TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — DNA testing so far has been inconclusive on whether two men executed in Kansas for the 1959 killings that inspired the book "In Cold Blood" can also be linked to the unsolved slayings of a Florida family weeks later, a senior investigator said Wednesday.
Kansas Bureau of Investigation will continue testing material collected from the remains of convicted murderers Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, Deputy Director Kyle Smith said. Investigators believe the men fled to Florida after killing the Clutter family in a gruesome case later documented by Truman Capote in his genre-forming classic.
"The analysis is not completed," Kyle Smith told The Associated Press. "We are still trying."
In Florida, the Sarasota County sheriff's office says it remains optimistic that it can resolve questions about the killings of four family members, just days before Christmas 1959. A detective there began investigating the case again in 2007.
"Hopefully, science will be able to give us the answers," spokeswoman Wendy Rose said.
The KBI initially projected it would have definitive results from the DNA early this month, but the agency now has no timetable for when the testing will be complete.
"Justice never rests," Smith said.
Hickock and Perry Smith were hanged in 1965 in Kansas for the killings of Herb Clutter, his wife and two of their children in the family's farmhouse outside the southwest Kansas town of Holcomb.
The hunt for the killers mesmerized the nation and drew journalists from across the U.S. to the small farming town. Capote's book takes readers through the killings, Hickock's and Perry Smith's trial and their execution. It is celebrated because it reads like a novel; scholars have long debated its accuracy.
Attention quickly turned to Hickock and Perry Smith when, only weeks after the Kansas slayings, a Florida family was killed. Cliff Walker and his wife, Christine, along with their two small children, were killed in their home in Osprey, Fla., south of Sarasota. The case was never solved.
Investigators believed Hickock and Smith fled to Florida after killing the Clutter family, then traveled to Las Vegas, where they were captured. A lie detector test cleared them of the Walker slayings — but in 1987, a polygraph expert declared that such tests were worthless in the 1960s. Christine Walker also had been raped, so Florida authorities sought to compare a DNA profile from semen on her clothing to the DNA profiles taken from the remains of Hickock and Smith.
The convicted murderers were buried in Lansing. Kansas officials had their remains exhumed in December so state investigators could collect bone fragments for DNA samples.
Kyle Smith said the KBI will eventually turn over results of the DNA tests to Florida officials who will announce any links between the cases.
"In Cold Blood" alludes to the Walker killings in a short passage; Capote incorrectly states that the slayings occurred near Tallahassee, Fla., about five hours north of the actual scene. He also relates a conversation between Hickock and Smith on a beach in Miami, and has Smith speculating that "a lunatic" copied the Kansas killings. The book says that in reply, Hickock "shrugged and grinned and trotted down to the ocean's edge."
Authorities in Florida have said Hickock and Smith were spotted at least a dozen times from Tallahassee to Miami. On the day of the Walker slayings, authorities have said, Hickock and Smith bought items at a Sarasota department store.
The Sarasota County Sheriff's detective who began re-investigating the Walker deaths in 2007 said the Walkers had been considering buying a 1956 Chevy Bel Air, the kind of car Hickock and Smith were driving through Florida.
Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna
- Crime & Justice
- Society & Culture
- Perry Smith
- Richard Hickock
- Kyle Smith
- Kansas Bureau of Investigation