Archive for Thursday, March 24, 1960

Witness claims two took turns killing family

KBI agent reveals what he says Smith told to officials

March 24, 1960


— Perry Edward Smith said he and Richard Eugene Hickock took turns wielding the knife and pulling the shotgun trigger that snuffed out the lives of a prominent Holcomb, Kan., farm family, an officer said today.

Al Dewey resident Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent, testifying in a packed courtroom, said Smith admitted he knifed Herbert W. Clutter and later shot him and his son, Kenyon.

Dewey, testifying at the fist degree murder trial of Smith and Hickock, said Smith claimed Hickock also used the knife on the senior Clutter and shot Mrs. Clutter and daughter Nancy.

Robbery a Failure

Smith and Hickock are on trial for the four slayings which were the outgrowth of a robbery that failed to produce anticipated large sums of money.

Dewey headed the investigation of the case.

The KBI agent said Smith told officers that Hickock threatened to rape the Clutter girl but that he (Smith) told Hickock "there wasn't going to be anything like that."

Dewey said Smith first began telling officers about the crime after Hickock had already made a statement.

The KBI agent quoted Smith as saying "just look at that Hickock. Isn't he tough? He always said if we got picked up we wouldn't say anything. Now just look at him talk."

Dewey said Smith wanted to know what Hickock had said about who did the actual killing.

The witness said he told Smith that Hickock blamed all four of the killings on Smith. Smith then said that was not right, that each of them had killed two of the Clutters, Dewey said.

Story Related

Relating the story Smith told of the events at the Clutter home the morning of Nov. 15, 1959, Dewey gave this version:

Smith said they arrived at Holcomb and drove down the lane to the Clutter home. They saw a light in a tenant house and started to drive away but Hickock said "Just look at that layout, you can't tell me that man isn't loaded."

Smith said they went to a door which opened into the Clutter farm office. It was not locked and they entered, flashed a light around and did not see a safe which they erroneously believed that Clutter had.

Smith said they went into another room and found Clutter in bed. Smith said Clutter first remarked, "What is it, honey?" apparently thinking it was his wife. Smith said Clutter then saw it was two men and asked them what they wanted.

Safe Denied

Smith said they asked Clutter about a safe but that he kept denying he had a safe. They noticed a telephone and jerked the cord, breaking it.

Smith said Hickock just couldn't believe Clutter didn't have a safe but finally asked Clutter how much money he had in his wallet. Smith said Clutter handed Hickock the wallet and after looking in it, Hickock demanded to know if that was all he had.

Hickock, Smith said, told Clutter he knew there was more money than that in the house.

Clutter then offered to write a check but Hickock said he didn't want any checks.

Dewey said Smith's story continued:

Clutter asked "Why are you doing this, I have never harmed you." Hickock told Clutter to shut up, then noticed someone at the top of the stairs. Clutter was asked who was upstairs, and he informed them that Mrs. Clutter and the two children were there.

Two Men Confer

Smith called Hickock off to one side and told him he thought Clutter was telling the truth and they ought to leave but Hickock didn't want to.

They took Clutter upstairs and went into the room where Mrs. Clutter was sleeping. Hickock asked Mrs. Clutter about a safe but she said there was none and started to cry.

They had Mrs. Clutter get out of bed and took the couple to the bathroom. They then got the 15-year-old son, Kenyon, and the 16-year-old daughter, Nancy, up and put them in the bathroom with their parents.

Then they took the four Clutters out of the bathroom, one by one and bound them with cord and tape in separate rooms.

At this point, Smith said, "all hell broke loose."

Dewey said he took this to mean that was when the violence started. Continuing with Smith's story, Dewey said:

Hickock asked Smith what they were going to do and Smith said he didn't know. But Hickock said he didn't want to go to the penitentiary on another rap and was in favor of getting rid of the Clutters.

Fear of Noise

Smith argued against using the shotgun for fear it would arouse someone outside the Clutter home and they debated who was going to do what and who was going to start.

Smith said finally that he would start and took a hunting knife that belonged to Hickock and cut Clutter's throat. Hickock then gave Smith the shotgun and took the knife and plunged it into Clutter's throat once or twice.

Clutter jerked one arm and tried to put it to his throat and Hickock said "Let's get out of here."

Smith told Hickock "it was a hell of a way to leave a fellow" so he took the shotgun and shot Clutter in the head.

Then they went into an adjoining room and Smith shot Kenyon.

At this point Smith said he couldn't do anything more and Hickock asked for the shotgun.

They went upstairs to Nancy's room and when Hickock raised the shotgun, Nancy, who was not gagged, said

"Oh, please don't. Oh, please don't"

Girl is Slain

Hickock then pulled the trigger while Smith held a flashlight on the girl.

They then went into the room where Mrs. Clutter was bound and gagged but even though her gags she could be heard saying

"Oh, no. Oh, no."

Hickock fired.

They took a portable radio belonging to Kenyon and a pair of binoculars plus $40 to $50 they had collected, got in their car and left.

Dewey then told how Smith related they had driven north and east from Garden City and buried the empty shotgun shells and remnants of the cord and tape used in binding the Clutters.

These items were recovered later by officers and Dewey identified them on the witness stand. He also identified a shotgun and a hunting knife which the KBI had gotten at the Hickock home at Edgerton, Kan.

Defendants Unmoved

Smith and Hickock sat unblinking through the recital of the gruesome events. But Hickock's mother, Mrs. Walter S. Hickock, who was in the courtroom for the first time, sat with head bowed and occasionally wiped tears from her eyes. Also present were her husband and her sister, Mrs. Kirk Merilatt of Kansas City, Kan.

An inmate at the Kansas Penitentiary testified Wednesday that Hickock "told me he would tie them up, rob them and kill them."

William Floyd Wells, 32, of Columbus, Kan., serving a three year term in the state penitentiary for burglary, was the eighth witness called as the trial got under way Wednesday.

Wells testified that he was a cellmate of Hickock about 30 to 45 days before the latter was paroled last Aug. 13 from a grand larceny sentence.

"I told Hickock about working for Clutter and that Clutter was wealthy. I told him Clutter once told me he spent more than $10,000 in one week, that Clutter was generous and frequently gave his employees bonuses."

Wells said he also told Hickock that Clutter kept a safe in the office of a home the family resided in about 1948.

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