Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Villisca: Mass Murder in Iowa


Robert Ressler
Robert Ressler

Former FBI Profiler Robert Ressler is featured in the Villisca documentary discussing how he might have profiled the crime. He believed the killer was probably a powerful man in his mid-to-late thirties, and that he was likely mentally ill with a borderline type of condition but not full-blown psychosis. Ressler did not give an opinion as to which of the suspects might have been closer to his ideas, although clearly Kelly, with his diminutive size, was not.

Moore appears to be a good candidate for this crime, and after he was imprisoned, the series of ax murders in the Midwest reportedly came to an end. While that's not definitive proof of his guilt, it's strongly suggestive. Since he'd been convicted of killing two people with an ax in a double homicide, it's not farfetched to see him as the most likely suspect.

Nevertheless, if the culprit in Villisca was in fact a serial murderer, he could easily have come and gone on the trains, since the towns in which these murders occurred were near railroad tracks. In the late 1990s, another such killer crossed America in this fashion, quickly dispatching random victims.

Angel Resendiz
Angel Resendiz

On March 23, 1997 in Ocala, Florida, 19-year-old Jesse Howell was bludgeoned to death and left near a railroad track. Thirty miles away, his girlfriend, raped and strangled, was found in a shallow grave. Five months later in Lexington, Kentucky, two people walking along a track were attacked, and in 1998 in Hughes Spring, Texas, 81-year-old Leafie Mason was beaten to death. She had resided 50 yards from the Kansas City-Southern Rail line. Then a female physician was raped, stabbed and bludgeoned in her home in West University Place, Texas, near the tracks, while a middle-aged couple was killed with a sledgehammer in a church parsonage, also near tracks. Of four more victims in Texas killed around the same time, three lived near the railroad. Eventually Angel Maturino Resendiz, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, was arrested. He confessed to nine murders, but the police believed he was guilty of at least five more.

And in the history of serial crimes, we do have incidents of closely-related family slaughters. Let's look at two.

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