U.S. News

Bodies of 1959 "In Cold Blood" killers exhumed in Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kansas (Reuters) - The bodies of two men executed for the 1959 murders of a western Kansas family in a case made famous by the book “In Cold Blood” were exhumed on Tuesday as part of an investigation into a quadruple homicide in Florida that same year.

Detectives in Florida want to see if DNA from Richard Hickock and Perry Smith matches any evidence in the slaying of the Cliff and Christine Walker family in Osprey, Florida, later in 1959.

Agents from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation exhumed the bodies in Leavenworth County after obtaining a search warrant, said Kyle Smith, the bureau’s deputy director. He said a deputy sheriff from Sarasota County, Florida, observed.

The exhumations and reburials of the bodies took about four hours, Smith said. Kansas investigators will process the DNA taken from the bones and forward it to Florida for comparison to evidence in the unsolved Walker killings, Smith said.

“Maybe it will bring closure to the Walker family and even after 53 years that would be a good thing,” Smith said.

Hickock and Perry Smith are buried side by side in a private cemetery near the federal penitentiary where they were incarcerated.

Hickock and Smith were convicted of killing Herbert and Bonnie Clutter and two of their children in their home in Holcomb, Kansas. The crime gained national attention through Truman Capote’s book “In Cold Blood” and later became a movie.

The killers fled Holcomb and later were in the Osprey area at the time of the Walker killings, said Sarasota County Sheriff Detective Kim McGath, who has spent four years investigating the Clutter and Walker murders.

McGath said the cases were similar and unusual in that both involved shooting to death parents and children in their own homes. Christine Walker was raped and investigators found semen, McGath said.

Hickock and Perry were suspected in the Walker murders but passed polygraph tests when they eventually were captured in Las Vegas. Smith had a knife identical to one stolen from Cliff Walker.

(This version of the story has been corrected to fix spelling of Hickock throughout)

Editing by Greg McCune and Steve Orlofsky