Villisca Axe Murder of the Moore Family

Villisca Axe Murder of the Moore Family

The Moore family’s home, where the infamous Villisca Axe Murders occurred on June 10, 1912, was located in the town of Villisca, Iowa, USA. The house is often referred to as the “Moore House” and has become a historic site due to the notoriety of the murders.

The house was a two-story, six-room frame house, typical of the architecture of the time. It was located at 508 East Second Street in Villisca. On that fateful night, Josiah B. Moore, his wife Sarah, and their four children, as well as two young girls who were friends of the Moore children, were all staying at the house.

The house itself played a significant role in the investigation of the murders. The crime scene was found inside the home, and it was where the victims were brutally killed in their beds while they slept. The scene was described as gruesome, with signs of a violent struggle.

Today, the Moore House is a popular destination for tourists and true crime enthusiasts interested in the Villisca Axe Murders. It has been restored and is operated as a museum dedicated to preserving the history and memory of the tragic event. Visitors can tour the house and learn more about the details of the case and its impact on the community. The house stands as a reminder of the unsolved mystery that continues to intrigue people to this day.


The Villisca Axe Murders is a gruesome and unsolved murder case that took place in the small town of Villisca, Iowa, United States, on June 10, 1912. The victims of this heinous crime were eight people, including six children, who were bludgeoned to death with an axe while they slept inside the Moore family’s home.

The victims were:

Josiah B. Moore (43) – Father

Sarah Montgomery Moore (39) – Mother

Herman Moore (11) – Child

Katherine Moore (9) – Child

Boyd Moore (7) – Child

Paul Moore (5) – Child

Lena Stillinger (12) – Friend of the Moore children

Ina Stillinger (8) – Friend of the Moore children

The bodies were discovered the following morning by a neighbor, and the scene was described as extremely gruesome and disturbing. There were signs of a struggle, and all of the victims had been struck in the head multiple times with an axe. The murder weapon, a bloodied axe, was found at the crime scene, along with a slab of bacon left near the bed.

The investigation into the Villisca Axe Murders was marred by several factors, including the mishandling of evidence and the contamination of the crime scene by curious onlookers. Despite extensive efforts by law enforcement, no one was ever convicted of the murders. Over the years, several suspects were identified, including a traveling preacher named Reverend George Kelly, who was arrested and tried twice but ultimately acquitted.

The case remains one of the most famous unsolved murders in American history, and it has generated numerous theories and speculations over the years. Some believe that the crime may have been the work of a serial killer who committed similar murders in other towns, while others think it could have been the result of a personal vendetta or a burglary gone wrong. Despite ongoing interest in the case, the identity of the Villisca Axe Murderer has never been conclusively determined, and the case remains officially unsolved.

The Villisca Axe Murders continue to be the subject of books, documentaries, and discussions among true crime enthusiasts, and the tragic event has left a lasting impact on the community of Villisca and the broader field of criminal justice.


At the time of the Villisca Axe Murders in 1912, the case received significant attention from the local community, newspapers, and the police department. Here is a summary of the reports and responses from these sources:

  1. Local Community:

Shock and Horror: The Villisca community was shocked and horrified by the gruesome murders that occurred in their small town. It was considered one of the most horrific crimes in the area’s history.

Fear and Suspicion: The murders instilled fear and suspicion among the townspeople. Many residents were afraid to sleep at night, and they locked their doors and windows for safety.

Vigilante Groups: In the aftermath of the murders, some locals formed vigilante groups to patrol the streets at night in an attempt to catch the killer. This added to the general atmosphere of fear and uncertainty.

  1. Newspapers:

Extensive Coverage: The Villisca Axe Murders received extensive coverage in local and regional newspapers. The crime was sensationalized in the press, and newspapers published detailed accounts of the crime scene and the investigation.

Speculation and Theories: Newspapers reported various theories and speculations about the identity of the killer, including rumors of potential suspects. Some newspapers also criticized the investigation for its handling of evidence and suspects.

Ongoing Coverage: The media continued to cover the case for an extended period, keeping the public informed about developments in the investigation and any leads that emerged.

  1. Police Department:

Investigation: The Villisca Police Department, along with assistance from the Iowa State Sheriff’s Office, conducted an investigation into the murders. However, the investigation faced significant challenges, including the contamination of the crime scene by curious onlookers and the mishandling of evidence.

Arrests and Acquittals: The most notable suspect arrested in connection with the murders was Reverend George Kelly, a traveling preacher who was tried twice but ultimately acquitted. The case against him was largely circumstantial.

Ongoing Efforts: Despite numerous suspects and leads, the police department was unable to identify the killer, and the case remained open. Over the years, the investigation continued to generate interest and theories.

To this day, the Villisca Axe Murders remain unsolved, and the case has become a part of local folklore and true crime history. The community, newspapers, and law enforcement agencies involved in the case have left behind a legacy of intrigue and mystery surrounding this tragic event.

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