The producers of last night's episode of "Haunting Evidence" on the 1912 Villisca ax murders, once again trotted out the same old hack-kneed and baseless theory accusing William Mansfield (left) of murdering Joe Moore, and family, as hired by former Iowa State Senator Frank Jones.
Kansas City Detective James Wilkerson hatched this "theory" with newspaperman Jack Boyle (as we discussed in a previous post) and tried unsuccessfully to frame Mansfield.
A cursory, yet prudent, glance at actual historical records would quickly reveal that Mansfield had an alibi, and was cleared by a grand jury in 1916 of any involvement in the murders.
"I wish some outside group would at least read the records contained in the Iowa State Archives in Des Moines," said historian Dr. Edgar Epperly.
Epperly has researched the Villisca crime since 1955, and is considered the foremost authority on the still-unsolved mass murder.
"They would find three statements by payroll employees of the John J. Grier company attesting to William Mansfield's employment in Montgomery Illinois when the murders occurred. They would also find investigative reports by Iowa state agents supporting these statements, and finally they would find signed payroll sheets placing Mansfield 400 miles away when the murder happened. Wilkerson's ghost is 'barking in Hell' this very minute for the injustice he did to William Mansfield."
Entertainment, not the truth, seems to have been the priority. However, it's clear to me that people don't like to be sold a bill-of-goods in a show that purports to be based on true stories.
For those interested in the true (and frankly, more fascinating) story behind the Villisca ax murders, stop back or subscribe to our blog for a forthcoming and more detailed response to the "Haunting Evidence" "Haunted in Villisca" episode. Also, check out Dr. Epperly's (factual) summary of the murders here.
Several contacted us last night or this morning asking where they could buy "Villisca: Living with a Mystery" on DVD. Visit VilliscaMovie.com. It's also available, on Amazon.com, FamilyVideo.com and numerous other internet outlets. In addition, it can be special-ordered at any store that sells DVDs. It can be rented from Family Video stores and via Netflix.
"Villisca: Living with a Mystery" is a factual account of one of America's greatest unsolved mysteries. The saying "truth is stranger than fiction" seems to have been created to describe this story.