Special Sub-Topic: The Clutter Family Murders
|Which of the following linked former Kansas State Penitentiary inmates, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, to Herbert Clutter, the prosperous owner of River Valley Farm? |
Hickock's former cellmate had worked for Clutter as a farm hand.. Ten days after hearing about the Clutter family murders, Floyd Wells, who eleven years earlier had worked briefly for Herb Clutter, came forward with a shocking tale. Wells, an inmate at the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing, had (in June and part of July 1959) shared a cell with Dick Hickock, an inmate scheduled for parole in August 1959. Wells told Hickock all about the Clutter family and River Valley Farm. Wells told Hickock that there was a safe in the office in Clutter's house, and that Clutter had said it cost $10,000.00 a week to run the farm. Hickock became fixated on robbing Clutter and talked constantly of how he and Perry Smith (whom Wells had never met) were going to rob the place, tie everybody up, and shoot them. When Wells heard of the Clutter family murders, he knew that Hickock had carried out his plan. Wells collected a $1,000.00 reward and was given early prison release for coming forward.
|Mr. Clutter always kept at least $10,000.00 in a safe in his office to pay farm expenses. |
f. River Valley Farm had prospered under Herb Clutter's good management and hard work. Clutter was a wealthy man, but he did not have a safe in his office. It was commonly known in the community that Herb was not one to keep much cash on hand. After the murders, rumors, like prairie fire, spread through Holcomb as to what the motive for the murders might have been. There were all kinds of theories discussed among the Clutters' neighbors, but none thought the motive was robbery.
|Where in Kansas was River Valley Farm, the scene of the Clutter family murders, located?|
Holcomb. Set in the waving wheat fields of western Kansas, Holcomb was a tiny town located some ten miles from Garden City, the county seat of Finney County. What could not be found in Holcomb, from banking to bowling, could be found in Garden City, which had a population of about 11,000. Everybody knew everybody else in Holcomb, and nobody locked their doors, until that tragic November weekend in 1959.
|Dick Hickock told his parents that he was leaving on Saturday, November 14, 1959, for an overnight trip with his friend, Perry Smith. Where did Dick say they were going? |
To see Smith's sister in Fort Scott who was holding some money for Smith.. On Friday, Nov. 13, 1959, just four months after being paroled from the Kansas State Penitentiary (and agreeing never to set foot in Kanas again), Perry Smith was in Olathe, Kansas, where his ex-cell mate, Dick Hickock, lived with his parents. Dick had written Perry saying that he wanted his help pulling off the "perfect score". Dick and Perry left Saturday morning, November 14th. They drove the 400 miles to about 2-3 miles from Edgerton, Kansas, arriving at the Clutter farm around midnight. They arrived back in Olathe the next day in time for Dick to eat Sunday lunch with his parents and brother.
|Kenyon was the youngest of the four Clutter children. How old was he when he was killed?|
15 years old. Kenyon was the youngest of the four Clutter children and Herb and Bonnie Clutter's only son. He was fifteen years old, a year younger than his sister, Nancy, when he was killed. Kenyon spent his last morning working on a mahogany hope chest that was to be a surprise wedding present for his sister, Beverly, who was getting married at Christmastime. The two oldest Clutter children were not living at home at the time of the murders. Beverly was a nursing sudent in Kansas City, and the Clutter's oldest child, Eveanna, was married and living in northern Illinois.
|Mr. Herb Clutter took out a large life insurance policy on himself just hours before his murder. |
t. About eight hours before Herb Clutter was murdered, he signed the papers on a $40,000.00 life insurance policy that paid double indemnity if his death was accidental. When Bob Johnson, an agent with New York Life Inurance, heard about Herb Clutter's murder the following morning, he still had Clutter's check for the policy's first payment in his pocket. The company honored the policy and gave the surviving two Clutter children $80,000.00.
|What happened that almost scared off Hickock and Smith as they neared the Clutter house? |
The lights went on in the house of Herb Clutter's groundkeeper.. As Hickock and Smith left the main road, and were driving up the mile and a half lane to the Clutter house, they saw lights come on in the house of Alfred Stoecklein, the Clutters' groundkeeper. The house in which Stoecklein lived was only about a hundred yards from the Clutter house. Smith and Hickock started to leave, but then the lights went off again, and they decided to continue on as planned. Stoecklein said that he did not hear any noises coming from the Clutter house that night. He thought that the sounds were muffled by the large silo filled with milo that stood between the two houses.
