The Dead Bulgarian: Murder of Welio Tsnoff 1910

Murder Victim

Welio Tsnoff
35-year-old Bulgarian National
Section Hand
Chicago and Northwestern Railroad

Cause of Death: Struck With a Hammer
Motive: Robbery

Murder Scene and Date

Employee Boarding Car
Rail Yard
Marshalltown, Iowa
Marshall County
January 10, 1910


By Nancy Bowers
Written June 2015

location of Marshalltown, Iowa

location of Marshalltown, Iowa

At 5:00 p.m. on Monday, January 10, 1910, 35-year-old Chicago and Northwestern Railroad section hand Welio Tsnoff finished work for the day in the Marshalltown rail yards.

He went inside an employee boarding car to light the stove to cook supper while the other two men who lived there with him — Bulgarian nationals like Tsnoff — walked downtown to buy food.

 Iowa City Daily Press

Iowa City Daily Press

Not long afterwards, two other railroad employees, described by newspapers as “Italians,” passed by and spotted a fire in the boarding car.

The men broke out a window and found a body engulfed in fire lying on the floor. They dragged it outside, where the snow on the ground quenched the flames.

Just then, Sergeant Goodwill of the Marshalltown Police Department came by on his way to work; he notified authorities of the crime.

The burned body was identified as that of Welio Tsnoff.

from the Fairfield Journal

from the Fairfield Journal

Marshall County Coroner Dr. E.W. Jay ruled that the victim died from a blow to the head with a mason’s cracking hammer. The killer or killers then poured kerosene from a lamp over the body and set it alight in hopes of destroying evidence.

Tsnoff was known to have $150 in his possession. That money was missing, making robbery the likely motive for the homicide.

Some newspapers reported that law enforcement authorities were tracking Tsnoff’s roommates as suspects.

However, the Cedar Rapids Republican wrote:

“Officers have no clue, but are searching the country and notifying the surrounding towns.”

And the Perry Weekly Chief reported:

“There is absolutely no clue to work on.”

Little was known about Tsnoff except that he had a wife and five children living in Bulgaria.

Please note: Use of information from this article should credit Nancy Bowers as the author and Iowa Unsolved Murders: Historic Cases as the source.



  • ☛ “Brutal Crime At Marshalltown,” Muscatine Journal, January 11, 1910, p. 1.
  • ☛ “Brutal Murder At Marshalltown,” Cedar Rapids Republican, January 11, 1910, p. 1.
  • ☛ “Brutal Murder At Marshalltown,” Iowa City Daily Press, January 11, 1910, p. 1.
  • ☛ “Bulgarian Brutally Slain,” Fayette Reporter, January 13, 1910, p. 2.
  • ☛ “Bulgarian Murdered,” Waterloo Evening Courier, January 11, 1910, p. 1.
  • ☛ “Bulgarian Murdered,” Waterloo Semi-Weekly Courier, January 14, 1910, p. 2.
  • ☛ “Murder At Marshalltown,” Fairfield Journal, January 12, 1910, p. 1.
  • ☛ “Murder At Marshalltown,” Rolfe Reveille, January 13, 1910, p. 1.
  • ☛ Perry Weekly Chief, January 12, 1910, p. 4.
  • ☛ “A Terrible Murder At Marshalltown,” Atlantic Daily Telegraph, January 11, 1910, p. 1.

Comments are closed.

Tags: , , , , , ,