Editor's Note: The following is one article, taken from an entire page of the editorial section of the Cedar Rapids Republican devoted to the question of whether Wesley Elkins should be pardoned. Several letters were quoted, giving insight into the offense, his history, and adjustment to prison.
Cedar Rapids Sunday Republican
January 23, 1898
STORY OF THE CRIME
Told in a Letter Written to Mr. Carl Snyder of New York
Dear Sir - Your letter addressed to me as P. M., to be handed to the Elkins family physician received. They had no family physician to my knowledge, hence I give you what knowledge I have by observation and inquiry.
Wesley Elkins, on the 16th day of July, 1889, then 11 years of age, and weighing seventy-three pounds, brutally murdered his father and stepmother, the former then about 45 years old and the later about 25. They lived at the time six miles northeast of here in Clayton county, on a small farm about forty rods back from the road. These persons, with a child about 1 year old, composed the family then living at home. On the morning named about the break of day, (quoting from his confession), he quietly arose from his bed, passed into kitchen, then into his parent's bed room, placed his father's rifle, (this was always kept in Wesley's room), close to his father's head as he lay at the front of the bed asleep and fired, killing him instantly. He then hastened back to his room to reload rifle, but after placing powder and ball in gun (in this condition it was found), he could find no suitable patch for ball and by this time the mother had risen and Wesley, hearing her, returned to her room and found her standing in her night clothes bent over her husband, evidently to ascertain what if anything had befallen him, and with her back to the door, Wesley struck her on the back of the head near the base of the brain, a fearful blow, with a club that he had obtained the evening before at the corn crib, and this staggered her so that she turned partly around facing the door; then he rained blow after blow with this club, felling her across the bed, then getting onto the bed where he could reach her head he beat it into a jelly, scattering blood and brains all over the walls and ceilings of this room. The work being done, he took the babe from the bed where the parents lay, the babe being bespattered with blood, took it to his room, fed and dressed it, then started for his grandfather's with it. At the first neighbors, he told that someone had killed his parents and he was on his way to his grandpa's. Wesley was a bright boy, taking the first prize in his Sunday school; he loved to hunt, was a good shot, rather quiet and bashful. He was never sick to any extent, was not and invalid or cripple, nor did he ever suffer with any disease except those incident to children. His father compelled him to stay rather close at home to assist the stepmother and help care for the babe. He often ran away to avoid this, and only about two weeks before the tragedy he left home, going to an aunt's. The father went after him and took him home, but did not punish him. No doubt it was to get away from this restraint that he ran away, and failing in this, he deliberately planned their taking off. Both his own grandparent's were very healthy and no insanity can be traced in the family. I will give you the theory of his murderous disposition. While he was yet unborn, but the mother was pregnant with him, she, it is currently reported, attempted to poison Wesley's father, but failed; then attempted with her paramour to kill him by arranging logs in his mill yard so that they would fall on and kill him. In this she failed and finally eloped with this paramour and soon after gave birth to this boy, Wesley. The woman killed is John Elkins, the husband's, second wife, but not the mother of Wesley. I was present at the inquest on these bodies, before they were removed from where they were slaughtered. It was indeed a sickening scene. The boy was running about wholly unconcerned at the inquest, and for four days after, as he was not suspicioned for some time, and during this time he came to this town stayed with an aunt and crowds came to see him and as he was always on the street they would gather about him, discuss his ability to do such a deed, lift him to ascertain his weight, weigh him and even get into words as to his physical ability to do, what some were beginning to believe, he had done. Yet this boy made no objections to this usage of him; neither did he attempt to keep off the streets or from the gaze of, or discussions concerning himself. During all of the time, and while lying in jail, previous to his trial, about four months, he was never known to shed a tear or show any remorse. He stated in his confession that he did the deed to keep from tending the baby and staying at home. I have known the family for years. I think a photograph can be obtained of this boy now serving a life sentence in the Anamosa penitentiary.
S. T. RICHARDS.
(Ed. note: Mr. Richards is described in a preceding article as an attorney in Edgewood, Iowa)