October 27, 1909
"CRAZY JIM" McMAHON, WHO
CLEARS TRIPLE MURDER MYSTERY.
James McMahon, 35 years old, commonly known to his associates as "Crazy Jim," admitted to County Attorney Joseph Taggart yesterday that on Tuesday, October 19, at the Van Royen farm, five miles west of the Kansas City, Kas., limits in Wyandotte county, he slew his brother-in-law, Alonzo R. Van Royen, and his sisters, Mrs. Margaret Van Royen and Miss Rose McMahon.
Expressing inability to give any reason for his act, McMahon calmly told in minute details the facts in regard to this triple tragedy.
Going to an isolated section of the farm, where Van Royen was chopping wood, McMahon said that he first gave Van Royen a drink of whisky out of a bottle, then, when the latter's back was turned, shot him four times. Assured that the man was dead, he picked up his body, carried it across a small stream and deposited it in a narrow, lonely ravine, which was shadowed by a great oak tree.
Half a mile away was the home of Van Royen, and there, as McMahon knew, were the two women. The murderer proceeded immediately to the Van Royen home, opened the door without knocking and confronted Margaret and Rosie. A quarrel ensued, the nature of which he says he cannot remember.
Within a few minutes he drew the revolver from his pocket, and standing within two feet of Margaret, shot her dead. Turning the weapon on the terror-stricken Rosie, who was a few feet away, he shot her through the heart.
Without stopping, McMahon returned his attention to the prostrate form of Margaret and fired two more bullets into her body. Rosie lay motionless, but to make sure of his work the slayer directed the revolver at her again and shot until it was empty of shells.
Then he reloaded and fired three more bullets into the form of his unmarried sister.
After completing the triple butchery McMahon went to his own home, hitched his horse and drove to Kansas City, Kas. He visited the grocery store of Reitz & Reitz, 1005 Minnesota avenue, paid a bill and returned to the farm. The shooting of Van Royen occurred about 2 o'clock. The murder of the women was accomplished about three-quarters of an hour later.
Upon his return to the farm McMahon ate supper, and after it was dark he returned to the Van Royen house, carrying a lighted lantern, and by its dim rays inspected the house, taking such valuables as were in sight so as to give the impression that the motive of the murder was robbery.
From the fingers of Margaret McMahon he removed a diamond ring and a wedding ring. Around her neck was a little bag in which she had some little trinkets of value. He removed this, too, and taking his booty, carried it over to his own home and hid it along with the revolver and unused cartridges, in a corn shock about 100 feet from the McMahon house.
For seven days, while the authorities were bending every effort in an endeavor to establish the identity of the murderer, Jim McMahon kept his secret. For seven days he held his head up, talked frequently and freely to officials and reporters and offered no word that would tend to solve the mystery.
The stolen property, hidden in the corn shock, was McMahon's undoing.
If McMahon committed the murder the jewelry is hidden about the farm, was the theory upon which Sheriff Becker and his deputies directed their work. That they must find the stolen property and work upon that to force a confession was the decision of the officers.
J. W. Elkins of Beloit, Kas., a friend of McMahon's who is also a friend of the sheriff's was invited into the game of unraveling a mystery. And the plan decided upon and which was successfully executed was for the friend to go to McMahon and inform him that the officers intended to search every part of the premises.
"If these things are hidden here give them to me; let me take them over to my house," was the suggestion offered and McMahon stepped into the trap.
He showed the man the hidden articles and gave them to him. This was a 7 o'clock yesterday forenoon.
Two hours later, after McMahon had ample time to reflect, he went to his man to beg for the return of the evidence, but Elkins was not at home.
After his unsuccessful mission, McMahon drove to the home of his aunt, Mrs. Ellis, and there nervously awaited the fate which he knew was bound to come.
In his confession, James McMahon exonerates his brother, Patrick, who has been under surveillance ever since the tragedy.
"He didn't help me; he knew nothing about it," the murderer insisted, when questioned by the officers. "Nobody knew anything about it; I did it myself; no one advised me, and I don't know why I did it."
"Did you meditate on this crime?" he was asked.
"I've thought of doing it for the last three months. It was in me to do this thing. I knew I would do it."
"Did you ever start to do it before?"
"Yes, several times, but I lost my nerve."
"How did you get your nerve up, finally?"
"Whisky got my nerve up. I had a bottle the day I killed them. I took several drinks out of it. I gave a drink to Lon before I killed him. That nerved me up to it."
"Where did you get the revolver?"
"I bought it about a week before the killing. I told the folks I wanted to practice with it."
"Had you ever quarreled with these people you killed?" McMahon was asked.
"Not to any extent."
"Have any grudge against Lon or your two sisters?"
"No, Lon and I always were friends."
"Can you advance any reason at all for this act?"
"I can not; I was out of my head, I guess."
In a little over an hour the McMahons and Patrick Lamb, an employe at the McMahon farm, were in the county jail, once the officers decided to make the arrest. The officers are confident that Lamb had no connection with the crime, and are holding him only as a witness.
As to Patrick McMahon's status in the case that is a matter that will have to be decided later. Patrick McMahon maintained yesterday that he had no part in the tragedy and knew nothing about it. At the jail James McMahon was the only prisoner subjected to a severe sweating, and the county accepts his statements as true.
While the inquiry was in progress the outer door of the jail was kept locked and hundreds of persons, apprised of the arrest, stood anxiously about the jail yard and wondered what the termination of the case would be.
During the inquiry Under Sheriff Joseph Brady and Henry T. Zimmer, a deputy sheriff, who had arrested James McMahon, emerged from the jail building and rode north of Seventh street in an automobile. Presently they returned in company with Mrs. Ellis and she was taken into the sheriff's home. The prisoner had asked for her repeatedly and said that his statement would depend upon what she said.
Mrs. Ellis, a nervous wreck as the result of the ordeal to which she had been subjected to for a week, asked McMahon what he wanted her to do. He said he wanted her advice as to what he should say.
"Tell the truth," said Mrs. Ellis.
It was after this that McMahon yielded to the entreaty of the county attorney, and told the story of his crime.
James Downs, uncle of the McMahon boys, was astounded yesterday when he heard that James McMahon had confessed to the murder.
"I was absolutely confident of their innocence," said Mr. Downs, "and I can give no explanation of it. The boy must be insane."
In regard to a statement that had criticised Sheriff Becker and his deputies for the manner in conducting the inquiry, Mr. Downs said:
"I did not harshly criticise the sheriff and had no intention of doing so. I wanted the boys to talk to him at all times and urged them to tell him everything they knew, to tell the whole truth. I did object to the sheriff and his men harassing the mother, as she is in poor health, and I feared that the examinations, if made before her, might cause serious results."