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In Cold Blood: A Legacy

"In Cold Blood: A Legacy" ran in the Lawrence Journal-World Sunday, April 3, 2005, through Wednesday, April 6, 2005. Jump to Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4.

Day 1 of the Series

The book that changed a town

By Van Jensen

For almost 40 years, the first words of Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" have been most people's introduction to a town that seems wholly unremarkable on the surface. It seems an ordinary town for western Kansas—except for what's down a little dirt lane on the southwest edge of town. A day shy of 45 years ago, two released convicts made their way here and changed the town irrevocably. Read more »

Author left mark on state

By Crystal K. Wiebe

In mid-December 1959, an eccentric writer from New York arrived on the rolling plains of western Kansas. Although Truman Capote had never been to the tiny town called Holcomb, he brought lofty intentions and ended up writing a book that defined himself and the town to the rest of the world forever. Read more »


High school sweetheart recalls the day his life changed forever

By Melissa Lee

In 45 years, Bob Rupp, now 61, hasn't publicly discussed "In Cold Blood" or the Clutter murders, despite hundreds of interview requests from around the world. He wasn't fond of Capote and gets irritated by reporters nosing into his private life. The past is the past, he says with quiet firmness. Read more »


Relations between media and law enforcement have changed since 1959

By Amber Brozek

Tony Jewell was sitting in church one Sunday morning in November 1959 when he got a call from KIUL Radio Station, where he worked. He was to cover a tragedy reported at the Clutter farm in Holcomb. Read more »

Writing history: Capote's novel has lasting effect on journalism

By Van Jensen

Madeleine Blais teaches Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" in journalism classes because it is compelling and beautiful, she said, a masterpiece. She uses the book to show her students at the University of Massachusetts what journalism can be, how it can reach past the ordinary. How it can blend the reportage of fact with the writing style of fiction. Read more »

'To Kill a Mockingbird' author helped Truman Capote break the ice in Kansas

By Crystal K. Wiebe

Opinions vary about Truman Capote and his book, but another writer, who published a novel in the same time period, receives almost universal praise in Holcomb and Garden City for her talent and her presence. Read more »

Day 2 of the Series

Left behind: Man lives painful life in shadow of brother's crime

By Suzanna Adam

What people notice about 67-year-old Walter Hickock isn't his comfortable drawl, his arthritis-pained hands or the reflective way he sometimes seems to withdraw. People remark about Walter's last name because they've heard about his brother, Dick, a notorious murderer. Because of a horrific, bloody act his brother committed years ago, Walter has learned to retreat from inquiries into his life like a hand recoiling from a flame. Even after 45 years, he isn't much closer to coming to grips with the fact that his brother was executed for a brutal crime. Read more »

Brother, friends object to portrayal of Bonnie Clutter by Capote

By Melissa Lee

It was his sister who they wrote about, don't people understand that? It wasn't some anonymous woman in an anonymous town who died an anonymous death. It was Howard Fox's sister, Bonnie, older by three years, who loved playing with dolls as a child and studied nursing in college and became the most devoted mother he knew. It was his sister who was murdered at age 45 and then became a character in a nonfiction sensation. Read more »

Sisters, family: Surviving Clutter daughters hope to preserve their parents' legacy

By Patrick Smith

The scrapbooks and stories tell the family's true history. Within three thick red binders are children's photos, graduation announcements, tidbits of diaries, correspondence through the years and mementos of Herb and Bonnie Clutter's family. Then there are the stories Beverly English, 65, has written about each of her parents—stories describing everything from what kind of music they enjoyed to how Bonnie would kill and pluck a chicken for dinner. Read more »

Clutter murders reminiscent of Starkweather crimes

By Michael Bruntz

As news of four murders in Holcomb, Kan., began appearing in newspapers across the country in November 1959, people living in Lincoln, Neb., understood the fear of suspected killers running wild. Just a year before, Lincolnites had slept with shotguns and the constant fear that the person knocking at their door might be Charles Starkweather. Read more »

Day 3 of the Series

Witness to execution

By Michael Bruntz

For the past 40 years, Charles McAtee's public identity has been defined by that moment in time. Rather than just lawyer Charles McAtee, he became the man who "oversaw the hangings of the Clutter family killers." But unlike many affiliated with the case who refuse to relive the past, McAtee, now 76, accepts that the case changed his life and made him a living link to history, an experience he feels obligated to share. Read more »


Composite character becomes hero

By Patrick Smith

In "In Cold Blood," Alvin Dewey, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation's lead detective on the Clutter family murder case, gets much of the credit for an investigative effort that involved law enforcement agents from Washington, D.C., to Nevada. But 45 years after the Clutter murders in Holcomb, it's difficult to separate where Dewey's involvement in the case ends and other lawmen's begins. Read more »


Garden City officer forgotten in Capote's book

By Patrick Smith

Many familiar with the Clutter murder case still consider Rich Rohleder, whose early hunches about the crime and whose work produced the best physical evidence, to be the man most responsible for the convictions of Perry Smith and Richard Hickock. But mention of Rohleder in Capote's book "In Cold Blood," which chronicles the slayings of Herb, Bonnie, Nancy and Kenyon Clutter, is sparse. Read more »

An outspoken critic

By Patrick Smith

For all his involvement in the community, Duane West might be best known outside Garden City for a case early in his law career—his prosecution of Perry Smith and Richard Hickock for the 1959 murders of the Clutter family in Holcomb. West is among a number of key people who made important contributions to the case, only to be grievously underrepresented in Capote's tale. Read more »



Technology might have helped solve crime faster

By Michael Bruntz

The success of crime investigation TV shows such as "CSI" and "Cold Case" has brought the crime-solving possibilities of forensic science to the public. Though it's unlikely the outcome of the Clutter case would have been different had the crimes occurred today, investigators probably could have solved it more quickly, thanks to advances in technology, police procedures and changes in the law. Read more »

Day 4 of the Series

In the end, just a home

By Crystal K. Wiebe

Space is one of the things Donna Mader likes best about her house. So much in fact, that when she moved there in 1990, she hardly knew how to fill it all. Having been cramped with six children into a smaller place on the main highway for years, Donna simply didn't have enough stuff. Read more »


Death penalty: Kansans continue to debate capital punishment decades later

By Suzanna Adam

In the days when the West was being won, frontier justice often was meted with a rope at the nearest tree, eliminating the complexities of judge and jury. But as the nation matured, so did debate about the morality of capital punishment. By the late 1960s, the country had an unofficial moratorium on the process, which culminated in the 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said capital punishment laws were, as written at the time, unconstitutional under the Eighth (against cruel and unusual punishment) and Fourteenth (due process) amendments. Read more »


Beyond the fame

By Amber Brozek

In the opening paragraphs of "In Cold Blood," Truman Capote wrote: "Until one morning in mid-November of 1959, few Americans -- in fact, few Kansans -- had ever heard of Holcomb." Forty-five years later, Holcomb is widely known for the brutal killings of a local family only because of the book the crimes inspired Capote to write. In fact, some readers are more than familiar with the book -- some seem almost obsessed. Read more »