It has been 97 years since the "worst crime in Iowa History" was discovered by a concerned neighbor.
Just five days after Rollin and Anna Hudson were discovered bludgeoned to death in their home in Paola, Kansas, the Moore family and two Stillinger girls were discovered to have met a similar fate. Go to the Villisca blog or hit their Facebook page and find out more.
In Paola, there was a brief memorial service, attended by hundreds, for the young couple. Rollin Hudson's father, Jonathan, took the bodies back to Ohio for burial. The memorial in Paola included a viewing of the bodies. Investigators began looking for "Hooky" Adams and the stranger who had visited just hours before their murders. They also began a search for an "affinity" letter. George Cole had told investigators Rollin had insinuated he had in his possession a letter or note proving Anna to be untrue. This letter was believed to have been received by Anna on the morning of Decoration Day, May 31st. Hooky Adams turned out to have an air tight alibi but as far as I know, the stranger was never found. Something like an affinity letter was left on a stairway between two businesses with a note on it suggesting it be turned over to the proper persons. I'll get into this letter in another post.
Who was the stranger visiting the Hudsons that night? The description of the clothing would suggest a traveling salesman, likely out of Kansas City. A dark suit and a straw boater were pretty posh items to travel around in at the time. He may have been a friend from Ohio passing through Paola on sales calls and stopped by the Hudson's home on the way to the train station, leaving after a brief visit. The items inside the house were situated in such a way as to suggest some brief reminiscing. A photo album was out on the table as well as a box of letters; the dinner dishes had not been cleared and it looked as if the laundry had been interrupted. This suggests an unplanned, hurried visit. The stranger was invited into the house immediately and may have told Rollin and Anna he was on his way to catch a train. Anna might have thrown together a quick meal and they sat down to look at photographs from back in Ohio. The stranger may have asked about a mutual friend so they pulled out the box of letters in order to find out what city the friend lived in. After the visit the stranger left; Mr. and Mrs. Pryor may not have seen him leave due to being occupied elsewhere or just not paying attention to something that really wasn't all that interesting. The stranger boarded his train and took off to his next location; with the way news traveled (and in comparison to other crimes, Paola received very little press) he may not have known they had been killed for a year or more. It's very possible he didn't know he was the last person, other than the killer, to see them alive.
Could this stranger have been the killer? Sure; was he? Probably not. I think it is safe to assume the late night intruder into the Longmeyer house was the killer of the Hudsons or had something to do with it. If it was our stranger then the scenario gets stupidly complex. Said stranger is invited into the house; he then subdues the couple (investigators thought chloroform may have been used but never explain why), lays them on the bed in a sleeping position and bludgeons them to death with the pick axe he had hidden under his jacket the entire time. He then washes up, steals Anna's robe for kicks and leaves through the back room window. Before leaving he pulls out the photo album and letter box to make it look as if they had been sitting around looking at them the entire time. The album may have been sitting on the table to begin with but it was sheer luck he found the box of letters without needing to ransack the place. Once outside, he decides to go try to kill the next door neighbors so he breaks in through a back window but before he can begin, he drops the chimney, wakes the occupants and flees back through the house, leaving his souvenir from the first murder behind. Setting aside that it is near impossible to chloroform two concious people back to back, why go through all the other trouble of making the crime look like a burglery but not do anything inside the house to make it look like a burglery. Typically, when a killer "stages" a burglary-gone-wrong, they tear the place up but fail to take things in plain sight like money and jewelry. In this case, Anna's jewelry was untouched and the house was in order. The perpetrator here was of a single mind; kill.