Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Villisca: Mass Murder in Iowa

Another Incident with an Ax

In December 1912, six months after the Villisca event, Henry Moore (no relation) was arrested, prosecuted, and convicted of the murders of his wife and maternal grandmother in Columbia, Missouri. In that incident, he'd used an ax. Federal Agent McClaughry's father, Major R.W. McClaughry, who was the warden at the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, informed his son about the incident. The man had been an ornery drifter, prone to episodes of anger, so he might be considered a suspect in the Iowa massacre. Indeed, by some accounts, he'd spent a year in Leavenworth at an earlier time for a petty crime; since his fingerprints were on file there, he might know to wear gloves in any future crimes.

Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary
Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary

McClaughry agreed with the possibility that Moore was connected, but took the case even further. He was aware of the other unsolved Midwestern ax murders over the past two years in five different states, so he examined the information from all of them. He also interviewed Moore in prison in Missouri and decided that he was indeed responsible for 23 murders — at least! In May 1913, McClaughry announced that he had solved these homicides. However, no one else followed up and Moore was never prosecuted for any of them.

In the meantime, some Villiscans continued to pursue other angles. Let's return to another suspected serial killer, this one apparently employed specifically to carry out the deed.

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