Herb Clutter, his lady Bonnie, and their teenage children, Nancy and Kenyon, were shot and killed in their remote home during the early hours of November 15, 1959, not far from the sleepy farm town of Holcomb, Kansas. Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, two ex-offenders, were found to be guilty of the killings and given the death penalty. Truman Capote described the killings in his bestselling book In Cold Blood in 1966.
Once Perry Edward Smith and Richard Eugene Hickock learned from some other inmate that Herb Clutter was super wealthy and had money sitting in a secure place in his home, they were both imprisoned. This prisoner had previously served for the Clutters, and he informed Hickock and Smith of this. Hickock and Smith quickly devised plans to obtain the hidden money after their imprisonment was over.
While 4 of the 6 family members were currently home, they went to the Clutter house outside of Holcomb, Kansas. When first entering the home, they realized that there wasn’t any safe that stored cash. Herb Clutter was awakened. Mr. Clutter stated that there was no more money and offered them the little he had. They awakened the other members of the family and went through the house once more, verifying Clutter’s account for themselves. They raided the home, leaving with just a transistor radio, a pair of binoculars, and about $50.
The man killed all 4 members of the family execution-style. The reason they murdered Clutter Family was after gathering everything they could and making the assumption Herb Clutter wasn’t disclosing the location of the money.
In west Kansas, Herbert “Herb” Clutter was a successful farmer. Evanna and Beverly, his 2 older daughters, had left home and begun their adulthood. Kenyon, age 15, and Nancy, age 16, his two young kids, were in high school. While this was later disproved, Bonnie Clutter was said to have been physically ill and suffering from clinical depression after the birth of her kids. Kenyon and Nancy Clutter both went to Holcomb High School.
Perry Smith and Richard “Dick” Hickock were 2 ex-offenders who had just received probation from the Kansas State Penitentiary. Herb Clutter’s veteran farmhand Floyd Wells had served as Hickock’s cellmate. Wells informed Hickock that Clutter stored sizable sums of money in a safe. Clutter, on the other hand, had no safe and did all of his corporate by check. Hickock quickly came up with the plan to break into the safe and start a fresh life in Mexico upon speaking to Wells.
Eventually, Hickock got in touch with Smith, a different former cellmate, to discuss carrying out the theft with him. As per Truman Capote, who wrote the non-fiction book In Cold Blood about the killings of the Clutter family, Hickock referred to his plan as “a cinch, the perfect score.”
What The police Saw?
Herb Clutter was found lying on a mattress in the cellar, bleeding from a shotgun charge to his head and multiple stab wounds. He had pajamas on. His mouth was strapped closed, and his arms were bound. Kenyon Neal Clutter was shot in the forehead and was tied down and gagged on a couch in the adjacent room. The corpses of Mrs. Bonnie Mae Clutter, and Nancy Mae Clutter, were found in distinct rooms upstairs.
Nancy was only bound, whereas Mrs. Clutter was both gagged and bound. Each had received a headshot. One of the earliest police to show up at the terrible scene was Chief Mitchell Geisler of the Garden City Police Department. Assistant Chief Ritch Rohleder was with him. One of the earliest police to show up at the terrible scene was Chief Mitchell Geisler of the Garden City Police Department. Assistant Chief Ritch Rohleder was with him. Rohleder had been a specialist photographer and used his expertise to picture the crime scene.
And although new tech wasn’t nearly as advanced as it is now, Rohleder’s photographs allowed for the finding of a bloody footprint that belonged to Smith. The bare eye could not see this carbon footprint. Additionally, a picture of a hastily-made tire path left by the murderers was captured. 4 KBI investigators who worked under Alvin Dewey of the Kansas Bureau of Investigations (KBI) assisted him in directing the investigation. He also asked many government organizations for help in gathering data and leads.
The murderers Got Caught
After the killings, Hickock and Smith escaped to the Kansas City region, where Hickock made a number of cashier’s cheques. They made the decision to leave upon outstaying their welcome and moved temporarily to Mexico. They finally decided to travel their way thru California to Omaha, Nebraska, after pawning the binoculars. Following a brief stay in Omaha, they traveled to Iowa, where they stole a vehicle before heading back to the Kansas City region. They eventually made their way to Florida and Nevada from Kansas City.
On December 31, 1959, Dewey and the KBI finally caught up on them in Nevada. Hickock and Smith were still operating the getaway car they had gained in Iowa before they were arrested by police in Nevada. The boot that left the blood-soaked print was also in their custody. Dewey and 3 other KBI investigators flew to Nevada to try to get the 2 men to tell the truth after word spread that they had been caught. They were allowed to fly from Nevada to Garden City after truth, where they faced the murder charges in Finney County District Court.
A jury of all men reached a murder conviction and death penalty recommendation on March 29, 1960. They spent the following 5 years for murder in the jail cell in Leavenworth, Kansas (just north of Kansas City). On April 14, 1965, they were quietly put to death by hanging in the death chamber located on the jail’s grounds.