October 25, 1909
Smarting under the knowledge that the Wyandotte county officials virtually regard them as suspects in the investigation of the murder of Alonzo R. Van Royen, Mrs. Margaret Van Royen and Rose McMahon, James and Patrick McMahon, brothers of the slain women, yesterday emphatically declared their innocence, and gave Sheriff Al Becker and his assistants to understand that they were ready to answer any question that might be asked of them.
James Downs, an uncle of the boys, who lives in Kansas City, Mo., went to the McMahon farm on the Reidy road yesterday afternoon, and assured them that ever member of the McMahon family is convinced absolutely of their innocence and stands ready to lend them any support.
"The way this family has been harassed for the last few days is an outrage," Downs said. "I came over here today after I became convinced that there is a strong feeling that the boys had something to do with this tragedy. I have known these boys all their lives, and I believe them."
"That boy Jim, who has been sweated at all hours of the day and night and in every conceivable place, wouldn't harm a chicken. Not alone that, he has never been familiar with fire arms. He couldn't shoot anything."
Under Sheriff Joseph Brady took a statement from Mrs. Ellen McMahon, mother of the boys, yesterday afternoon, and this further incensed Downs.
"Mrs. McMahon is not in good health," he said, "and this affair has put her on the verge of a nervous breakdown. If this thing is continued there is no telling what may happen to her."
Richard O'Brien, a brother-in-law of St. Joseph, Mo., also visited the McMahon home yesterday, and expressed sentiments similar to those of Downs. O'Brien married a daughter of Mrs. McMahon and the wedding took place just seven weeks prior to the tragedy.
"I have the fullest confidence in the boys," O'Brien said, "and I think it is folly for the officials to act in this manner. I have no theory to offer as to the motive for the murder. No member of the family can offer the slightest reason for the killing, but we are all certain that the boys had no hand in it whatsoever, and, in my opinion, the officers ought to get on the right track.
Patrick McMahon has never been subjected to a thorough examination by the officials, but he told them yesterday that he is ready to meet them at any time and at any place. That he will talk to them and answer their questions at his own home, in the sheriff's office or in the Van Royen house, as they choose, was Patrick McMahon's calm challenge to the sheriff's party.
Before the arrival of the sheriff and his deputies yesterday afternoon, Patrick McMahon and his uncle were making ready to go to Kansas City, Kas., to urge the sheriff to take a complete statement in regard to the boy's knowledge of the tragedy.
The tragic situation in the home of the McMahons is almost without parallel. Five weeks prior to the killing of the Van Royens and Rose McMahon a daughter, who had become a nun, died. The family still was mourning the loss of this favorite child when they were confronted by the tragedy of last Tuesday. Mrs. McMahon, who has twice in her life suffered mental derangement, is now suffering from the intense ordeal to which she has been subjected, and at the home, also, is Timothy McMahon, who has been a hopeless invalid for two years, and who cannot live long.
These things were little realized by 5,000 persons who journeyed to the Van Royen and McMahon farms yesterday to satisfy a morbid curiosity. Never in the history of Wyandotte county has such a great throng visited the rural sections. They came in wagons, buggies and automobiles. Hundreds of them walked all the way from the end of the Minnesota avenue car line, fully five miles.
Through the entire day until dusk the curious strolled about the Van Royen premises, peered through the windows of the one-room shack where the murders were committed, and eagerly sought souvenirs to take home with them. The house was locked, but occasionally someone would come along who had a key that would open the door and then the visitors would get an opportunity to see the interior.
In the great crowd were hundreds of women, hundreds of boys and girls, hundreds of men. It is thought that every amateur detective in Kansas City went to the Van Royen farm yesterday. From the house many of the curious wended their way down the ravine where Van Royen was killed. The half-cut logs upon which Van Royen was working when he met his end were there and the souvenir gatherers grabbed chips, sprigs and leaves as a memento of their visit. Around the little ravine where Van Royen's body lay when it was discovered the crowd was thick.