Archive for Sunday, April 3, 2005

What happened to other characters in Capote’s book?

April 3, 2005


Among the figures who played a prominent role in the Clutter murder case but were underrepresented by Truman Capote in "In Cold Blood" were Kansas Bureau of Investigation agents Harold Nye, Roy Church and Clarence Duntz. Nye, Church and Duntz worked closely with KBI agent Al Dewey Jr., along with Finney County and Garden City law enforcement, in solving the Clutter case.

Nye never did get along with Capote, Nye's wife, Joyce, said. Capote mentions Nye more than Duntz and Church, but readers never came to know the hardships of his work. His constant traveling kept him away from his family, and the hectic pace contributed to his health failing later in life, his wife said. He died in August 2004.

"He was on the go constantly," Joyce Nye, 77, said. "He would be eating a meal and go to sleep. He was totally and utterly exhausted. Police work was his life."

She can't be sure whether Nye ever read "In Cold Blood." She has read the book and praises the writing. But it wasn't an accurate characterization of the KBI men on the case, she said.

She has no specific examples because Harold rarely spoke about the case, but, she said the book's accuracy is questionable. Watching the film premiere of "In Cold Blood" with Harold was enough to convince her of that.

"He got up and walked out," she said. "He wouldn't sit through it. He said what they were producing was not right. ... He said, 'It's just of bunch of lies. It's just a bunch of lies.' But he didn't talk about it."

Roy Church was a seasoned lawman, serving as Franklin County sheriff for four years before joining the KBI in 1947. He retired from the KBI to his native Ottawa, Kan., in 1964. He later served as a technical adviser for the 1967 film version of Capote's book and died in 1971 at the age of 73.

Clarence Duntz had an even more extensive law enforcement background, serving in the Kansas Highway Patrol, as sheriff of Smith County, as a military police officer during World War II, in the Salina police department and as the Hays chief of police, all before joining the KBI in Hays in 1955. Duntz continued to work for the KBI after the Clutter case and investigated several other multiple-murder cases before retiring to Topeka in 1977. He died in Topeka in 1991.

Richard Elder, Duntz's son-in-law and fellow officer in the Kansas Highway Patrol, called him sharp man and a bulldog of a lawman: "He was an outstanding investigator."

James Post -- Someone who knew Smith and Hickock when he was Kansas State Penitentiary chaplain, Post is now an Alzheimer's patient at a care home in Arkansas. A portrait of Jesus that Smith painted for Post hung in his church for 25 years until Post moved it into his Missouri home. After the book came out, Post and his son spoke at high schools about Smith and Hickock, trying to deter other troubled kids from committing similar crimes.

Susan Kidwell, one of Nancy Clutter's best friends and one of the girls who found her body, would not comment for this project. She's now Susan Armstrong, married and living in New York. Her mother, Wilma, a close friend of Bonnie Clutter's, died in Garden City on Dec. 28, 1996.

Nancy Ewalt -- The other teen who found the murdered Clutters, Nancy has since married Roger Culbreath and moved to Gill, Colo. She avoids publicity connected with the Clutter murders and considers the book and all subsequent media coverage "pointless."

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