In 2002, Villisca axe murder expert Dr. Edgar V. Epperly gave a presentation at the cemetery where the victims Josiah and Sara Moore, their four children, and overnight guests Lena and Ina Stillinger are buried. Other key people connected to the famous unsolved murder are also buried in the cemetery.
The much-anticipated book by Dr. Edgar V. Epperly, who is considered the foremost expert on the infamous 1912 Villisca, Iowa axe murders, is nearing completion.
Epperly began researching the unsolved mystery as a college student in 1955 and traveled to Villisca for the first time with two friends, Don Brown and Leo Mundy, where they interviewed Dr. Cooper, the first physician to examine the victims and the crime scene.
“He talked for an hour and couldn’t contain himself,” Epperly said. “I realized it was the biggest event in his life.” Epperly's research preserved the details of an event that had a major impact on the state of Iowa and ultimately led to the formation of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Leary at first, the towns of Villisca and nearby county-seat Red Oak, eventually opened their arms to the researcher who returned to Southwest Iowa regularly through the decades to read newspaper clippings, and review archival materials and trial documents on the case. His exploration led him all over the country in search of answers and a killer.
Epperly met with Fourth Wall Films' Tammy & Kelly Rundle and agreed to serve as a consultant and interviewee on their documentary Villisca: Living with a Mystery. The award-winning feature film went on to screen throughout the U.S. and qualified for the 2005 Academy Award competition. It was broadcast on PBS stations throughout the country and released nationally on DVD.
Not long after the documentary's completion, Epperly retired as a Professor of Education at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa and turned his focus to writing a book on the Villisca axe murders and his years of research.
"There has been a lot of interest in Epperly's work and perspective on the Moore and Stillinger murders since he first set foot in Villisca nearly 60 years ago," said Villisca producer Kelly Rundle. "We know it was important to him to have the book right and to clear up misinformation."
As a tribute to Epperly and his tireless work in preserving the Villisca story, the Rundles produced a short-documentary entitled AXMAN. The documentary won the Best Documentary awards at the Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival and the Landlocked Film Festival in 2012.
Dr. Epperly has appeared on numerous television programs, radio broadcasts, news shows, and is featured in articles and books on the Villisca axe murder subject. He is a prominent speaker on the Villisca story.
Epperly's book will be released nationally in 2015 and will be available at bookstores and online retailers.