October 21, 1909
MRS. MARGARET VAN ROYEN AND MISS ROSE M'MAHON.
Two of the Victims of a Triple Tragedy That is Mystifying the Kansas City, Kas., Officials.
A triple murder in which Alonzo Van Royen, a farmer; his wife, Margaret Van Royen, and Mrs. Van Royen's sister, Rose McMahon, were the victims was enacted Tuesday night or Wednesday morning on the Reidy road in Wyandotte county, about five miles west of Kansas City, Kas.
A posse with bloodhounds is now searching for the assassin whose identity is not known.
The body of Van Royen was not discovered until ten hours after the bodies of the murdered women had been found, and during the interim the theory of the officials was that Van Royen had murdered his wife and sister-in-law and had fled.
The bodies of the women were discovered by their brother, James McMahon, who went to their ho me and found them lying on the floor of their one room about 2 o'clock yesterday afternoon. Shortly before midnight Sheriff Al Becker and a party discovered the body of Van Royen lying near a ravine about fifty feet from the house.
Six bullet wounds, made by a 38-caliber revolver, were in the body of Mrs. Van Royen, and three bullets were found in the body of her sister. Both women were pierced through the heart and every bullet was fired into their breasts.
When the news of the murder spread through the country, fifty farmers, carrying lanterns in their hands, organized a posse to search for Van Royen. At 11 o'clock his body, buried under leaves, was found by Geo. Stimpson, a 19-year-old farmer boy living a short distance west of the Van Royen farm on the Reidy road.
The body was found to have two bullet wounds in the back. One of them passed through the heart. His face had three bruises on it. At 1 o'clock this morning the body was taken to Daniel Bros. undertaking rooms in Armourdale.
The police who brought the bloodhounds to the scene were forced to give up the hunt. The trail of the murderer was found to be "cold." A good description has been secured. Telegrams were sent this morning to the police departments in this part of the country to be on the lookout for the man.
There was a visitor at the Van Royen home Tuesday morning and it is for this man that the officials are vigorously searching. James McMahon saw the stranger talking to Van Royen, but did not learn his name. He thought the man was buying potatoes. The diaimond ring which Mrs. Van Royen wore is gone from her finger, also other jewelry and money, possibly as much as $700, which was known to be in the house.
The Van Royens lived on a twelve-acre farm about a half mile distant from the farm of Mrs. Van Royen's mother, who is the widow of Timothy McMahon, one of the first settlers in Wyandotte county. On the mother's farm live three sons, James, Timothy and Patrick McMahon. Rose McMahon lived with her mother, but was a daily visitor at the home of her sister.
James McMahon made this statement to The Journal:
"Van Royen came over to our place Tuesday morning and said he was going to Kansas City, Mo., to sell some potatoes, and asked that Rose go over to his house and stay with Margaret. Rose left here Tuesday afternoon. I went to town Wednesday morning and when I returned my mother told me that Rose had not come home Tuesday night. This was an unusual thing. I also expected to see Van Royen at the market, but I learned that he had not been there.
"I went over to their home and then went to the back door and knocked. I got no response, so I tried the door. It was not locked. As I entered I saw the dead bodies of my sisters. Margaret was lying near the south door, a part of her body resting under the dining table. Rose, wearing her outer cloak, was lying near the west door. Thee bed clothes were rumpled and the dishes were not washed, but the room did not indicate that there had been a struggle. I looked for my brother-in-law, but found him nowhere in sight. I was stunned, of course, that there was no reasoning of the problem. I ran to a neighbor's and notified the coroner.
"I am confident that the man I saw my brother-in-law with the day before had something to do with the killing. I was not introduced to him, but Mr. Van Royen appeared to know him pretty well. We have been selling a good many potatoes and I supposed that it was some fellow after potatoes or possibly a load of wood.
"The man wore overalls and a gray coat. He was of dark complexion, having black hair and a black moustache, and of medium build."
James A. Downs, the uncle of Mrs. Van Royen, said last night that Van Royen, in company with a stranger, whose description answers that of the man seen by McMahon, came to his Union avenue saloon about a week ago. Downs was not there, but his bartender told him that Van Royen had called for him.
"About a week ago," said Mr. Downs, "Mrs. Van Royen visited me and said that she and her husband had decided to sell their farm and move to Colorado. They wanted to farm out there on a larger scale.
