Archive for Sunday, January 28, 2001

Judge puts tombstone dispute to rest

January 28, 2001

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— An Allen County judge has settled a dispute over who should get the tombstones of two infamous killers.

Allen County District Judge John White on Friday gave the tombstones to the Kansas State Historical Society, with the provision that the markers could be returned to the Lansing cemetery from which they were stolen about 20 years ago.

The granite tombstones of Perry Smith and Dick Hickock were recovered from a family's farm in southeast Allen County on Dec. 27, following a tip to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

The discovery led to a dispute about ownership among the farm's owner, Mount Muncie cemetery and the historical society.

During a hearing on Friday, Alan Ard, the farm's owner, said the tombstones should be returned to him because he's had them for about 20 years. He said they were given to him by a man who claimed to have stolen them. Ard had used the markers as steps for a shed about 100 yards from his home.

But Ed Chapman, an attorney representing the Mount Muncie cemetery, said the tombstones belonged to the cemetery.

White ordered the tombstones be given to the state historical society because of their historical significance. However, if the cemetery's trustees decide they want the tombstones, the historical society must return them.

On April 14, 1965, Smith and Hickock were executed in Lansing and buried at Mount Muncie. Their tombstones were donated by Truman Capote, whose 1966 book "In Cold Blood" chronicled events that led to their executions.

It's been said that Capote got to know Smith and Hickock in the 1960s while interviewing them for his book. After their deaths, he felt they should have more ornate grave markers than the ones provided by the state.

The stolen tombstones were replaced. However, Mount Muncie representatives said the substitutes don't fill the void of the originals.

Smith and Hickock tortured and murdered farmer Herbert Clutter, his wife, Bonnie, and their children, Kenyon, 15, and Nancy, 16, after attempting to rob the family's Holcomb home.

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