Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"In Cold Blood" Killers' Bodies Exhumed

Richard Hickock (L) and Perry Smith (R)
The skeletal remains of two famous criminals were exhumed yesterday in an effort to solve another murder case.  The bodies were those of Richard Hickcock and Perry Smith, murderers of the Clutter family in 1959 and subjects of the Truman Capote book, "In Cold Blood."

In February of 2009 I wrote about the famous murder case described in Truman Capote's 1966 book, "In Cold Blood."  That famous crime involved the murder of a family of four in Holcomb, Kansas, the Clutter family.  Two recently released petty criminals, Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, invaded the family's rural home in the middle of the night on November 15, 1959.  The criminals had heard from a fellow inmate that Herb Clutter, owner of the ranch and house, had a safe in his office stuffed with cash.  It was bad information; there was no safe and very little cash.  So Smith and Hickock tied up the family of four and executed them one by one, with shotgun blasts to the head.  The victims were Herb Clutter, 48; Bonnie Clutter, 45; Nancy, 16; and Kenyon, 15.  My post, along with links to pictures and videos, can be viewed here.

Smith and Hickock were on the run for the next six weeks, and spent some time in Sarasota County, Florida.  During their stay there, another family was murdered: Cliff and Christine Walker and their two young children on Dec. 19, 1959, in their home in Osprey.  Christine was beaten and raped.  All four members of the family were murdered, the youngest child by drowning in the bathtub.  The crime was never solved, and police have long speculated that it was Perry Smith and Richard Hickock who were the perpetrators.

Smith and Hickcock were arrested in Las Vegas for the Clutter murders on December 30, 1959.  They were tried, convicted and, on April 14, 1965, hanged.  Their bodies were buried in Mt. Muncie Cemetery in Lansing, Kansas (See here and here).

The exhumation of Smith's and Hickock's skeletal remains yesterday was to obtain DNA samples to match to semen taken from Christine Walker's underwear.  The only purpose of the investigation is to provide closure to the family of Cliff and Christine Walker, since the potential perpetrators are already dead.

In 1967, a movie of "In Cold Blood" was made, based on Capote's non-fiction novel, and many of the scenes were eerily filmed in the same places where the actual events unfolded:  the Clutter's house, the Kansas courtroom.  Robert Blake played Perry Smith, and his physical resemblance to Smith gives an added realism to the film.  Scott Wilson played the role of Richard Hickcock.

During the exhumation, bone fragments were taken from each grave to use as a source for DNA.  Each body was then re-interred.  Read more about it here.

If you want to know more about this famous case, I recommend the 1967 film "In Cold Blood," as well as Truman Capote's excellent non-fiction novel of the same name.

Update:  The DNA from the two bodies was not a match to the Walker murders.  See follow up article here.


Adrienne said...

I think it was probably "In Cold Blood" that got me hooked on good true crime books. And the movie was a masterpiece!

Stogie Chomper said...

Adrienne, yes, I found both the film and the book highly compelling.

Always On Watch said...

I've read In Cold Blood several times. It was a ground breaker for books about true crime -- and appears to have affected and infected Capote's soul until the day he died. He wrote very little, if anything, after In Cold Blood.

In my view, Hickcock was the evil one of the pair.

I also well recall the movie. Robert Blake's performance was both outstanding and disturbing -- disturbing on several levels. Perry was a tortured soul, wasn't he?

Stogie Chomper said...

>i>In Cold Blood was one of the best books I ever read. It was very well written and just grabs you. I couldn't put it down.

I think Hickock was more evil than Smith, as he was the one always pushing to commit murder, as if this was some necessary display of his manhood. There is an implication in the literature that Smith was gay and was jealous of Hickock's desire to rape the Clutter girl, and his decision to murder the family was set off, in part, by that. One source says Smith only cut Mr. Clutter's throat after being egged on by Hickock, who implied that Smith was a sissy for not doing so.