57 Years Later: the Clutter Family murders

Published: Nov. 15, 2016 at 4:48 AM CST
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57 years ago Tuesday, Kansas saw one of its most infamous -- and most brutal -- murders in state history.

Early on the morning on November 15, 1959, paroled ex-convicts Richard Eugene Hickock and Perry Edward Smith broke into the Clutter family farmhouse just outside Holcomb, Kansas, in the southwest corner of the state.

They had been tipped off by another inmate about a safe full of cash owned by the father, Herb Clutter.

The two men broke in, and tied up Herb Clutter, along with his wife Bonnie, and their teenage children Kenyon and Nancy.

They ransacked the home, but only found fifty dollars, a pair of binoculars and a transistor radio. No safe, no cash.

That's when Smith and Hickock decided to kill the family. All four were killed by shotgun blasts to the head. Herb Clutter was also stabbed and his throat slashed.

The horrific scene was later discovered by the Garden City Police Department's Chief and his assistant. They called the KBI for help.

A bloody boot print, tire tracks, a tip from an inmate and a stolen car would all help lead authorities to Las Vegas, where the KBI apprehended Smith and Hickock. The pair would later confess to the killings.

They were tried and convicted in Finney County, Kansas, and subsequently sentenced to death in March of 1960. Five years later, they were hanged at what is now Lansing Correctional Facility.

The murders gained national media attention at the time, including the interest of an author named Truman Capote. Capote traveled to western Kansas with his childhood friend and assistant, Harper Lee (you know her as the author of "To Kill a Mockingbird").

Capote compiled some 8,000 pages of notes, ultimately publishing a series of installments in New Yorker magazine in 1965. The following year, it was put into a book titled "In Cold Blood." Today, the book is the second-best selling true crime story in publishing history.

The Clutter family home is now privately owned, and is not open to the public.

Thanks to KWCH in Wichita and the Garden City Police Department for information in this report.