The Ax Murders of Saxtown
by Nicholas J. C. Pistor
Lyons Press, 2014
Nothing titillates the imagination more than unsolved crime, and the more gruesome the better. In 1874, a terrible event occurred to a German family in Saxtown, Illinois—a heinous murder that took out not only the adults, but two very small children. With no witnesses and no reliable evidence, investigators were forced to rely on suspicion to formulate theories and make arrests. They were unable, however, to obtain a confession, and the case has remained unsolved for over a century.
Author Nicholas J. C. Pistor, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, digs into the history of the Stelzriede murder in The Ax Murders of Saxtown. He paints a picture of the crime scene, the bloodied bodies, and the mob awaiting justice on the property outside. The prominent figures are profiled, both on the side of the law (educator Isaiah Thomas, Sheriff James W. Hughes) and under the cloud of suspicion (George Schneider, George Killian, and others). Pistor gets no closer to the truth today than Thomas and Hughes did in the nineteenth century, but gives a very detailed account of the various theories surrounding the case.
For those who enjoy tales of true crime and unsolved mysteries, The Ax Murders of Saxtown is a good read.