The House & Town

Initial Investigation

Early 20th century lacked forensic technology common now. Even rudimentary evidence collection such as fingerprints was not widely used.

Based on initial estimates, doctors estimated the murders occurred between midnight and 2 a.m. The victims’ autopsies revealed all died from severe head injuries.
Some wondered how a murderer could maneuver in a compact, creaking farmhouse without awakening anyone. At the time, newspapers proffered a theory the murderer put a sedative in milk or cocoa, but toxicology studies weren’t a routine part of autopsies at the time.

After reconstructing the events of the night, the investigation focused primarily on gathering statements from neighbors and townspeople. They ruled out burglary as a motive – J.B.’s wallet with cash was left untouched.
Both of the Stillinger girls’ bodies had been moved after they died. Ina was set on her stomach, her posterior in the air. Lena’s body had also been moved and her undergarments removed. Her leg had been positioned so reveal her genitalia. Despite the lack of undergarments, Lena did not appear to have been molested.

In the barn, investigators found an imprint in the hay in the barn next to a knothole, where they believe the killer observed the family for some time. Two spent cigarettes found in the attic suggested the murderer could have entered the house via a window or unlocked back door and hid until the family returned from church.

Two curious bits of evidence were uncovered. A gas lamp with its glass chimney removed, and its wick turned down so it would give off only the faintest bit of light was discovered upstairs. A fragment of a keychain not belonging to the Moore’s was found downstairs.

After this limited investigation, the coroner held an inquest the next day, June 11th, 1912.

A bed shown inside a bedroom of the Villisca House
Crime Scene Prev
Next Inquest

Our Address

508 E 2nd St, Villisca, IA 50864


Contact us directly using the form below.

Talk To Us!
Talk To Us