"I advised them not to leave. She said that her husband was anxious to move and was insistent upon it. I had not seen her since and don't know whether the sale was consummated. My theory is that Van Royen had talked about the prospective sale and that someone just laid for the money. Even if the sale was not consummated there probably was $600 or $700 in the house."
The great number of shots fired into the women by the assassin mystifies the authorities. According to the coroner, nearly every one of the bullet wounds would have caused the death. The coroner searched the premises and found in a trunk a 38-caliber revolver, unloaded. It did not smell of powder and he doesn't believe it was the weapon used in the tragedy. Three loaded cartridges were found in the trunk.
In the coroner's opinion the victims had been dead at least eight or ten hours before their bodies were discovered. The killing of Rose McMahon, it is conjectured, resulted from her arriving at the house at an unexpected moment, just as the assassin had begun his plan of slaying the husband and the wife and that he killed her to put the only witness out of the way. The fact that the girl's cloak was about her body indicates that she had either just arrived or was just departing.
Alonzo Van Royen was 32 years old and his wife was the same age. They met at a Catholic church fair in Chelsea place, Kansas City, Kas., three years ago and were married soon after, Father Stephen Kelly, the pastor of the Chelsea Place church performing the ceremony. Van Royen was then a driver for a baker, an occupation he had followed for several years. He continued with the bakery until about a year after his marriage when he started a small grocery store in Mount Washington. He ran the grocery store a few months and then he and his wife went to live with Mrs. Van Royen's mother.
Mrs. Van Royen owned twelve acres, which originally was a part of her father's farm. A short time ago her husband erected on this land a one-room frame house and they went there to live. The married life of the Van Royens was said to be ideal and both were extremely popular. Their plan to sell the property and move to Colorado was not approved of by any of their relatives, who did not want to see them leave Kansas City.
Their threatened departure was especially opposed by Rose McMahon, the slain sister, who was always her sister's companion. Rose was 24 years old and an attractive girl of the brunette type. Every day she went over to her sister's house.
Another sister, Nellie, is the wife of Edward E. Blue of 4909 Michigan avenue. A third sister is Cyrilla, wife of Richard O'Brien of St. Joseph, Mo., and a fourth, Catherine, is a nun in a Catholic convent at Butte, Mont. Mrs. John Ellis, an aunt, lives at Seventh street and Oakland avenue, Kansas City, Kas., and it was at her home last night that Mr. and Mrs. Blue, Mr. Downs and a few intimate friends of the family gathered. At this time the body of Van Royen had not been discovered and the theory that he had murdered his wife and sister-in-law was suggested. No member present would be convinced that such was the condition.
The bodies of the murdered women were taken to the undertaking rooms of Daniel Bros., Packard and Kansas avenues, and the body of Van Royen will be taken there as soon as Coroner Davis examines it.
In the meantime, the sheriff and his deputies are searching the surrounding country in the hope of apprehending the murderer. The sheriff believes that the murderer has a start of at least twenty-four hours and he has probably gotten a safe distance away.
The ho use of the tragedy stands amid lonely surroundings. Practically the nearest neighbor is the McMahones, a half mile away. A small stream rns near the house and it was beside this that the body of Van Royen was found. There was a team of horses standing tweenty feet away and a short distance from the horses was a wagon. Van Royen had another team, but this was gone and the slayer probably used the horses in his escape.
An inquest will be held today but the funeral arrangements for the three victims have not been determined.
Owing to the fact that Coroner Davis did not notify the sheriff until 7 o'clock last night, the Wyandotte county authorities had little opportunity to run down any tangible clue. Mr. McMahon notified Coroner Davis of the tragedy at 1:30 o'clock yesterday afternoon. Instead of informing the sheriff of the crime the coroner had brought the bodies of the women to an undertaker's establishment, and then he called up the sheriff's office. According to Sheriff Becker, the coroner gave such an indefinite description of the locality last night that he went eight miles out of the way before arriving at the Van Royen home at 10 o'clock. If the bloodhounds could have been brought to the scene yesterday afternoon, the sheriff thinks the animals might have found the trail.
According to the sheriff, other instances of negligence on the part of the coroner have been noticed during the year.