Archive for Friday, July 20, 2012

Files from ‘In Cold Blood’ investigation auctioned

July 20, 2012


— Case files belonging to a Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent who investigated the 1959 murders that became the subject of Truman Capote's true-crime novel "In Cold Blood" are being auctioned off.

Past coverage

See the Journal-World's past coverage of "In Cold Blood," including stories from our 2005 series that delved deep into the crime that shocked the nation.

Agent Harold Nye's files pertaining to the murders of the Clutter family in Holcomb include notebooks and crime scene photographs that have never been seen, The Garden City Telegram reported Thursday.

The sealed bid auction is being conducted by Vintage Memorabilia, a Seattle-based auction company specializing in film and literature relics. Capote's book inspired a movie of the same name.

Vintage Memorabilia President Gary McAvoy said Nye's son, Ronald Nye, of Oklahoma City, gave him the materials for the auction a few months ago.

"Our focus was to tastefully auction the lot off as something historic," McAvoy said. "Both Ron and I did not want to exploit the family, but it is part of the history and has to be passed on."

The auction opened at $20,000, and McAvoy said he expects the lot to go for at least twice that amount by the time the auction closes Aug. 31. So far, no bids have been received, but McAvoy said collectors often research such auctions before making bids.

McAvoy kept the photographs small in the auction presentation to obscure the grisly details.

"The crime scene photos have never been released before by any entity, and we would prefer they not be," McAvoy said.

The files are being auctioned off as a single lot to preserve their historical value, he said.

The items also include letters from Capote to Nye. In one of the letters, Capote complained after the executions of convicted killers Richard "Dick" Hickock and Perry Edward Smith were postponed, saying he wanted to finish the book and put it behind him.

The lot also includes two copies of "In Cold Blood," with one that is signed by Capote, members of the investigating team and members of the film crew.

McAvoy said he also recently acquired Smith's prison diaries. He said a presentation and auction will be scheduled later.


deanbetz 5 years, 8 months ago

Pretty poor story selection, highlighting this story on the day of the cold-blooded mass killing in Colorado.

ctrowbridge 5 years, 8 months ago


Thanks so much for your comment. In my view and that of our team, the upcoming sale of historical information about the investigation into the Clutter family murder is a much different story from the gut-wrenching tragedy that occurred in that movie theater in Colorado.

Thanks so much for your post.

-Caroline Trowbridge, Community Editor

Gary Bedore 5 years, 8 months ago

Excellent point, Caroline. This was also an important story for local readers today and much different from the horrible tragedy in Colorado.

rbwaa 5 years, 8 months ago

Actually I think it's pretty poor judgment and disrespectful to the family for the "owner" of these case files to "tastefully auction" such graphic information.

"Our focus was to tastefully auction the lot off as something historic," McAvoy said. "Both Ron and I did not want to exploit the family, but it is part of the history and has to be passed on."

If the concern was to preserve this information for history then it should have been donated to an appropriate source rather than to sell it to the highest bidder which does actually exploit the family.

Boston_Corbett 5 years, 8 months ago

What is sad is these are being auctioned off for private gain instead of being preserved by a public entity for future public access.

Harold Nye's boss at the time, Sheriff Al Dewey kept a a great amount of correspondence, records, and artifacts from the case.... including a lot of Truman Capote related correspondence and records. These are all today available for inspection and research in the special collections department the New York City Public Library. I've seen them. The Dewey family is to be commended for the stewardship of these materials by placing them with a public facility.

I wish no ill will to Nye's son, but it is too bad and very sad that these items, at least some of which apparently at one time were public property (never scene crime scene photographs? How can they be private property?) are being sold for lucre. Someone ought to ask the Attorney General how this can be. I know that Sheriff Dewey would not approve

And C. Trowbridge was correct in her post above.

Boston_Corbett 5 years, 8 months ago

And while we are on the topic, kudos to the LJW and others for the well written series of articles written in 2005 and referred to in the side-bar above. They are very good.

Lawrenceks 5 years, 8 months ago

I'd think these files and photos belong to the KBI and the state of Kansas! Maybe the KBI needs to investigate this!!

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 5 years, 8 months ago

It is all about money. If the son really cared about preserving history he would have donated the package to the state library, or a museum owned by a government entity. Pathetic.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 8 months ago

Boston, Confusing Al Dewey with Earl Robinson perhaps?

Boston_Corbett 5 years, 8 months ago

Not at all Ronda. Al Dewey had been the long-term Sheriff of Finney County until just a couple of years before the Clutter murder. He was indeed a KBI agent at the time of the murder, and Harold Ney worked for him in that capacity, but people locally still referred to Dewey as "sheriff" in the honorific formerly elected official sense of the title.

My point remains the same. The values demonstrated by the Dewey family and the Ney family are directly opposite in this matter.

Ronda Miller 5 years, 8 months ago

No problem, dear Boston, just checking to make sure you knew the true dew about Dewey. Had been is different from is at the time. Not to be a stickler for detail and fact, but being a stickler and thorn in thee side. ;()

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