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May 20, 2010


John Van Ness

I have been doing some research on Sawyer. Dr. Epperly's reference to the time freight leaving Osceola at 10 or so on the night of June 9th sounds right, according to what info I have seen. But I have never read that the train deposited Sawyer in Creston between 3 and 4 the morning of June 10th. The train experts I have consulted and timetables I've seen suggest that Sawyer could have gotten to Villisca between 12 and 1--about the time the murders happened, according to the doctors on the scene--and he could have caught another train back to Creston in time to show up near where Dyer's crew was working. I would be interested to know the source of Dr. Epperly's information.


Your question caught me at a busy time but it is an interesting point you raise. I wrote the blog piece based on a paper I did some years ago. To respond to your question I went back to my notes. The 3:00-4:00 a.m. arrivel of Sawyer in Creston comes from Andy himself. He gave that time in a statement he made to an assistant Iowa Attorney General and a Burns detective. Russ Lash a fellow worker on the bridge crew also said he arrived about that time but Lash thought he had come in on the passenger train No.5. Thinking about your question I can't believe a timed fright would take from 10:00 to 3:00 o'clock to move 30 miles. Niether do I believe he rode on a passenger train. In another statement to authorities Sawyer said he got to Creston between 12:00 and 1:00 that night. This estimate seems much more reasonable.
Turning to the question of his guilt. We know he was in Osecola shortly after 10:00 p.m. on the murder night. We also know the murder was committed no later than 1:00 a.m. That gave Andy 3 hours, at most to ride to Villisca, find the house, and enter and murder the Moore family. What does your railroad timetable show for the train in question? On the other end he would have some 4-5 hours to get back to Creston. I feel it is too tight a schedule (as did the 1912 investigators)particularily in light of the evidence that the killer spent some time in the house after the murder.

-Ed Epperly

Dr. John Van Ness

My correspondents on train matters are both members of a train club. One, also from Iowa, is sending me some more timetables, which should help us determine something about the ebb and flow of train traffic. I don't disagree with you, he'd would have a short time frame in which to operate at the Moore house. That suggests a level of intelligence and foresight he does not seem to exhibit elsewhere--emphasis on the word "seem." That little detail about being cruel to animals, combined with some of his other behaviors--probably cheating on his wife, running away as a youth, wandering from job to job, and just all the weirdness involving axes--makes me wonder if he at least displayed some antisocial traits and at most a dose of psychopathy. What if he were clever and crazy enough to only act like a rude bumpkin? Interestingly, a very high percentage of psychopaths showed cruelty to animals during their youths, along with fire-starting and bed-wetting. No one is sure why this triad of traits shows up in the histories of psychopaths, it just does, and with startling frequency. While a psychological autopsy on Sawyer can't reveal whether he wet the bed frequently or well into his teen years, it might be fascinating to see if there fires being set in locations where he happened to be.

By the way, happy anniversary, Dr. Epperly. And thanks for the exchange.

Dave .

Any comments on the "reality" show episode that recently "investigated" the house?


What is the name of the show? Previous shows have run the gamut from bad to worse, and most have little or nothing to do with the actual story of the murders.

Tami Harter

The house and story was investigated by Ghost Adventurers show from Travel Channel. It replayed tonight


Dear Mr. Van Ness:

Im sorry for the delay, but we cant always get to questions immediately
due to other tasks at hand. Also, all comments are prescreened prior to
posting...and I dont always get to that right away either. : )

Im looking into your question and should have an answer soon. Sawyer
was hired in Creston early on the 10th, perhaps 4:00 or 5:00 am.

Well check our sources...likely from testimony from the 1917 grand jury

Thanks for your patience.

Kind regards,

Kelly Rundle

In a message dated 11/16/2011 5:51:03 A.M. Central Standard Time,


Actually, if you think about it. If the sheriff in Osceola was able to verify that he placed Andy and another hobo on a train to send them out of town right around 10pm, he would have had sufficient time to get to Villisca, commit the murders, and arrive in Creston. It would have easily put him in Villisca by midnight and since he himself said he knew his way around the town I bet it did not take long for him decide on the Moore house. He sneaks in through the window and commits this horrible deed. He would have had more than enough time to hang out at their house before catching the train to Creston which would have only been 30-45 min train ride away. You had said that he would have only had 3 hrs to travel and commit the crime but he would have had more like 5-6 hrs between 10pm - 3/4 am. Seems sufficient enough to me if he is traveling by freight train.

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