Dear Ed: From the link I included: “A lethal drifter prone to violent rages, Henry Moore was prosecuted in December 1912 for murdering his mother and maternal grandmother in Columbia, Missouri.
Both his victims had been slaughtered with an ax, and while the crime was grim enough, it barely scratched the surface of a bloody rampage spanning eighteen months, five states, and more than twenty homicides.” “A federal officer, M.W. McClaughry, was assigned to the case, and his investigation indicated that the crime in Iowa was not unique. Nine months earlier, in September 1911, six victims had been slain in Colorado Springs; the victims there included H.C. Wayne, his wife and child, along with Mrs. A.J. Burnham and her children.” It seemed that no one was listening to Officer McClaughry, possibly because of Kelly’s confession. Have you seen any other ties for him in this case? Thanks. ~ B
Mr. B: M.W. McClaughry was an assistant warden at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth Kansas, when the Villisca murder occurred. As a leading expert in the very new field of fingerprinting he was ask to come to Villisca to investigate the case. He arrived on June 11, studied the murder scene and left on Wednesday June,12. He was unable to find usable fingerprints, but did complete a careful study of blood evidence left at the scene. During the years of investigation that followed the murder he occasionally communicated with Iowa police officers and other detectives working the case.
On the morning of December 19, 1912 in Columbia Missouri Henry Lee Moore discovered his mother and grandmother dead in their home. Henry was soon arrested, and convicted of this murder. In May of 1913 he was serving a life sentence in the Missouri penitentiary.
The quote you refer to in your question is a fine example of the unreliability of newspaper accounts. Mr. McClaughry had been interviewed by a reporter from a Kansas City paper. Since it was a sensational story the Red Oak Sun newspaper in Red Oak Iowa did some follow-up work. They contacted Mr. McClaughry to see if he would stick by his story accusing Henry Lee Moore of committing all the mid-west axe murders of 1911-12. McClaughry denied making such a statement saying the original story in the Leavenworth paper had been “twisted an exaggerated”. What he had said was that Moore should be asked to prove where he was when the several murders were committed.
All this happened in May of 1913, long before Kelly confessed to the Villisca axe murders and even before he was publicly acknowledged as a suspect in the Villisca case. All police and detectives working on Villisca knew McClaughry and respected his opinions, but neither he or they thought Henry Lee Moore was a viable candidate for serial killer. It is not clear why they rejected him, but it may have related to conflicts between murder dates and his employment records.
One of the clearer statements of this position was made by Thomas O’Leary, a Phil Kirk Detective from Kansas City. Mr. O’Leary writing to Henry E. Sampson, assistant Iowa Attorney General on March 7, 1913 writes: “There was absolutely no connection between the Columbia and Villisca murders except an axe was used in both cases and the names were the same.”
Dr. Edgar V. Epperly has researched the 1912 Villisca, Iowa axe murders of the six-member Joe Moore family and two overnight guests, Lena and Ina Stillinger, for over 60 years. He is considered the authority on the unsolved murder mystery. He was the primary historical consultant on Kelly and Tammy Rundle's award-winning documentary VILLISCA: LIVING WITH A MYSTERY, and is currently finishing a book on the case.