South Dakota

Lets find Rev. Lyn George Jacklin Kelly,

1912 Murders still unsolved

Winner, South Dakota has an intriguing, if innocent, connection to a famous mass murder case in Iowa. In 1912, six members of a household and two visiting children were murdered in the middle of the night in the small town of Villisca, Iowa.

The crime received national attention (not unlike the Jon Benet Ramsey case of more cent times) and created a frenzy of theories, rumors, and suspects.

One of the more plausible suspects was the Reverend Lyn George Jacklin Kelly. This character was the focus of several investigations by several agencies for at least two years; he confessed (then recanted); he was tried twice, but never convicted. Present day researchers and Villisca enthusiasts consider him to be just one of several suspects who may have committed the murder, but his zany biography also lead many to regard him as simply a publicity-seeking crackpot.
And crackpot he was. His behavior while preaching in Winner, South Dakota makes for a curious and somewhat amusing adjunct to the main Villisca story.

It seems that the Reverend had a passion for naked ladies. While preaching in Winner, he decided he needed a secretary—a naked secretary. In 1913, the Reverend Kelly placed an ad in the Omaha World Herald.. He received an application from a young woman living in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He replied that she certainly fit the bill, and, if she agreed to type in the nude, she was hired. The young woman notified the police, and postal authorities began a “sting” operation by sending him fake letters and leading him to believe that he was corresponding with an eager eighteen-year-old girl. His return letters became increasingly salacious and pornographic. He was arrested for sending obscene material through the mail and violating a number of Federal laws.

Years later, in 1917, the Reverend Kelly was arrested and charged with the murder in the Villisca murders.His presence in Villisca on the night of the murders and his sudden departure early the next morning made him a possible suspect in the case.
Kelly’s “confession” was an obvious attempt to create a celebrity status for himself.
He withdrew the confession before the trial began. Kelly’s first trial resulted in a hung jury and he was acquitted in the second. Tradition has it that Kelly moved to Kansas City, Connecticut, and later to New York City. The final years of his life remain a mystery

Mainstreetmoments would like to recruit some would-be detectives and history buffs and try to fill in the missing pages of this guy’s story. A lot of “snooping” can be done on line, particularly genealogy research. Also, anyone out there in Winner, South Dakota got any stories?
Author: EVM STAFF on 03/02 2011
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Posted by: Anonymous on June 19 2017
Still have not found the grave of rev. George jacklin kelly, last known to have lived in the Bowery area of NYC, stories abound that he was admitted to a mental health asylum in the state of new York. ..
Posted by: Anonymous on June 19 2017
My late grandmother, born in 1898 & raised in Macedonia, IA knew this Reverend & heard him preach in the Presbyterian church there. She said that my great-grandparents warned her to stay away from him after he was caught window peeking in Macedonia & had stolen lady's undergarments from clotheslines
Posted by: Anonymous on January 06 2014
Does anyone have any further information or documentation of Kelly after his acquittal? I tried to get in contact with Carolyn but her email address no longer works. If you guys have any more info please send it to I'm very curious, thanks.
Posted by: Anonymous on August 18 2011
The research you have is a bit off. I have all the newspapers written on the subject and the court record, plus original photos. Kelly was arrested in Winner, SD, but was living in Macedonia, IA when he was indicted for murder in 1917. He was held in Logan,IA where he was tortured into confessing.
Posted by: Anonymous on February 24 2011
In my previous research was present at the Children's Day program at the Presbyterian Church on the night of the murders. His presence here, and his departure from town during the early morning hours on June 10, made him a prime suspect in the killings. It was also said that the minister confessed t
Posted by: Anonymous on December 18 2009
1)His train left at 5:30am. The bodies weren't discovered till 8:00am. The elderly couple he talked to of it on the train, either lied or got the best evidence yet. 2)Food for thought. He was acquited and released Nov 1917. New Orleans axeman serial killings started May 22, 1918. 3)
Posted by: wicky1 on September 16 2009
I have info that he was a minister in the Bowery section of NY.If he died in ny would there be a death cert? Also Laura Elizabeth his wife any info out there on her?
Posted by: Anonymous on July 06 2009
Kelly was not involved in the murder outside of Winner So Dak since he didn't arrive in town until after that murder had been comitted. I have heard he was judged insane and sent to an asylum on Long Island were he died in the 1950's
Posted by: Anonymous on February 27 2009
I'm beginning to see his possible m/o fitting the evidence. His one confession may have been coerced but there were other of his confessions reported on the train. One saying he talked about the killings before anyone knew. He enjoyed not being suspected. Who else did he kill? Did he work alone?
Posted by: Anonymous on February 24 2009
Went looking for Rev. Kelly and found in NYC 1930-1942 (definitely him) but lost him after that. I also have some info about his England roots. Still looking. If interested in seeing photocopies of documentation email me at Carolyn
Posted by: macey on October 25 2008
In my previous research, he was present at the Children's Day program at the Presbyterian Church on the night of the murders. His presence here, and his departure from town during the early morning hours on June 10, made him a prime suspect in the killings. It was also said that the minister confes
Posted by: Anonymous on October 09 2008
Doing research in Winner SD newspapers I discovered a flaw in this story. Kelley was arrested for the postal charges in the 2-16-1914 local paper, and gained suspicion for the Iowa murders as early as 7-17-1914. The trial did not occur until 1917? Also an unsolved Murder did occur just outside of Winner shortly before Kelley's departure from Winner.

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