Date of murders: 1872 - 1873
Method of murder: Bludgeoning / Stabbing
Location: Lebette County, Kansas
It is one of the most incredible stories of the old West, a family of serial killers operating an inn and general store in Labette County, Kansas, and preying on unwary travellers. But that is exactly what happened just outside of Osage township between 1872 and 1873.
The story takes place at a dingy shack named the Wayside Inn, the proprietors of which were a family named Bender - John Bender, his wife, son John Jr., and daughter Kate. The family operated a simple but effective M.O. When a traveller arrived they’d seat him a a table, his back to a canvas partition. Kate, who was known to be quite a beauty, would then engage the hapless traveler in conversation, while one of the men crept up behind and dispatched him with a blow from a sledgehammer. The family would then rob the victim before burying the body in a nearby orchard.
At least 11 people were killed in this way before the Benders committed the murder that would finally expose their murderous deeds. George Loncher was on his way to Iowa with his young daughter when they fell victim to the murderous clan. Dr William York, a friend of Loncher’s, then went looking for him. He too disappeared.
Unfortunately for the Benders, Dr York was well connected. One of his brothers was a US senator, another was a colonel in the army. When Colonel York arrived at the inn asking questions about his brother, the Benders denied ever meeting him. However, the visit had spooked them. Within weeks they had fled, abandoning their property. A subsequent search of the premises and the adjacent orchard turned up 11 bodies including those of Dr York, George Loncher, and his young daughter.
A massive search was launched for the Benders but they were never found. Their ultimate fate remains a mystery to this day.