Tuesday, October 28, 2014

In Cold Blood: Clutter murders still resonate in Kansas City community

By America Martinez-Serrano

EDGERTON, KAN--- On Nov. 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kan., Laura Kinney enters the home of her best friend Nancy Clutter.

Inside the five-bedroom farmhouse, she finds Nancy dead in her bed, surrounded by a pool of blood with half of her head splattered onto her bedroom wall.

In a nearby room, Bonnie Clutter is also found dead. Downstairs in the basement, the body of Herb Clutter is found with a deep wound across his throat with half of his face missing due to a bullet wound.

The body of the youngest Clutter, Kenyon, is found a couple feet away from his fathers. His head is placed on top of a white pillow with a bullet wound in the middle of his face.

It did not take long for the residents of Holcomb to conclude that one of their most beloved residents and his family had been murdered, in cold blood.

The following morning on Nov. 16, 1959, American author, Truman Capote, reads a 300-word article about the Clutter murders in the New York Times. Capote becomes intrigued by the article and uses the murder as his central subject for his new book, In Cold Blood.

Meanwhile, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and their lead investigator, Alvin Dewey, begins to close down on a lead tipped to them by a Kansas State Penitentiary inmate, Floyd Wells.

Wells claims that a former cellmate by the name of Richard Eugene Hickock is behind the Clutter murders. Wells confessed to investigators that he deceived Hickock and told him that his former boss, H. Clutter, was a wealthy wheat farmer and had a safe filled with $10,000 inside his home.

On Dec. 30, 1959, Hickock and his accomplice, Perry Smith, are apprehended by Las Vegas police and are extradited back to Kansas to face their involvement in the Clutter murders. On March 29th, 1960, the two are found guilty and were sentenced to execution.

On April 14, 1965, after five years on death row and after exhausting all of their appeals, Hickock and Smith were finally executed in Lansing, Kan. and buried in Mount Muncie Cemetery. Within a year, Capote published the first non-ficiton novel in American literature.

A couple of years later, a film inspired by Capote’s best selling book hits the silver screen and becomes an overnight sensation.

Fifty-four years later, the residents of Edgerton, Kan., are still in disbelief that one of their residents was involved in the Clutter murders.

According to Edgerton archives, Hickock was born in Kansas City, Kan., on June 6, 1961 and lived in a Edgerton Kan.

Charlie Troutner, director of Edgerton’s Museum and In Cold Blood enthusiast, claims that the Hickocks moved to Edgerton primarily to protect Richard from getting into trouble.

“Richard was a petty thief when the family lived in Kansas City,” said Troutner. “His mom wanted to move to a rural city so that Richard would stop stealing. Richard went back to his old ways in Edgerton and got back involved in petty thievery.  He never stole nothing major just gum and candy,” said Charlie Troutner.

Troutner and his family are from Edgerton and he recalls stories that he would often hear from local residents who resided in Edgerton while Hickock was there.

According to Troutner, the town of Edgerton grew more and more dismissive about Richard’s presence in Edgerton. In fact, one of Richard’s favorite places to steal from was from Edgerton’s local service station, Ray’s Service Station.

“He was a very caring and affectionate son to his parents, he always held the door for his mother and always took care of his kids,” said Troutner. “However, he always stole from the locals and his favorite place to steal was at Ray’s. He was a modern two-face”

The town of Edgerton turned a blind eye to Hickock’s thieving ways because they did not want to bring shame to the rest of the Hickock family.

However, local residents were still aware about the type of criminal they had living within their community.

Local Edgerton resident, Carolyn Hammon, went to high school with Hickock’s younger brother David. Hammon remembers the first time Richard came back from the Kansas State Penitary.

“He came to town and we all knew he went to prison, we never thought he was capable of committing serious crime.” said Hammon.

Hammon claims that Hickock was often seen as an outsider around town, but his family on the other hand was considered friendly folk.

When Hickock finally got arrested for the Clutter murders, Hammon remembers the amount of harassment that the family had to go through.

“I know his mom was seen around town crying when Richard got arrested,” said Hammon. “David became different, you could tell he was ashamed of his older brother.”

In 1967, the City of Edgerton opened its doors for film director, Richard Brooks and his crew during the production of the film, In Cold Blood.

Brooks wanted the film to be as authentic as possible and so he incorporated scenes in which the town and Ray’s Service Center made a debut.

However, Brooks was not initially welcomed by the town.

“I remember the town did not want to have anything to do with Hollywood because we did not want to be in the spotlight,” said Troutner, “The man who moved into the Hickock house was shunned by the town for being accepting Hollywood to his home.”

Troutner remembers the day in which his father took him to go see the In Cold Blood cast and crew act out the scene in which they were at Ray’s Service Center.

“I was about six and all I remembered being in shock that I was actually watching a film get produced,” said Troutner.

It is no secret that Hickock is one of the town’s most infamous residents.

Instead of being ashamed about their connection with Hickock, Edgerton, considers it a historic time in the town’s history.

Pictures and articles of Hickock are scattered across the Edgerton museum. The town even has an original 1965 edition of the book In Cold Blood signed by all the cast and crew of the film.

“There is no denying that Hickock was an Edgerton resident,” said Troutner. “Edgerton is not embarrassed about him and I personally believe it is one of the few aspects that make Edgerton so great.”