LAS VEGAS, NEV. A slender ex-convict says four members of a prominent Kansas farm family met death last November because he and a fellow robber "didn't want any witnesses."
Authorities said Richard Eugene Hickock's signed statement Sunday night supplied all the answers to the Clutter family murders, a case that had puzzled Kansas Bureau of Investigation agents for weeks.
Hickock, 28, formerly of Edgerton, Kan., tape-recorded his admission and then signed it. Agents said it implicated Perry Edward Smith, 31, of Las Vegas.
Smith, questioned separately, declined to confirm or deny that he participated in the quadruple slayings. Agents said he asked to see Hickock's statement but was refused.
The bodies of Herbert Clutter, 48; his wife, Bonnie, 45; and their children, Nancy Mae, 16, and Kenyon, 15, were found in their home west of Garden City, Kan., the morning of Nov. 15. Clutter's throat had been cut and all four had been bound, gagged and shot.
Hickock fainted in a hallway after telling in the statement how Clutter's throat was cut and then how he and the others were shot, one by one.
Both he and Smith waived extradition.
Kansas authorities said they believe the pair planned to rob the Clutter household for some time and may have evolved the plan while both were serving terms in the Kansas penitentiary.
According to KBI agents, Hickock's statement told of a fruitless but determined search of the home for a safe.
Clutter, a wealthy member of the farm community, owned no safe. But friends said he may have had one in the past.
KBI agents came to Las Vegas to question Hickock and Smith after a former Clutter employee told of seeing them in the Garden City area.
The tipster's name was withheld and a Kansas agent said:
"He is our star witness. We must protect him at all costs."
Smith was released from the Kansas prison in July and Hickock in August, both on parole. Bad check charges were filed against both in Kansas last month. Authorities also had sought them for parole violation.
Investigators at first were stumped for a motive in the Clutter slaying. There was no apparent robbery. But they concluded later that several items -- including an expensive radio -- evidently were taken by the slayers.
Neither Mrs. Clutter nor her daughter were molested sexually. All of the victims except young Kenyon were dressed in pajamas when they were found by two neighbor girls who came to the Clutter home to get a ride to church. Kenyon was dressed in a tee shirt and blue jeans.