14 April 1965 – Richard Hickock and Perry Smith

There are only so many times you can elude death and for Perry Smith, it was third time unlucky after he was executed for murder along with his mate Richard Hickock on a rainy day in April 1965.

And had it not been for a fellow felon, they may even have got away with their crimes.

Grass

Nobody likes a grass, unless, of course, you have crucial info that can solve a murder mystery case.

That’s the position Floyd Wells found himself in. His evidence was make or break for a fellow criminal, so it should have been a tough decision. Until you realise that crim was Richard Hickock (pictured on the right) – one half of the deadly duo who went on to inspire Truman Capote.

The other was Perry Smith (pictured on the left for those of you lacking in the power of deduction), and together they murdered an entire family of four, all for around $10 dollars per head.

You see Hickock shared a cell with Wells and it was there that he gleaned all the information about the Clutter family – their victim. Wells had worked for them and misled Hickock into thinking they had a safe on the premises, which housed thousands of dollars.

Of course the lure of a hefty wad of cash was too much for the criminal to pass up. He roped in fellow prisoner Smith and together they concocted their murderous plans.

Water works

Smith had also done time and no wonder. His was a sad life. Having been born to two rodeo riders, his dad bashed his alcoholic mum about, as well as Smith and his siblings. The parents soon split and Smith’s mum died of her drink problem leaving him to the mercy of a Catholic orphanage. Needless to say the young Smith was mercilessly beaten after he started bed-wetting.

And it was during this time that Perry’s first dice with death took place when a caretaker apparently tried to drown him. His next encounter was later in life. Following a stint in the army, he was discharged only to have a life-threatening crash on his motorbike that left his legs permanently crippled.

Yet, that didn’t stop him committing crimes and he didn’t take much persuading to raid the Clutters home, especially when he heard there were bags of cash to be had.

Safe bet

The two men planned the robbery while inside down to the minutiae and when they were freed their meticulous methodology kicked in.

But there was one thing they hadn’t betted on – there being no safe. So what was there left to do but senselessly slaughter the entire family. Herbert Clutter was found with his head blown open and his throat cut. His wife and two kids were similarly found gagged and shot.

There were no clues for the police to go on though and Hickock and Smith may even have got away with it had it not been for Wells. And you’re probably wondering why Wells decided to break the criminal code and grass up his fellow inmates. Well, a nice little sweetener in the shape of $1,000 may have had something to do with it.

Novel idea

Once they were on death row, Truman Capote came on the scene in search of fodder for his novel. Smith’s story was prime material and there is even a small group out there who reckons Capote and Smith had something deeper going.

We’ll never know for sure though as all the key players are dead. As Smith and Hickock were sentenced to death, the duo just laughed ‘No chicken-hearted jurors, they’, quipped Smith.

They were hanged on 14 April 1965, Smith aged 36 and Hickock aged 33, and Capote died in 1984 (of a liver disease). But their legacy lives on in the part-fiction novel ‘In Cold Blood’ which is largely based on the infamous pair’s story. This was put to film several times, with the first in 1967, followed by 1996 and most recently in 2006 with ‘Infamous’, starring Daniel Craig as Smith.

Also on this day

14 April 1909 – Joseph Edwin Jones

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21 Responses to “14 April 1965 – Richard Hickock and Perry Smith”

  1. Hanna Says:

    Capote found the article in a New York paper days after the murders and arrived in Kansas less than a month later. “In Cold Blood” is completly fact based and is not a work a fiction.

    • Shauna Says:

      It took well over a month before the book was written! it took MANY months to find the killers

      • Monte Says:

        Actually Shauna that is not correct. The book took several years to write beginning shortly after the murders took place and ending with the killers execution some five years later and was not published until 1966 almost a year after their execution. The killers were captured in Las Vegas on Dec. 30, 1959 a mere six weeks after the murders. Alvin Dewey ( the lead investigator) and his team wrapped up their interrogations on Jan.3, 1960 (Nancy Clutter’s birthday) in getting confessions first from Hickock then Smith before transporting them back to Kansas to stand trial which took place in March, 1960.

  2. Monte Says:

    Actually Capote learned of the murders the next day and within a week of the murders went to Garden City-Holcomb, Kansas. However, Hanna is correct … aside from a couple of slight discrepancies and one complete omission “In Cold Blood” was a factual account of what happened. First of all, Smith and Hickock did not hatch their plan while in prison. Yes they met in prison and were cellmates but Smith was paroled in August of 1959 and it was then Hickock acquired a new cellmate, one, Floyd Wells and that is when Hickock learned of the Herb Clutter family. Upon Hickock’s release in early Nov. 1959 he wrote to his friend Perry Smith who was living in Buhl, Idaho at the time. Smith then boarded a bus and met up with Hickock.

