Archive for Friday, December 29, 2000

Cold-blooded’ crime solved

Tombstones of notorious killers found in eastern Kansas

December 29, 2000


— The tombstones of the killers immortalized in Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" have been recovered 20 years after they were stolen.

The two tombstones were pried Wednesday from frozen ground on a farm in the southern part of Allen County.

In the early 1960s, Capote spent several months in Holcomb gathering material for what would become his best-selling novel, "In Cold Blood."

It chronicles the murders of four members of the Clutter family. Killers Dick Hickock and Perry Smith were drawn to the Clutter home by rumors that the wealthy family kept cash in their farmhouse. When they didn't find any money, Smith and Hickock tortured and brutally murdered the family.

Smith and Hickock were executed April 14, 1965, at the Kansas State Prison in Lansing.

As the story goes, Capote came to know the two murderers well enough during his research that he ordered and paid for two fine gray granite tombstones to replace the spartan ones that were provided by the state.

About 20 years ago, the two tombstones disappeared from Mount Muncie, the Lansing cemetery where the two were buried.

Allen County Sheriff Ron Moore and Tom Williams, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent assigned to Iola, retrieved the stones.

Williams said he learned the location of the grave markers from an acquaintance who had heard several years ago that the stones were in Allen County.

The man who allegedly stole them no longer lives in Kansas, but the owner of the property where they were found knew they were there and was familiar with the person who stole them. No prosecution will be sought because the statute of limitation has run out.

Weather conditions made retrieval of the grave markers difficult, Williams said.

"We had to use a crow bar to break them loose from the ground and they were frozen in so hard that we bent the crow bar," he said.

The headstones are now in Williams' office in the basement of the Allen County Courthouse. Williams said he learned from Vic Young, the sexton at Mount Muncie Cemetery, that a day or so after the headstones were stolen new ones were put back at the Smith and Hickock grave sites and set in concrete.

"I'm not sure right now," Williams said, "what is going to become of them."

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