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100 Year Anniversary of Villisca Axe Murders Commemorated in Town Where Trials Were Held

Villisca Axe Murder Centennial Commemoration event to include the infamous murder weapon on display, a new collection of research materials, a sneak preview of the new short documentary “AXMAN,” an encore screening of the award-winning “Villisca: Living with a Mystery,” and Q&A with axe murder expert Dr. Edgar V. Epperly and with Kelly and Tammy Rundle of Fourth Wall Films.

100 Year Anniversary of Villisca Axe Murders Commemorated in Town Where Trials Were Held
Red Oak, IA, June 06, 2012 --( The centennial anniversary of Iowa's worst mass murder will be commemorated June 9-10, 2012 in Red Oak, Iowa. Organized by Director David McFarland of the Montgomery County History Center and co-sponsored by the Villisca Historical Society, the special event will include a sneak preview of AXMAN, a new short documentary by Kelly and Tammy Rundle of Fourth Wall Films, and an encore showing of their award-winning film "Villisca: Living with a Mystery." Dr. Edgar Epperly, the foremost historical authority on the still-unsolved crime, will join the Rundles for Q&A following the film presentations. An accompanying historical display will include the actual murder weapon, a long-handled axe removed from the crime scene by authorities on June 10, 1912.

In addition, the History Center will exhibit a collection of materials and photographs donated by historian Dr. Bruce Stillians. Stillians, a former resident of Villisca with family ties to the axe murder story, researched the case for decades and amassed a huge collection of resources and photographs related to the crime.

Sometime during the night of Sunday, June 9, 1912, a person or persons unknown entered a modest house in Villisca, Iowa and bludgeoned to death Josiah B. Moore, his wife Sara, and their children Herman, Katherine, Boyd, and Paul and overnight guests Lena and Ina Stillinger. The crime, known thereafter as the “Villisca axe murders,” is the most notorious mystery in Iowa history. The tragedy spawned nearly ten years of grand jury investigations and three sensational trials all centered around the Montgomery County Court House in Red Oak. The case made and broke political careers and led to the establishment of the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation. The murders also split residents of the small community of Villisca, Iowa over the guilt or innocence of a local suspect, Iowa State Senator Frank Fernando Jones.

One hundred years later, the tragic unsolved murder now attracts visitors and tourists to the privately-owned Villisca Ax Murder House. The mystery has generated books, a play, paranormal investigations, television programs, a fictional film and feature-length documentary. Kelly and Tammy Rundle’s "Villisca: Living with a Mystery" premiered in 2004, enjoyed a limited theatrical release in over 60 cities including Los Angeles. The film screened in Red Oak in the courtroom where the 1916 and 1917 axe murder trials took place.

The critically-acclaimed documentary tells the epic true story of the Children's Day axe murders and the chaos and division that followed. The Rundles combined rare period photographs, computer animation, original art, limited re-enactments, and fascinating interviews with historians, eye-witnesses, town residents, and forensic experts to shed light on the spellbinding mystery and to dramatically reveal the face of a new suspect.

The Rundles are also offering a sneak preview of their 25-minute documentary AXMAN. In 1955, a college student named Edgar Epperly began researching the details behind Iowa's worst mass homicide, the 1912 Villisca Axe Murders. Now, nearly 60 years later, the retired college professor is still actively searching for a solution to the crime. Exclusive interviews with Epperly and others close to his unique work reveal the secret reason behind his dogged devotion to America's greatest unsolved mystery.

AXMAN and "Villisca: Living with a Mystery" will screen 2-5 p.m. Sunday, June 10, 2012 at the Montgomery County History Center, 2700 North 4th Street, Red Oak, Iowa. The program includes Q&A with the filmmakers and Dr. Epperly. The axe, on loan from the Villisca Historical Society and the State Historical Society of Iowa, will be included in a special historical display created by the History Center. Tickets for the presentation and History Center exhibits are $5 per person and may be purchased in advance at the History Center, or by visiting Seating is limited. This special commemoration event is sponsored by The Montgomery County History Center and the Villisca Historical Society. Call (712) 623-2289 for ticket information.

"Villisca" is also available nationally on DVD from online and conventional retailers and it can be rented from Netflix and Family Video. Broadcasts are set on WQPT-PBS on June 10 at 7:00 p.m., IPTV-PBS June 8 at 8:30 p.m. and June 10 at 1:00 p.m., and on other PBS stations this anniversary year.

Fourth Wall Films' award-winning feature-length documentary, "Country School: One Room - One Nation" will also screen at the History Center on Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 2 p.m. The film features the Pittsburg School in Red Oak, the Cramer School in Stanton, and the Goldenrod school in Clarinda. The documentary was awarded partial funding from Humanities Iowa, Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area, the Kansas Humanities Council and the Wisconsin Humanities Council.

The Rundles are the owners of Fourth Wall Films, an award-winning independent film and video production company formerly located in Los Angeles, and now based in Moline, Illinois.
Contact Information
Fourth Wall Films
Kelly Rundle, Producer-Director

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