What do you want to get in the attic for? He said he wanted an original shingle. Her mother was a good friend of the Moore family.
Nobody had a problem with it being where the ax murders happened. They went to a Bible school program. He keeps driving and points to a handsome Victorian house with an upstairs porch. He probably was up there on that balcony, too, you know? In his weirdness he was probably looking for a window to peep into. And there is Sen. This was a wealthy neighborhood back then? A couple antique stores and a pharmacy and a grocery. The manhunt never yields a killer. A few days after the murders the Stillingers give birth to a stillborn, and by the end of the year their house catches on fire, burns down.
Many investigators come to Villisca, all of them with theories. A tall and wavy-haired charmer, Wilkerson works in the Kansas City office and poses as a real estate agent. Wilkerson pins the ax murders on a state senator, Frank Hernando Jones, who owns the farm equipment store where Joe Moore worked before striking out on his own and taking with him the John Deere franchise. Stillinger; and so do the rest of the Presbyterians. Among them, F. Jones has a priggish reputation.
He came to Villisca before the Civil War and made his money in hardware and farm equipment, then entered banking and politics. As a business owner he schedules his employees six days a week from 7 a. And apparently he openly hated Joe Moore. Mansfield is a road crew worker and union organizer who also happens to be white despite a nickname that gets black people run out of town — yet again. This is the axe murder.
He murdered the Moore family at Vil llisca. The hypocrite whose dirty money paid for the hellish job wants your support for the state senate. Will he get it? But Wilkerson hatches a plan — what if he puts Jones on trial instead? He packs the county courthouse with onlookers who crowd the aisles and the periphery behind the jury and judge. He calls four witnesses to testify against Jones. And to this Wilkerson adds his own theory: the killer or killers hid themselves in the attic and closets. Jones loses in the court of public opinion, and loses the slander case, too.
From June , , he worked for the Illinois Central Railroad roughly miles away. Ultimately the case falls apart when all four witnesses change or recant their stories.
And Jones, ousted from office, loses political and social prestige. Never humbled, always proud, he publishes a memoir called "Reminiscences" shortly before his death. In it he focuses on his achievements and defends his legacy — and "Reminiscences" becomes a book that nobody reads.
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The guest of the local Presbyterian minister, Reverend Kelly left Villisca on the a. But with the Jones investigation running hot in Villisca, Kelly fades as a person of interest until his name resurfaces in Authorities charge him with the murder of Lena Stillinger, whose body the authorities say Kelly sexually posed and touched while masturbating with bacon grease on his hand.
Surrendering himself, Kelly spends four months in jail refusing to talk. Then in late August Kelly is coaxed into a confession. For a few hours three police officers threaten him and place him in a cell with two men — a newspaper reporter and another police officer — posing as thieves. The two men berate Kelly until he confesses:. I went down stairs to the front door and left the house by the front door. I walked across to the Presbyterian Church.
I got down near the end of the street and saw a shadow on the side of the house going from the back to the front and God told me to follow that shadow. I walked on a little bit further still thinking about my sermon and wanted to know where that shadow began. I went hunting the shadow, to the back of the house. I picked it up and went to where the shadow went, for God wanted me to follow that shadow.
I went around toward the front door. I walked through the middle room into the further room. I saw some children lying there. And so to obey God, I used the ax, and did not realize where I was hitting them, only I was trying to do what God wanted me to do. To the best of my memory, I left the ax in the house and returned to the Ewing house, and went back to bed and I got up in the morning and caught the train for Macedonia arriving home about With that confession in hand, the state of Iowa puts Kelly on trial, but the case falls apart the same as the one against Jones.
The old couple on the a. And Kelly is also a short man — could he really have hit the ceiling with an ax?