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‘In Cold Blood’ Killers Exhumed

Richard Hickock and Perry Smith's bodies were exhumed yesterday, as part of an investigation into four murders committed in Florida in 1959

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The two men who were executed for of the famous murders described in Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood can’t quite rest in peace just yet. Richard Hickock and Perry Smith’s bodies were exhumed yesterday, as part of an investigation into four murders committed in Florida in 1959. The CBC reports:

A Sarasota County Sheriff’s detective has been trying to determine whether Smith and Hickock were responsible for the deaths of Cliff and Christine Walker and their two young children on Dec. 19, 1959, in their home in Osprey, Fla., about four hours northwest of Miami near Sarasota. Smith and Hickock fled to Florida after the Clutter murders.

Hickock and Smith’s murder of the Clutter family was described in the non-fiction novel In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Find a Grave details the murders of the Clutters:

Following their release from prison, on the evening of November 15, 1959, Smith and Hickock entered the Clutter house and at gunpoint, demanded the money from the family safe. When informed that there was no money and no safe in the house, the two men tied up each person in separate rooms of the house for later questioning: Herb and Kenyon in the basement, Bonnie in her bedroom, and Nancy in her bedroom. They then executed the tied up Clutters, one at a time. Perry would later confess to doing most of the killing. Herbert Clutter was tortured before dying, with his throat slit, and then killed by a shootgun blast to the front of his face. Son Kenyon was killed the same way, with a shotgun blast to the front of his face. Wife, Bonnie, had been killed by a shotgun blast to the side of her head, while Nancy had been killed by a close shot to the back of her head. The murders were discovered the next morning, Sunday, when family friends came over to the Clutter house to join them in going to church. When prison buddy Floyd Wells remembered Hickock telling him of his plans to kill the Clutters for their money, and he heard about the murders on the radio, Wells promptly informed the prison warden. Smith and Hickock were quickly found in a stolen car in Las Vegas and returned to Kansas for trial. Hickock was executed by hanging, at the Lansing Correctional Facility, Lansing, Kansas.

Smith and Hickock were eventually arrested in Las Vegas. They both passed a polygraph test about the Walker murders, and passed, but even modern polygraph technology is often wrong.

The detectives want to get DNA from the two men, to compare it to DNA found on Christine Walker. The pair have been considered suspects in the murder for years, ever since detectives realized that they checked out of a hotel in Miami Beach the day the Walker family was killed.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Truman Capote, America’s Author-Celebrity

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About Rose Eveleth
Rose Eveleth

Rose Eveleth is a writer for Smart News and a producer/designer/ science writer/ animator based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Scientific American, Story Collider, TED-Ed and OnEarth.

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