Tag Archives: Richard “Dick” Hickock

In Cold Blood Murders Can’t be Linked to Florida Murders

You might recall that several months ago, the remains of Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, the two men executed for the murders of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas, were exhumed in order to obtain DNA samples in hopes of solving a similar case involving the murder of a family in Florida.

On Tuesday, authorities announced that the DNA samples could not be linked to the Florida crime. This is sad news for the family and friends of the Walkers, who continue to be denied closure on a very cold case.

The tests did not clear the men who murdered the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kan., from committing a crime just as grisly while on the lam in the Sunshine State.

But investigators, working with evidence too old and degraded, could not positively match the pair’s DNA samples to Christine Walker, who was slain with her husband and two children about a month after the Kansas killings.

Reflecting on this from a Kansas history and literature standpoint, I can’t help but wonder how much the narrative would have changed had the DNA tests proven to be a match. Part of In Cold Blood‘s eeriness is the idea that the Clutter family murders happened because these two damaged men, neither of whom likely would have committed such a horrible crime alone, came together to commit this horrible act and spent the rest of their lives trying to run from it. Truman Capote’s novel also haunts us because it reminds us that if it can happen in Kansas, it can happen anywhere. To have connected them to yet another, similar crime would have not only solved a cold case, but also completely changed the narrative in both literature and history.

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Not long ago, I blogged about watching the movie In Cold Blood. What amazes me about this blog post is that if it is true that Perry Smith and Richard Hickock really did make it to Florida and killed a family, the story we know–and Truman Capote’s book, which is now part of the American and Kansan canon–will turn into a completely different set of truths. Mind blowing.

KOFO Local News

LANSING — The bodies of the two killers who were executed in the case detailed by Truman Capote’s book “In Cold Blood’ were being exhumed today in connection with another cold case. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation said its agents obtained a search warrant today to exhume the bodies of Perry Smith and Richard Hickock and collect tissue samples for DNA testing. They were convicted and executed for the murders of Herb, Bonnie, Nancy and Kenyon Clutter in western Kansas. The Sarasota County, Fla., Sheriff’s Department has wanted DNA from Smith and Hickock to see if it matches tissue samples kept from a quadruple homicide of a Florida family shortly after the murders of the Clutter family. Smith and Hickock are buried in a private cemetery in Leavenworth County near the Lansing prison. The exhumation was conducted by members of the KBI’s crime scene response team.
Tuesday, Dec. 18, 1…

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Sunday Snapshot: In Cold Blood in Emporia

Thirty minutes before the show, movie goers are in the lobby, swapping stories about their memories and knowledge of the Clutter family and the movie.

Even though I’m a native Kansan, my first glimpse of Emporia–a city I would call home for a dozen years–was on the big screen while on my exodus to California. I still remember sitting with a few hundred other Trojans in Norris Cinema Theatre during USC’s famous Cinema 190 class, watching In Cold Blood. We were supposed to be watching it for the brilliant cuts and montage scenes. But I was mesmerized by this new window into my home state.

Dick Hickock (played by Scott Wilson) and Perry Smith (played by Robert Blake) as they drive down Commercial Street in Emporia. You can see the marquee of the Fox Theatre (now the Emporia Granada Theatre) just over Dick’s shoulder. (Still photo courtesy of Bryan T. Williams.)

I moved to Emporia in 2000, more than 40 years after Dick Hickock and Perry Smith brutally murdered four members of the Clutter family in their Holcomb home. The murder happened long before I was born. But the scene where Hickock and Smith drive through Emporia stayed with me because it was an important part of Hickock and Smith’s journey.

Emporia was where Hickock and Smith bought the rope they would use to tie up their victims before shooting them.

In a handful of real-time minutes and even fewer cinema minutes, Emporia became part of the history of the Clutter family.

Perry Smith (played by Robert Blake) measures out the rope.

It is a strange thing to see your home through the eyes of an outsider. Truman Capote‘s poetic descriptions of Kansas and its people would go on to influence how generations of Americans–and generations of Kansans–would perceive our state. But the movie is something different altogether. If you can take your eyes off the stars of the film, you begin to realize that the movie is a time capsule of 1960s Kansas: old buildings, old cars, and younger versions of today’s older people. Behind Robert Blake and Scott Wilson pretending to be murderers are real images of our real state.

Movie goers head out into the sultry September night. The theatre is on Commercial Street, the same street traveled by Hickock and Smith and Wilson and Blake.

When we reached the scene where KBI agent Alvin Dewey and other law enforcement officials lead Hickock and Smith into the Finney County Courthouse, there is some excitement coming from a few rows behind us. “That’s me!” a woman exclaims. “There on the lawn! I was fifteen and was standing on the lawn when they filmed this part! That’s me!”

And this is the real reason why Kansans are fascinated with this story. It’s not just about a famous murder. It’s a reflection of ourselves, our history, and our state. It’s about trying to understand us.

Special thanks to Bryan T. Williams for providing art and to the Emporia Granada Theatre for bringing In Cold Blood back to the big screen for a night.