Archive for Tuesday, January 9, 2001

Tombstones’ final resting place up in air

January 9, 2001


— At least four groups want the recently recovered tombstones of the two killers immortalized in Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood."

An Allen County judge likely will choose who will take possession of the tombstones, which were recovered in December from a farm in southern Allen County.

Capote spent several months in the early 1960s gathering material in Holcomb for what would become his best-selling book, "In Cold Blood." It chronicles the torture and murders of four members of the wealthy Clutter family.

Killers Dick Hickock and Perry Smith were executed at the Kansas State Prison in Lansing on April 14, 1965. Capote visited with the men at the prison and ultimately purchased two gray granite tombstones for them to replace the spartan ones provided by the state.

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

Upon receiving a tip about the tombstones' location, KBI Agent Tom Williams, based in Iola, and the Allen County sheriff retrieved them.

For now, the tombstones remain in their office, but maybe not for much longer.

So far, groups that have expressed interest include the Lansing Historical Society, the Kansas Historical Society, Lansing prison's Mount Muncie Cemetery and the owner of the property on which the tombstones were found.

Kansas Bureau of Investigation spokesman Kyle Smith said his agency is requesting a hearing and notifying interested parties.

The Lansing Historical Society wants to display them in the prison portion of its museum, said Debra Bates-Lamborn, vice president of the society.

The Kansas Historical Society also wants them but would loan them to the Lansing Historical Society, said Rep. Candy Ruff, D-Leavenworth. The state agency, however, would want them back for an exhibit they've planned that would include the gallows used for executions.

But the owner of the property where they were found has also told KBI's legal counsel he wants the gravestones back and has hired an attorney, Bates-Lamborn learned.

Mount Muncie Cemetery also would have a vested interest in the stones, and sexton Vic Young will be contacted about the hearing.

All the inquiries prompted the KBI's legal counsel to contact the Allen County court, Smith said. A hearing not yet been scheduled.

"We'll let the local judge determine where they should properly go," he said. "We'll see who shows up."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.