    The slight discrepancies: the sequence of murders was changed in the movie probably for dramatic purposes. The mother, Bonnie Clutter was actually the last victim not Nancy as depicted in the movie. Also, Smith’s last words were slightly changed, again for dramatic purposes. According to a witness to the execution ,Smith, being the coward that he was, refused to walk the steps of the gallows and literally had to be carried up the steps to be hanged. While on death row Smith and Capote developed a close friendship and Capote simply did not want to disgrace his friend.

    It must have been a very creepy experience for both Robert Blake and Scott Wilson to walk in the footsteps of the real killers. Both actors turned in one heck of a performance. Take a look at this movie trailer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtrWb7y2KIo The executioner and the gallows were the very same as well.

    I do think that there are certain crimes where the death penalty is appropriate and this was certainly one of them

  3. Did Perry Smith have any children?

    • No…thank God. However, Richard Hickock did.

      • Mayu Says:

        Why thank god?
        Richard was the one that is apparently more neurotic than Perry. Perry seemed to have anger issues but it was Dick’s plan in the first place to murder them.

  4. I never have heard of the term grass.when did people start calling a snitch a grass?Has anyone else ever heard of this term?

  5. Lloyd Daniels Says:

    The original In Cold Blood (1967?) movie used the real Clutter house, at least for exteriors, but Capote and Infamous didn’t. Any reason why?

    • paul geremia Says:

      cheaper to film in canada. plus they already filmed original in actual cluttter house. the town probably wouldnt want to go through reliving it all over again

  6. I think they both should have been hung Perry said he killed the whole family but if Richard wasant with him Perry would not have not gone to the house but he is a cold blooded murder like richard said nature born killer Perry was a lot harded then Richard but if the movie is correct they both got what they descried.I Think our Goverment failed them like they are still doing today

  7. Vincent Virtue Says:

    Floyd Wells got his $1000 and early release, but ever the Loser, soon went back inside doing 30 years for Armed Robbery. He was subsequently killed during a Prison break in Mississippi. Karma? I think so, for had it not been for his big mouth about a non existent safe the Clutters would never have been slaughtered like animals.
    To the ‘Limp wristed’ Liberals who still oppose the Death Penalty take look at the crime scene photos. And Sharon Tates while youre at it!
    That’s why I LOVE Texas.

  8. harry erryutes Says:

    perry smith never refused to climb the gallows. he actual calmly with no remorse walked up the steps. i have art wilsons on film clip file describing the execution . it never happened the way a&e described it . also many other newspaper accounts report no such as ever happening. smith never apologized either. he was no coward , but showed no qualms about dying

    • Tom Hartman Says:

      He actually made a statement saying it was illegal and immoral to kill him, and that he could have “contributed much” had he been allowed to live. Don’t prop him up too much.

  9. Nubia Says:

    who wrote this and when because i need this for a research paper about capital punishment and if they got the right punishment plus the pros and cons :(

  10. C/C Rosie Says:

    I just reread “In Cold Blood” for the umteenth time. Whether Capote’s book is 100% factual is a moot point. Whether Smith pulled the trigger all 4 times isn’t the point. Hickock repeatedly said “no Witnesses” and “we’ll spread hair on those walls”. Hickock and Smith were 100% guilty of the murders of the Clutter family. As for Floyd Wells, I don’t think you can really blame him for the murders. Yes he may have spoken about the Clutters and the fact they were well to do, had a safe etc. But Hickock made the decision to get Smith to join him and go to the house and rob the family and leave no witnesses. Smith and Hickock certainly deserved to die for their crimes. There is always bragging in prison to make one look better in the eyes of their peers and although Wells may have finally told the authorities what he knew, he eventually ended back behind bars himself. But thank God he spoke up…who knows how many others Smith and Hickock could have murdered? And how many other young girls Hickcok may have raped given the chance? More than likely the only good thing Smith ever did was keep Nancy Clutter from being raped by Hickcok, before he shot her to death.

  11. Some Mathematician Says:

    I’m reading this book right now in my English class :P

  12. Hannah Says:

    sad story :(

  13. I think Truman Capote was as evil as them for befriending Perry, and for writing a book, that made them infamous. They were both evil creeps that didn’t deserve the time of day

  14. you can probably add to their list , the walker family. they killed 2 little kids. smith was a total douchebag and hickock was just scum

  15. 5barnaby Says:

    I saw this on TV. The inmate turned them in for $1,000. He knew that Perry and Smith were going to murder this family. He is just as guilty. He should have hung. That is why I am not for the death penalty.

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