The bodies of Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, the men convicted and executed for the infamous November 1959 Clutter family massacre in Kansas that formed the basis for Truman Capote’s award-winning novel In Cold Blood, have been exhumed and bone samples taken in an effort to solve a 1959 cold case in Sarasota County Florida.
As violent as the Clutter family murders were, the Walker family murders, committed about a month later in Osprey, Florida, were much more violent and brutal. The killers entered the home on December 19, 1959, savagely beating and raping Christine Walker, who was home alone. According to Florida detective Kim McGath, “I think it was Hickock losing control, wanting to rape Christine that could have triggered all the events that day … that’s my speculation.” She believes that the family was spotted by their killers while shopping for a car the day before. Christine Walker was shot dead before husband Cliff arrived home. Cliff Walker was shot in the head as he entered the home with their two children, Jimmie, 3, who was shot three times in the head and Debbie, 2, who was shot once and drowned in the bathtub.
Detective McGath filed a petition with a Kansas court requesting the exhumation to confirm whether or not Hickock and Smith, who were in the area and had been suspects at one point, were responsible for the Walker murders. The request was approved on December 18, 2012, and the next day, the 53 anniversary of the Walker murders, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation served an exhumation warrant for the bodies, exhumed them and collected bone fragments. The fragments are to be sent to investigators in Florida for DNA analysis. Hickock and Smith’s remains were immediately reburied.
Investigators hope to compare Hickock and Smith’s DNA to DNA found in semen in Christine’s underwear. The fact that the killers’ remains have been in the ground for decades and are highly degraded has raised some concerns about the viability of any samples taken today. Kyle Smith, deputy director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation addressed this issue at a news conference saying, “We can get smaller samples, more decayed samples, and still get matches. They could have tried this 20 years ago and maybe used up what biological samples they had and gotten nothing from it.”
The Walkers’ bodies were found by Cliff Walker’s friend, Don McCloud, now 82, but 29 when he entered the Walker home and found Christine, “They beat her … oh she was beat up … her face was a mess,” Cliff, who was near the children, was still wearing his hat, “There was blood everywhere,” recalled McCloud, who was long suspected to have been the killer. McCloud is keeping his hopes of a DNA match in check, “They think they’re that close to finding out who done it … when they find out, I’ll believe it.”