Investigators hope DNA from Perry Smith and Richard Hickock will finally solve a 1959 Florida murder

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated December 19, 2012 12:50 PM
Credit: AP

The bodies of two men put to death for the 1959 murders made famous in Truman Capote’s 1966 bestseller In Cold Blood – and subsequent film depictions – were exhumed Tuesday as detectives probe an unsolved 1959 quadruple homicide in Florida.

Investigators hope to see if DNA from Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, who were both hanged in 1965 for the grisly killing of the Herb and Bonnie Clutter family of Holcomb, Kan., matches any evidence in the equally brutal murder of the Cliff and Christine Walker family in Osprey, Fla.

“Maybe it will bring closure to the Walker family, and even after 53 years that would be a good thing,” Kyle Smith, deputy director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, tells Reuters.

To the Associated Press, he added, “Obviously, where these perpetrators are dead, it’s not going to result in any prosecution.” Still, he conceded, “There’s a lot of historical interest, as well.”

He added that DNA testing today is far more advanced than it was years ago. Ex-cons Hickock and Smith have reportedly been considered suspects in the Walker family murders since 1960.

After fleeing Kansas, the killers drove to Florida in a stolen car. They were near Osprey at the time of the Walker slayings, says Sarasota County Sheriff Detective Kim McGath, who has spent four years looking into the Clutter and Walker murders – and likens the two cases to one another in the manner by which the victims were assaulted and murdered.

Hickock and Perry Smith, who were arrested in Las Vegas six week after the Clutter murders, were buried side by side in the private Mount Muncie Cemetery near the Kansas State Penitentiary.

After DNA samples were taken Tuesday, their remains were returned to the ground.

In the 1967 film adaptation – there have been three – of Capote’s non-fiction novel, Robert Blake and Scott Wilson played Smith and Hickock. In 2006’s Infamous about how Capote (Toby Jones) researched the crime story, Daniel Craig played a seductive Smith.