Corbin H. Crable
Only a few weeks later, when Hickock and Smith turned up after a massive manhunt, Braun turned on his TV and saw KBI agents dragging Hickock and Smith back onto Kansas soil to face the consequences of their horrific crime.
“I said, ‘My God, it’s Dick Hickock!’” Braun said he told his wife, Jo.
As he watched police dragging Hickock out of a squad car, one distinct image stuck in Braun’s head.
“I remember that Dick’s feet were dragging,” he noted. “He always took great strides. I remember he had big feet.”
Now that the Clutters’ accused murderers had been identified, Holcomb residents’ shifted their emotions from grief to rage at the men who had taken the lives of the respected family.
“Everyone in town wanted to hang them. Everyone in town wanted to lynch them,” recalled Sayler, who said law enforcement officials feared some in Holcomb and Garden City would actually attempt to do it.
The newspapers continued to cover the story, but Kansans weren’t the only ones reading up on the Clutter murders. An up-and-coming 36-year-old author in New York, Truman Capote, had read in The New York Times that the Kansas family had been slain at night. A friend had suggested to Capote that he travel to the Midwest to write an article about the incident.
Capote agreed but was uncertain about what awaited him in the Plains states. To assist with his research, he took along a friend, fellow author Nelle Harper Lee, who would go on to win both critical acclaim and a Pulitzer Prize for her novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The pair journeyed out to Kansas and interview Holcomb residents on the murders.
To the people of Holcomb, the openly homosexual Capote may as well have been from Mars. The diminutive author’s childlike voice and effeminate mannerisms were off-putting to many, and his flamboyant style of dress was alien to folks in this part of the country.
It was only with the help of Lee’s calming, neighborly presence that Capote, for the next four years, would be able to interview the people of Holcomb about the Clutters and the murders themselves. Capote, during his later years when he would haunt New York’s decadent Studio 54 in the 1970s, described that period of his life as “lonely.”
Perhaps the most important connections Capote made while in Kansas, however, were with Smith and Hickock. After seeing plenty of Hickock and Smith during a lengthy trial, he visited them in prison often. Scholars and case analysts have voiced a belief, however, that Capote largely dismissed Hickock as being responsible for the murders – and besides, Smith was a more interesting conversationalist, so of course Smith would be the focus of his book. The author’s neglect of Hickock and frequent meetings with Smith have led many to believe Capote was infatuated with Smith, although neither ever spoke of their relationship at length.
(To be continued)
The Origins of Evil, Part II: Capote arrives in Kansas
Corbin H. Crable