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Villisca murders film coming to Orpheum Oct. 18

Expert to lead discussion after movie

October 7, 2012
By ANDREW POTTER - Staff Writer ( , Times-Republican

The foremost authority on the 1912 Villisca axe murders will be in Marshalltown leading a discussion on the tragic event following a documentary film screening on the historic unsolved crime.

The Orpheum Theater will screen the film "Villisca: Living with a Mystery" at 7 p.m. Oct. 18. Ed Epperly, an expert on the crime, will appear for a question and answer session following the film.

It's been 100 years since the murders and the unsolved case still attracts visitors and tourists to the home where eight people were bludgeoned to death with an axe. Epperly has been researching the crime for decades and his work is featured prominently in the film.

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The 2004 documentary “Villisca: Living with a Mystery” will be shown at the Orpheum Theater at 7 p.m. Oct. 18. A discussion with Ed Epperly, an expert on the Villisca axe murders of 1912, will follow the movie.

"I'm quite pleased with it and I'm proud to be associated with the film," Epperly said. "I think it gave a complete telling of the story and an honest telling of the story."

Epperly said the murders have remained a topic of discussion a century later due to a couple of main factors. He said the horrific way the murders occurred really has an impact on people as well as the fact that the murder was never solved.

It was produced by the Quad Cities-based married duo of Tammy and Kelly Rundle of Fourth Wall Films, the same filmmakers currently working on a documentary about Jean Seberg.

Fact Box

If you go ...

WHAT: Screening of "Villisca" movie and discussion

WHEN: 7 p.m. on Oct. 18

WHERE: Orpheum Theater

Epperly began researching the murders as a project in a history class at the University of Northern Iowa.

"I found it an interesting case," he said. "I just stayed with it."

Epperly expects the discussion following the film to include the often-asked question - "Who did it?"

"People see a thing like that and they have theories and want to talk about it," Epperly said.

A woman from Marshalltown held a prominent role in the investigation into the axe murders, according to Epperly. Vina Tompkins was interviewed by a grand jury twice in 1916 and 1917 after she revealed she heard a few men possibly plotting a murder 10 months before the horrific incident. Tompkins, and her husband Elmo Tompkins, lived in Marshalltown and were camping just outside Villisca in 1911.

Orpheum Theater Center Director Pip Gordon said the center's connection with Fourth Wall Films after the screening of its documentary on country schools led to this showing.

"We've been wanting to do 'Villisca' for some time," Gordon said. "It's another Iowa film that we can promote and we are always excited to do that."

"Villisca: Living with a Mystery" was released in 2004 and Epperly has often led discussions following the film, just like he will do at the Orpheum. Film tickets are $7 and are available at the Orpheum welcome center or by calling 641-844-5919.



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