Corbin H. Crable
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Gardner resident ‘Cricket’ Sayler grew up only a few miles from Holcomb in Garden City and was 17 when the Clutters were killed.
He said that if Hickock and Smith had known Herb Clutter, they wouldn’t have been surprised that the family’s safe did not contain any cash.
“Mr. Clutter would always come in to the dry cleaners and write a 65-cent check for his wife’s Sunday dress,” said Sayler, whose family operated a dry cleaning business. “He was a wealthy farmer, but he never carried any cash with him.”
That bit of information was simply too little, too late for Hickock and Smith, who sped back to Edgerton all but empty handed.
Braun remembers clearly seeing Hickock and Smith as they drove through Edgerton the day after the killings.
“Dick came in to the station. It looked like he had been sleeping,” Braun said. “He was driving his dad’s car, which was funny, because his dad never let him near that car.”
Braun changed the oil in the car and chatted with Hickock. After the car left, Braun continued to think about how detached Hickock had seemed from his surroundings.
It was only later that Braun and his wife, Jo, would realize the extent of Hickock’s activities out west.
“People thought (Hickock) was a punk, but they didn’t think he’d go to that extreme,” Jo Braun said.
The headline on front page of The Garden City Telegram’s Nov. 16, 1959, edition screamed, “CLUTTER FAMILY SLAYINGS SHOCK, MYSTIFY AREA.” In the days following the murders, newspaper articles from other area and even national papers detailed the slayings of the family in Holcomb. Kansans began to pay closer attention to those around their neighborhoods, for fear a killer was lurking among them.
Norwood, Mo., resident Leonard Rowland, whose son lives in Spring Hill, was an 18-year-old driving home from a hunting trip on Nov. 19, 1959, when he became involved in a car accident.
Rowland was taken to the hospital, but remembered he had several guns in his car from his hunting trip – a rifle, a shotgun and a pistol, to be exact. He had read about the Clutter murders a couple of days ago and immediately feared the worst – that police would suspect he had something to do with the killings.
Police did indeed confiscate his firearms without telling him why. They returned the guns to Rowland a few days later.
“I thought, ‘Why would they take (the guns)?” Rowland recalled. “My dad said, ‘Well, you know they’re looking for the person who killed that family.’”
The authorities were indeed looking, and they came knocking on Braun’s door once again.
“I remember asking, ‘What did he do now?’” Braun said when a KBI agent arrived at his home.
“He might be into something big this time,” was the agent’s reply.
(To be continued)