When I wrote a column a couple of months ago asking for people to come forward if they had connections with “In Cold Blood” or if they knew Dick Hickock, I never knew I would get such a strong response.
Nor did I know, as I wrote the “Origins of Evil” series, that I would receive such a positive response to the stories those people told. And, as cliché as it sounds, the series wouldn’t exist without them.
Since the spring, I’ve had the chance to meet some fantastic people with amazing stories to tell, and I can’t thank them enough. My most heartfelt thanks go out to Lee Tye, a former Johnson County sheriff’s deputy who told me about movie director Richard Brooks’ visit to Edgerton; Cricket Salyer, a Gardner resident who grew up in Garden City and whose family knew Herb Clutter; Harold Rankin, who was a witness on the scene of Hickock’s deadly car accident in 1950; Diane Oglesby, who, as a teenager, chewed the fat with Truman Capote, a meeting she said changed her life forever; and Gary Rowland, one of the many Kansas residents who felt the immediate effects of the Clutter murders’ aftermath.
And, of course, longtime Edgerton residents Ray and Jo Braun provided nearly all of the information about Dick Hickock’s early years in town. Their invaluable stories formed the foundation for “The Origins of Evil” and gave me insight into a man who went from petty thief to cold-blooded killer on a cold night in November 1959.
If you haven’t had a chance to talk to the Brauns, I suggest you do so. More than one person has stopped me to tell me that the Brauns are Edgerton, and that their years of service to the community have made it an infinitely better place. After talking to them for several hours, I couldn’t agree more. As I met with Ray and Jo regarding this series, at some point they ceased to be mere sources and instead became two people whom I consider friends.
Thanks, too, to everyone who read “The Origins of Evil.” I had no idea, as I sat down to write the first part of the series, how widespread the readership of these articles would become. I’ve heard from people in multiple states who have read the articles and expressed interest in the subject matter. Their support and kind words helped me remember that, even 50 years after the Clutter murders and 45 years after Perry Smith and Dick Hickock were executed, “In Cold Blood” remains a story that has gripped the interest of people across the country for decades.
Thank you all for your role in making “The Origins of Evil” a success. You know, if there’s one thing to remember from this series, it’s that a community, no matter its size – from a small town like Edgerton to larger cities like Gardner and Olathe – must learn to come to grips with even the darkest parts of its history. And only when those stories are brought out into the open and told can true healing happen.