|When Perry Smith and Dick Hickock entered the Clutter house, was part of Hickock's plan to murder any witnesses? |
y. According to both Floyd Wells and Perry Smith, Dick Hickock's plan was to rob the Clutters and kill all witnesses. Why, if they entered the Clutter house with no plans to kill the Clutters, would they enter wearing gloves but without masks or stockings to conceal their faces? This tells us that while Smith and Hickock meant to leave no identifying fingerprints behind, they did not conceal their faces from the Clutter family, because they never intented to leave anyone alive to identify them. Perry carried a hunting knife, and Dick carried a .12-gauge shotgun.
|How did Dick Hickock and Perry Smith gain entry into the Clutter house? |
They walked in through an unlocked side door that led to Clutter's office.. Dick Hickock knew the layout of the Clutter house from Floyd Wells. They simply walked in through the unlocked front side door that led into Mr. Clutter's office, cut the telephone lines that led to the Clutters' two phones, and proceeded to search the office for the safe. When they saw that there wasn't any safe, they proceeded to tie up the family, one by one, starting with Mr. Clutter. They told Clutter that none of them would be harmed, if they cooperated. Herb Clutter believed Hickock and Smith, and neither Herb, nor any of his family, put up any resistance. The pair walked right in, because the Clutters, like their neighbors, never locked their doors at night.
|Who was the first person(s) to enter the Clutter house after the murders? |
Nancy Ewalt and Susan Kidwell (Nancy Clutter's friends). Nancy Ewalt's father always drove her over to the Clutters' home on Sunday mornings, so she could ride with them to church. There was no answer when Nancy rang the front doorbell at 9:00 am, and there was no movement inside the house. Both cars were still parked in the garage. The side door that led to Mr. Clutter's office was ajar, but not wanting to just barge in, she walked around back and knocked on the kitchen and utility room doors. Realizing that something was very wrong, Mr. Ewalt and Nancy went over to Susan Kidwell's house to see if she knew where the Clutters might be. He then brought both girls back to the Clutter house. The girls went in through the unlocked kitchen door and on upstairs to Nancy's room, where they found her dead in her bed.
|The bodies of Nancy and Bonnie Clutter were found in their bedrooms, but where were the bodies of Herb and Kenyon Clutter found? |
Basement. Herb Clutter's body was found laying on a large cardboard box near the furnace in the basement. Kenyon's body was found laying on the basement couch. Nancy and Mrs. Clutter were found in their beds. All of them had their wrists and ankles bound with cord, and each of them had been shot in the head with a shotgun. Herb Clutter's throat had also been cut. All of the Clutters, except Nancy, had adhesive tape covering their mouths. The plan had been to kill the Clutters with a hunting knife, but Perry Smith could not stand the gurgling sound made when he cut Herb Clutter's throat. He shot Clutter in the head, then Kenyon, Mrs. Clutter, and Nancy. The coroner set the times of their deaths between 11:00 pm and 2:00 am.
|What was found hidden in the toe of Nancy Clutter's sock that helped prove that robbery was the motive for the murders of her and her family? |
Her gold watch. Special Agent Harold Nye, of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, had always believed that the motive was robbery, but evidence supporting his theory was scanty. While both Mr. Clutter's wallet and Nancy's purse had been emptied, nothing else of value, not even the silverware, or the jewelry that Mrs. Clutter had been wearing at the time of her death, had been taken. The only thing missing from the house was Kenyon's transistor radio, and surely no one murdered four people over perhaps $40.00 in cash and a radio. When Nancy's gold watch was found in her sock, it supported Nye's robbery theory. It appeared that Nancy heard stealthy footsteps in the hall, realized burglars were in the house, and hid her gold watch. Nancy and her family were devout Methodists, so she did not own a rosary.
|What physical evidence did Hickock and Smith leave at the Clutter murder scene? |
Bloody boot prints. Finney County Sheriff Robinson asked the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) to take over the investigation of the Clutter murders. A task force of eighteen men, headed by Special Agent Alvin Dewey, the KBI's representative in Garden City, was assigned to the Clutter case. When Dewey looked at the negatives of the photographs taken at the crime scene, he saw bloody boot prints on the cardboard on which Herb Clutter's body had laid. One boot print had a diamond pattern on the heel (later identified as Hickock's), and the other (later identified as Smith's) had a Cat's Paw insignia.
