Coroner's Jury Gathers for the Inquest

June 11th, 1912 ~ Villisca, Iowa

The county coroner, Dr. Linquist arrived at the scene of the crime at approximately 9:00 am, several hours after the discovery of the murders. After viewing the crime scene himself, he later met with John Henry "Hank" Horton, the night watchman and Sheriff Oren Jackson to review the information they had collected.

Although Linquist called the members of the Coroner's Jury together in late afternoon, it was several hours later before they actually entered the Moore home to view the bodies and after 10:00 p.m. before he and County Attorney Ratcliff finally gave permission to the undertaker to remove them. The fire station had been set up as a temporary morgue and it was close to 2:00 a.m. before all of the bodies had been transported.

On June 11th, the coroner's jury convened for the Inquest. Fourteen witnesses were called to testify, they included:

Mary Peckham - the first witness

The Moore's next-door neighbor and the first one to notice anything amiss at the house.

The first person called was Mary Peckham. Mrs. Peckham testified that she lived directly next-door to the Moore's and had seen them before they left for church on Sunday evening. She had, however, gone to bed at approximately 8 p.m. and did not see the family return. According to her testimony, Mrs. Peckham heard absolutely no noises from the house during the night. She went on to say that she was out in her yard hanging wash between 5 and 6 a.m. and noticed close to 7 a.m. that the house was unusually still.

After attempting to wake the Moore's, she let the their chickens out and checked on the other livestock. Seeing that they were still tied, she called the home of Ross Moore to ascertain whether or not anything had happened in the family that may have given a reason for the Moore's to be gone from their home. After speaking with Jesse, Ross's wife, she then saw Ed Selley, one of Josiah's employee's enter the barn to feed the horses. Shortly after, Ross arrived and found a key to open the door.

According to Peckham, she stayed on the porch while he looked in the kitchen and then opened the door to the downstairs bedroom. After seeing two bodies and blood-stained sheets, Ross immediately returned to the porch where Mary was waiting to inform her that something awful had happened and instructed her to call the sheriff.

Peckham also testified that the doors had been locked with a key and no key was in the lock on the inside of the door.

Ed Selley - the second witness

Employed by Josiah Moore at his implement dealership, Ed arrived to tend the animals.

The seond witness to be called was Ed Selley, an employee of Josiah's. Selley testified that on Monday morning, June 10th he had opened the store and received a telephone call from Ross, Josiah's brother.

Ross asked him if he knew where Josiah was and Selley called the elder Moore's home to see if he had gone to visit his father. Josiah's mother told him that he had not been there. Selley then received a call from Mary Peckham who asked him if Josiah was at the store and told him that the livestock needed tending. Selley then left the store and went to the Moore home where he fed the horses. After returning to the store, he received another call telling him to bring the Marshal to the house quickly.

According to Selley's testimony, Ross and Peckham had entered the house before he returned with the Marshal. When they arrived, they all re-entered together. After seeing blood on the bed in the downstairs bedroom, he left the house. While waiting outside the home, Selley was met by Harry Moore. According to Selley, when Marshal Horton came out of the house, his comment was there is somebody dead, or they have been killed in every bed. At that time, the house was locked, the Marshal left to call for the coroner and the sheriff and Selley returned to the store to call the John Deere people in Omaha to alert them of the news.

Selley returned to the house with his father after making the call to Omaha but did not re-enter the home. When questioned at the inquest about possible enemies of Joe Moore, Selley admitted that Joe had mentioned a brother-in-law that could have been a threat. "He (Joe) says, I got a brother-in-law that don’t like me. Said he would get even with me some time." The brother-in-law that Moore was referring to was Sam Moyer. Selley denied having any other information regarding anyone who would have wanted to murder the Moore family and was excused.

Dr. J. Clark Cooper - the third witness

Cooper was the first physcian to enter the Moore home after the murders.

The third witness to appear at the inquest was the Dr. J. Clark Cooper, the first physician to arrive at the scene of the crime. Cooper testified that he was called to the Moore home at approximately 8:15 on the morning of June 10th when Hank Horton entered his office and said "Come with me." According to Cooper, when he asked Horton why, Horton appeared extremely frightened and replied, "Joe Moore and all his family were murdered in bed". Cooper accompanied Horton to the house, waited outside while Horton retrieved the keys from the Peckhams. When he returned, Cooper, Horton, Dr. Hough, and the Presbyterian minister, Mr. Ewing entered the home together.

According to Cooper, the group stepped into the dining room and then into the first floor bedroom. "All we could see was a arm of some one sticking from under the edge of the cover with the blood on the pillows, and I went over and lifted the covers, and saw what I supposed was a body, --some entire stranger, and a mere child at the back of the bed, I did not recognize them at all, neither did any of the people, the others then that were with me, and we merely saw that they were dead, and that there were only two in the bed and then we stepped out into the parlor."

