The House & Town


Many suspected, but no one knows who did it

Several suspects emerged almost immediately, although no one was ever convicted of the Villisca AXE Murders, there seemed to be no shortage of suspects. In the days following the crimes, you could have read about at least four possibilities in any edition of the newspaper. Many of the leads, however, were quickly exhausted and as time wore on, began to dwindle.

Today, historians and those who have studied the AXE murders extensively, seem to be made up of three camps. There are many who, to this day, believe Frank F. Jones, the prominent Villisca resident and Iowa State Senator who Moore had worked for was responsible.

Others adamantly insist that the crazed Reverend George Kelly was the culprit. In the third group are those who believe the Moore murders were the work of someone totally unrelated to the town of Villisca, a possible traveler, hobo, or serial killer. This is by far from an exhaustive list.

  • Hired Gun: William “Blackie” Mansfield, arrested in 1916
  • Demon inside a Minister: Rev. George Jacklin Kelly, tried in 1917
  • Convicted of a double murder: Henry Lee Moore
  • Midwest serial killer theory: Villisca was part of a pattern
  • S.A. “Andy” Sawyer, detained by sheriff
  • Joe Ricks, detained in Monmouth, Ill.
Darkened bedroom showing cloth over the window of a bedroom in the Villisca House
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