|Which of the following did KBI Agent Harold Nye NOT discover when he went to the home of Dick Hickock's parents? |
Nye found the spent cartridge casings used in the murders.. Ten days after hearing of the Clutter murders, Floyd Wells spoke up about Dick Hickock. Harold Nye, an agent of the KBI, was send to Olathe, Kansas, to interview Dick Hickock's parents. Nye implied that he was only interested in Dick for parole violation and passing bad checks. Nye saw a .12-gauge Savage 300 shotgun propped up against Dick's bedroom wall. He learned that Dick had told his parents that Perry Smith had come to Kansas to pick up a large sum of money that his sister was holding for him in Fort Scott. According to the story Dick had told them, Dick had driven Perry over to Fort Scott on Saturday morning, November 14th and had returned home the next day in time for Sunday lunch. Dick's parents also told Nye that they had no idea where their son was. It was Perry Smith who later led KBI agents to the spot where they buried the spent cartridge casings used in the murders.
|Hickock and Smith traveled widely in the time they murdered the Clutters until their capture by police on December 30, 1959. Where were they when the police picked them up? |
Las Vegas, Nevada. The two had been to all those places, but they were captured in Las Vegas, Nevada. On the afternoon of Wednesday, December 30, 1959, Dick Hickock had just pulled out of the Las Vegas post office. Perry Smith had just picked up a package that they had mailed from Mexico. Inside the package were the boots worn during the Clutter family murders. Minutes later, Patrolmen Ocie Pigford and Francis McCauley recognized the 1956 Chevrolet from an All Points Bulletin (APB), pulled the car over, and took them to the Las Vegas City Jail.
|Dick Hickock always said that it was Perry Smith, and not him, who had murdered each of the Clutters. |
t. When KBI agents Nye and Church began interviewing Dick Hickock on January 2, 1960, he thought they were only after him for writing bad checks and violating parole. He calmly told them about taking Smith over to Fort Scott to see his sister and, not finding her, inquiring as to her whereabouts at 1:00 pm, on Saturday, November 14th, at the Fort Scott post office. Agent Nye knew this was a lie, because the Fort Scott post office was not open on Saturday afternoon. He then showed Hickock the photographs of the bloody imprints made by his boots at the Clutter murder scene. He also told him they had a "living witness", and the next day, Hickock spilled the whole story, making it plain it was Perry Smith, not him, who actually murdered all four Clutters. The living witness, of course, was Floyd Wells.
|At first, Perry Smith refused to believe KBI agents when they told him that Dick Hickock had talked to them about the Clutter murders. What did Agent Alvin Dewey tell Smith that convinced him that Hickock had indeed talked? |
Smith had murdered a man years ago in the desert outside Las Vegas.. Smith had told Hickock that he had once taken a man out into the Nevada desert and whipped him to death with a bicycle chain. Hickock cultivated Smith after that, thinking he could some day make use of Smith's ability to kill in cold blood. Smith never told the story, which was a lie, to anyone but Hickock. When Alvin Dewey repeated the story to Smith, he knew that Hickock had fingered him as the killer of the Clutter family.
|What was the approximate amount of money that Smith and Hickcock netted from the Clutter family murders? |
$50.00. When asked by KBI Agent Dewey what the pair netted from Hickock's so-called "perfect score", Perry Smith told Dewey that they had netted about $50.00, including $40.00 in cash, and the money that they received from the sale of Kenyon's radio, and Herb's binoculars, in Mexico. Until then, it was not known that Herb's binoculars had been taken in the robbery. The binoculars and radio were recovered and used as evidence against the pair.
|Were Smith and Hickock also guilty of the December 19, 1959, murders of the Walkers, a farm family that lived near Sarasota, Florida? |
n. Since Perry Smith and Dick Hickock had been in Tallahassee, Florida, at the time of the murders, they were each asked to take a lie detector test. The results were decisively negative. Mr. and Mrs. Clifford Walker and their two young children had been shot in the head with a .22 calibre gun. Perry Smith read about the Walker murders in a Miami paper, and he thought it very interesting that someone had committed a "copycat" of the Clutter family murders.
|In March 1960, Smith and Hickock were given the death sentence for the Clutter family murders. How was their sentence carried out? |
Hanging. Smith and Hickock were tried in Garden City, Kansas in March 1960. They were found guilty of multiple counts of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death by hanging. They went to the gallows on April 14, 1965. Dick Hickock was pronounced dead at 12:41 am. Perry Smith went to the gallows shortly afterwards and was pronounced dead at 1:19 am. Would you like to know more about the Clutter family murders? My principal sources for this quiz are: Truman Capotes's 1965 book "In Cold Blood" and the article "The Clutter Family Killings Cold Blood" by Joseph Geringer found in the Crime Library at www.courttv.com. Thank you for taking my quiz.
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