When they reached the top of the stairs, a lamp sat on the floor. Horton moved the lamp out of their way and they continued into the bedroom. " (The) lamp was sitting at the foot of the bed in our way, so Hank set it to one side to allow ups to pass, and Hank was ahead of me and he walked around to the corner, to the left hand side of the bed and turned the cover back, and said, "Here is Joe", and I merely glanced over there the first time, as I came up and I saw that Mr. and Mrs. Moore were both dead, and I immediately went into the south room, and left the other people with them, I do not know whether any of them come with me to the south room, but I left plenty of them in the north room, while I went to the south room, then we began to count the children."

When questioned about the condition of the bodies, Cooper admitted that he did not touch the corpses. " The bedding was pretty stiff at the head, and the blood and the brains on the pillow were, --had contracted, as it does when killed, will dry, so that it was perfect jelly at that time, and blood clots were dry." He estimated that the Moore's and Stillinger's had been dead for at least 5 to 6 hours.

Cooper also testified that he smelled no unusual or antiseptic odor in the house and that it seemed that the faces of the victims had been covered after they were murdered. "I saw no clothes sticking into any of the wounds, in my superfacial examinations, neither did I see any clothing that had any holes in it, I mean any of the sheets or pillows, nothing had a hole in it."

Jesse Moore - the fourth witness

Mrs. Moore was the wife of Josiah's brother Ross and took the phone call from Ms. Peckham

The next witness was Jessie Moore, the wife of Josiah's brother Ross Moore. According to Jessie, Mrs. Peckham called her on the morning of June 10th and asked if anything had happened to Mr. Moore's father.

Jessie then placed a call to Josiah's store and spoke with Ed Selley. Selley then called her back to tell her that he could not reach anyone at Josiah's home and that he was not at the elder Moore's or the Montgomery's either.

A neighbor arrived at her home a little later to tell her about the murders. She also testified that she entered the home later in the day to retrieve family pictures for the press. When questioned about possible enemies of Josiah's, Jessie had nothing else to add.

Dr. F.S. Williams - the fifth witness

Dr. Williams was the physcian that actually examined the bodies of the murder victims.

Dr. F.S. Williams was the fifth witness called at the inquest. Williams was the second physician to enter the home. Williams testified that Ed Selley stopped him on the street on the morning of June 10th and told him that a doctor was wanted at the Moore home for an examination there. He went on to say that when he arrived at the house, Doctor Cooper and another party were coming out onto the porch.

According to Williams, Cooper and another person he thought was Hank Horton reentered with him. Williams went on to testify that upon entering the home, he smelled no odor of anesthetic, nothing seems to be out of place and the faces of the bodies remained covered. When asked to describe the position of the bodies, Williams went on to say that the bed in Joe and Sarah's room was facing toward the east with their heads to the west. Joe lay on the south side (or left side) of the bed on his back. His left hand was on his chest, "the faces was all beaten in." Williams testified that Sarah was lying beside Joe.

In the bedroom to the south, "at the left hand, -- east side of the room was a cot, and another bed standing there with a little boy in it, he was sleeping on his stomach, and top of his head was all beaten in, (there) was (a) gause undershirt on top of his head, soaked up with blood and I lifted that off, lifted it off to see which one it was, then in the bed, angling at the foot of the bed, southeast corner of the room was another bed with a little girl, and her head was all beaten in, and on the top of her bed was a little dress and it was all blood spattered, and I think it was partly curled up over her head and covers pulled up over her face, and in the bed to the southwest corner of the room were two little boys lying with both of tops of their heds [heads] beaten in, and blood spattered on every thing, and blood over the pillows."

When he entered the downstairs bedroom, Williams said he saw two girls. "From their appearances one was a big woman and a little girl, and that the girl out to the outside of the bed next to the east side, there were in, -- head facing to the north, she had evidently moved after having been struck, or had been moved, the blood was all scattered over the pillows, apparently she had been struck on the head, squirmed down in the bed, perhaps one-third of the way, and left hand was thrown back, was sticking up below the pillow, and her head was all beaten in, and I took particular attention to an ax wound, and that the edge had come out on the forehead, so I could see the sharpe [sharp] edge Well the top and side of the head, and the little girl, back of her head was all beaten in.

I did not recognize either one of them little girls. Little girl in front of the bed, I thought looked familiar, but she was so mutilated that I wasn't able to identify her at that time, and I think over the girl to the back of the bed was a little boys grey coat, and it had been thrown over her head, and there was clothing, some clothing on the floor, some underwear, and noticed some under the bed and also the dresses hanging up, laying or hanging up on the wall, or the foot of the bed, I forget which, there was no blood on it."

When questioned about the possibility of a sexual assault on any of the victims, Williams responded to the negative. " I looked to see if there was any possible, might have been, attempted intercourse, or rape, or something, but I did not notice any."

After testifying that he found no footprints at the scene, Williams was excused.

