The Real Story Behind The In Cold Blood Murders

In 1966, novelist Truman Capote published the non-fiction book titled "In Cold Blood." The book was initially published as a four-part story in The New Yorker the previous year. In his work, Capote narrated the gruesome 1959 murders of some of the members of the Clutter family, who lived in the rural area of Kansas. A year after the book was published, a movie adaptation with the same title was released (via Britannica).

The Clutters lived in a large house located in Holcomb, Kansas, which back then was a small town with just a few hundred residents. Everyone who lived there knew each other, and people left their doors unlocked, as nothing really bad ever happened. The heads of the Clutter household — Herbert and Bonnie — had four children together. The family patriarch, who was known as Herb, was a prosperous farmer and a well-known member of the community. He had several people under his employ, and he always treated them well. Bonnie, on the other hand, studied to become a nurse but had to stop because of depression. Still, she helped keep the household running, per Ranker.

The night the Clutters were murdered

One November evening in 1959, two men headed to the Clutter home to rob the family. Four of the six family members — Herbert and Bonnie, and their two youngest children Nancy, 16, and Kenyon, 15 — were at home asleep. The two older children — Beverly and Eveanna — were adults and didn't live in the family home at that time. The robbers went through the house to look for a safe but didn't find it. During the robbery, Herb awoke to the noise and saw what was going on. He offered the robbers all the money he had but said that it was all there was in the home, as reported by Garden City Kansas Police. Herb was known to use checks for his business dealings, so he had no need to keep large amounts of money in the house.

The thieves weren't convinced and ensued their search for the safe. In all the commotion, the rest of the family woke up. The two men believed that Herb was concealing where the safe was, and in a rage, they murdered all four family members in a gruesome manner. After the grisly deed, the men left the home with the little money that they got, as well as a transistor radio and binoculars.

The discovery of the murders

On the morning of the murders on November 15, a friend of Nancy Clutter, Nancy Ewalt, was driven by her father to the Clutter home. Ewalt regularly rode with the Clutter family on the way to church. On that day, however, nobody was responding to her knocks, but she saw that both vehicles were still in the driveway. Ewalt knew that something was amiss and alerted her father, and together they left the house and went into town to figure out if someone had seen the Clutters (via The New Yorker). Susan Kidwell, who was a friend of Nancy Clutter and Nancy Ewalt, heard from the Ewalts that nobody was answering at the Clutter home. They attempted to call their home phone, but still, nobody answered.

Mr. Ewalt suggested going back to the property and going inside the home to see what happened. Upon entering the home, the two girls noticed that there were no dishes, no breakfast, and no noise. Upon further investigation, they discovered the dead bodies of the Clutters.

Who killed the Clutters?

Authorities arrived to a grisly scene at the Clutter home. Blood was spattered all over the home, and the four family members were bound in different locations and killed with a shotgun, as reported by Ranker. Pieces of evidence were collected at the scene, including tire tracks, a bloody rope, and a boot print, among others. The murderers were finally caught weeks after the slayings, and it turned that the crime wasn't a random act.

The murderers were identified as Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, who were both just released from prison. It was during their incarceration when they heard another inmate talking about Herb Clutter's wealth and the supposed safe full of cash that he kept in his home. Hickock and Smith plotted to steal from Clutter, and they went on with their plan soon after their release, per Garden City Kansas Police. The two criminals were executed by hanging on April 14, 1965.