Thursday, September 30, 2021

Was the Reverend Lyn George Jacklin Kelly the Villisca Ax Murderer?

Rev. Lyn George
Jacklin Kelly
 Was the Reverend Lyn George Jacklin Kelly the Villisca Ax Murderer? He was often described as a queer, strange, little man—he stood only five foot two and weighed 120 pounds. An article in
Smithsonian Magazine said Kelly was well-known in the area as a sexual pervert. Just days before the murders, he had been observed peeping into windows in Villisca.

Detectives arrested Kelly in 1917 and charged him with murdering the Moore’s, and for a while, it seemed as if they had the case wrapped up.

Kelly made a written confession.

He saw a shadow by the Moore house while he was out walking. “Something prompted him to follow it. He saw an ax. He picked it up. Then came a voice saying: ‘Go in. Slay utterly.’”

He crept up the stairs and into the children’s bedroom. The voice came back. “Slay utterly. Suffer little children to come unto me.” He replied, “Yes, Lord, they’re coming quick.” Chop—went the ax.

From there, he went into Joe and Sarah’s room. “More work yet. There must be sacrifices of blood.” Again, the ax did its work.

Downstairs, he discovered the Stillinger girls. “More work still.” The ax resumed its work.[4]

Eight people were dead. The voice was satisfied.

The next day Kelly repudiated the confession. He did not remember making it.

The court acquitted Kelly on November 26, 1917.

[1] Dash, Mike. “The Ax Murderer Who Got Away.” June 8, 2012.

[2] Dash, Mike. “The Ax Murderer Who Got Away.” June 8, 2012.

[3] Evening Times-Republican. September 7, 1917.

[4] Evening Times-Republican. September 7, 1917.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Blown to Bits in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Helen Sieler

The year 1937 was a particularly bloody one in Iowa.

It started with a bang when some bumbling robbers blew up a powder warehouse in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The New Year’s Eve explosion at the Lawson Hardware Company powder house just east of Sioux Falls blew Harry Baker to bits. “Only bits of flesh, a piece of bone and a shred of scorched cloth” remained of him, reported the Des Moines Register.[1]

The Sioux Falls Police arrested Harry Reeves a few days later, on January 3.  “I was near the scene of the explosion,” he told authorities, “but I didn’t have any part in any jewelry robbery.”[2]


He said the explosion at the powder magazine was an accident. Baker’s girlfriend, Helen Sieler, got uppity and demanded her share of “the dough” from when the boys robbed the Ehlerman Wholesale Jewelry Company in Sioux City, or she’d squeal.

A Murder in Vinton Iowa


Myrtle Cook

Myrtle Cook’s death contained all the elements of a good murder mystery—the Ku-Klux-Klan, rum runners, and an estranged husband who fumbled some of the details of his alibi.

Cook, age 51, was shot to death in her Vinton, Iowa home at 703 Third Avenue on September 7, 1925. The assassin crept up to her living room window, peered inside to ensure his victim was within range and fired. Myrtle was writing a speech for the next day’s W. C. T. U. (Women’s Christian Temperance Union) meeting when the bullet pierced her heart.


She lived long enough to whisper what many people thought was her killer’s name to her mother-in-law, Elizabeth Cook. However, the police took that evidence with a grain of salt. The man she implicated was a prominent Vinton businessman considered to be above reproach.


Myrtle’s husband, Clifford B. Cook, wasn’t so sure. He said the family re-enacted the crime to determine if his wife was able to see her killer. “A person on the outside could not have looked up in her face without putting his own face directly in the light.”  So, it wasn’t improbable that Myrtle saw her killer.[1]

Investigators initially assumed liquor runners might have had a part in the attack since Myrtle was an ardent prohibitionist and urged strict enforcement of the prohibition laws. She was constantly harping on the mayor, sheriff, and state officials to go after the criminals.