Edward Landers - the sixth witness

Summer visitor to his mother's home near the Moore house.

The Coroner then called Edward Landers to the stand. Mr. Landers was visiting his mother for the summer and was staying just a few houses from the Moore's. Landers testified that he went to bed shortly after 9:00 pm Sunday evening.

Shortly before he fell asleep, however, he heard a sound that "impressed" him and sounded like "like one boy hooting for another on the outside somewhere. According to Landers, the sound occurred at regular intervals but didn't connect it with anything and fell asleep shortly thereafter.

When pressed for a time, Landers settled on approximately 11:00 p.m. He further testified that although he didn't think anything of it at the time, the next morning when he heard about the murders, it occured to him that the sounds may have been a woman moaning. The only strangers Landers admitted to seeing in the area of the Moore home were paper cleaners that had stopped by his mother's place at approximately 10:15 Saturday night.

Landers could shed no light on what time the Moore's may have retired for the evening and was dismissed.

Ross Moore - the seventh witness

Josiah's brother and the first person to enter the house after the murders.

The second member of the Moore family to be called to the stand was Ross Moore, Josiah's brother. Ross testified that at approximately 8:15 am Sunday morning, June 10th, Mrs. Peckham, Joe's next-door neighbor called him and inquired as to the health of his parents.

She went on to tell him that she had already spoken to his wife and thought it unusual that Moore house was so quiet. Ross then walked over to Joe's store and spoke with Ed Selley who also said that Joe hadn't been in yet and that yes, he too, found that unusual.

According to Ross, he then went over to the house and checked the barn to see if Joe's team was still there. He and Mrs. Peckham then tried rapping on the windows and calling for someone but the blinds were down and prevented him from seeing into the house.

He then used one his keys to open the door. Ross went on to say that he entered the parlor and and noted that nothing looked out of place. It wasn't until he pushed open the door into the room off the parlor that he saw blood on the sheets. He "did not wait long enough to see any thing else" and returned outside and told Mrs. Peckham to call the Marshal.

When questioned further, Ross could shed no light on any possible suspects and was asked to step down.

Fenwick Moore - the eighth witness

Another of Josiah Moore's brothers.

Also called was Fenwick Moore, another of Joe's brothers, who lived in Red Oak. Fen also testified that he didn't know much about Joe's business affairs and had no idea who would have wanted him dead.

Marshall Hank Horton - the ninth witness to appear

Villisca Marshall

Next up was Marshal Hank Horton who spent very little time on the stand. Horton simply confirmed that he was approached by Selley between 8:15 and 8:30 Monday morning and asked to accompany him to the Moore home. Once there he entered the house with Selley.

Upon seeing the bodies, he immediately went to get Dr. Cooper and reentered the house with Cooper and Dr. Hough. Horton confirmed that there were no unusual odors, the blinds were down and the bodies covered. He was then dismissed.

Lee Van Gilder and Harry Moore

Josiah's nephew and brother.

Also called were John Lee Van Gilder, Josiah's nephew and Harry Moore, his brother. Although Van Gilder admitted that he had spoken to Joe briefly on Sunday afternoon, he could shed no light on the whereabouts of his father.

Although Harry was questioned about Moyer and Van Gilder, like his other brothers, he had almost no knowledge of Joe's business or personal affairs and didn't add anything that hadn't already been testified to.

Blanche and Joseph Stillinger

Sister and father of Lena and Ina Stillinger

The coroner then called Blanche Stillinger to the stand. Blanche was the eldest of the Stillinger children and sister to victims, Ina and Lena Stillinger. According to Blanche, Joe Moore had called the Stillinger home at 6:00 pm on Sunday night and asked to speak to her mother. When she told him that her mother was outside, he went on to tell her that the girls were going to church with his family and didn't want to walk back to their grandmother's in the dark. He then asked if she thought it would be okay if they stayed with the Moore's overnight. Blanche testified that she told Mr. Moore that she thought it would be okay if they stayed.

After a few other questions regarding her sister's ages, Blanche was excused and her father, Joseph Stillinger took her place. After questioning Mr. Stillinger about his hired help and whether or not he knew of anyone who could have committed this crime, the coroner asked if he had called the Moore house on Sunday morning. "My wife did, yes." he answered. When questioned about the time of the call, Stillinger replied, "I remember she phoned about three different times trying to get the house, I did not ask her about the particular time, but she expected the children back just before school time."

Charles Moore

another of Josiah's brothers.

After Stillinger's testimony, Charles Moore was called. Charles, also one of Joe's brothers, could not identify the axe believed to be the murder weapon as Joe's but did admit that Joe kept one in the coal shed. Charles also testified that he believed it was habit for Joe to lock up the house from the inside when they went to sleep.

"I went there several mornings after the team to go in the country, and of course I always went to the dining room in the front and they would not have that door open, and I would have to wait until some one came and opened the door. Would lock the rest of the house on the inside, and lock that door and keep the key in the inside."