Original coverage of Clutter murders from Nov. 16, 1959

11/12/2009

The following is one of the original stories published in The Telegram on Nov. 16, 1959, of which the front page is displayed to the left, the day after the bodies of Herb, Bonnie, Nancy and Kenyon Clutter were found in their Holcomb home:

The following is one of the original stories published in The Telegram on Nov. 16, 1959, of which the front page is displayed to the left, the day after the bodies of Herb, Bonnie, Nancy and Kenyon Clutter were found in their Holcomb home:

A tragedy — unbelievable and shocking beyond words — struck a prominent Western Kansas farm family near here yesterday and was still unsolved at noon today.

Death — brutal and without apparent motive--struck four members of the Herb W. Clutter family late Saturday night or early Sunday morning.

Dead are Clutter, 48, his wife, Bonnie, 45, daughter, Nancy Mae, 16, and son, Kenyon, 15.

All were shot in the head with a shotgun at close range and in addition Clutter's throat was cut.

"This is the goriest crime I have ever seen in Kansas," Logan Sandford, director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, said here this morning.

Sandford and three other KBI agents joined local KBI agent Al Dewey and Finney County law officials in the intensive investigation.

The four victims had been bound and gagged — their hands tied behind their back and feet bound at the ankles.

The house, unlocked when the crime was discovered shortly after 9 a.m. Sunday, wasn't ransacked and robbery did not appear to be the motive.

The mother and daughter, found in separate bedrooms upstairs, had not been sexually attacked, Finney county Coroner Dr. Robert M. Fenton said after examination of the bodies Sunday night.

Several persons who worked for and with the Clutters and who had been in contact with the family late Saturday were being questioned today. However no arrest had been made at last report.

Last person to see the family alive, County Attorney Duane West said last night, was Bob Rupp son of Mr. and Mrs. John Rubb of Holcomb. The boy had been visiting the home, and left about 10:30 p.m.

About 9 p.m., Clutter had a telephone conversation with Gerald VanFleet, 810 N. 1st, who assists Clutter in his extensive farming operation. VanFleet told officers nothing sounded unusual. Clutter said nothing to indicate anything was wrong at the home.

Earlier in the evening, Alfred Stoecklein, who lives with his wife and three children in a small house a few hundred yards west of the Clutter home, had done chores with Clutter and his son.

"I did not know anything was wrong until my children came in the house Sunday morning and said the police had driven up to the Clutter home," he said yesterday.

He told officers he and his family had been out Saturday night and returned home about 9:30 p.m. He said he did not hear any gun shots later in the night.

The blood-covered, pajama-clad body of Clutter was found in the furnace room in the basement. His son, dressed in a white T-shirt and blue jeans, was on the couch in the adjoining recreation room.

Kenyon was barefooted, and his bed in his room upstairs was turned down and showed signs of having been slept in.

The bed also was disarrayed in the master bedroom on the first floor where it is believed Clutter slept. His wife was dressed in a night gown and was found in an upstairs bedroom.

Wires to the two telephones in the home, one in the study and the other in the kitchen, had been cut and removed.

Here's the way the tragedy unfolded:

Shortly after 9 a.m. Sunday, Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Ewalt, who live about three miles north of the Clutter farm, drove up to the modern and silent rural home. They were bringing their daughter, Nancy, to the Clutters as they do about each Sunday so that she can ride to church with them. They attend the First Methodist Church in Garden City.

They found no signs of life, and could not raise anyone when Nancy knocked at the front door. Assuming the Clutters had left early, they drove to the home of Mrs. Wilma Kidwell, Holcomb, whose daughter, Susan, also attends the Garden City church and rides with the Clutters.

The Kidwells had not received any call from the Clutters, so Ewalt returned with both his daughter and the Kidwell girl. The girls went into the unlocked house and upstairs to the Clutter girl's room.

The girl's room is located just to the right and the head of the stairs. From the doorway, the girls could see the body of Nancy Clutter, with feet bound at the ankles, hands tied behind her back and lying on her side — facing a blood-splatter wall.

They ran from the house, hysterical, and told Ewalt what they had found.

"I went in alone to call the police." Ewalt said, but noticed almost immediately that wires leading from the telephone to the wall jack had been removed.

"We drove to the Kidwell home to call police."

Garden City police notified the sheriff's office and Finney County Sheriff Earl Robinson and undersheriff Wendel Meier went to the farm.

They found the girl's body, and in searching the house, found the bodies of the others.

With the assistance of Police Investigator Richard Rohlender, the officers took pictures and inspected the house and surroundings before removing the bodies about noon.

The Coroner, Dr. Fenton, was summoned from the Methodist Church where he was attending Sunday School. He made a preliminary examination of the bodies before they were taken from the home.

County attorney West was visiting relatives in Hugoton, and arrived at the scene shortly before noon.

The Kansas Highway Patrol set up a road block at the entrance of the long lane to the Clutter home shortly after the sheriff's arrival, and kept the public from the scene.

The road leading to the home is on the south side of the Santa Fe Tracks at the southwest corner of Holcomb.

Also called to the scene shortly after the discovery was the Rev. Leonard Cowan, pastor of the Methodist Church here.

He returned to the church in time to start the morning worship service, at 10:45, made a brief announcement about the tragedy, and left the pulpit to call the two surviving daughters.

The next to the oldest girl, Beverly, was in Winfield where she had attended Southwestern College homecoming festivities Saturday. She had attended Southwestern two years, and then transferred this fall as a student in medical technology at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.

She was attending church in Winfield with a boy friend, Vere English, who is a Southwestern student. Seated near her were the Ora Martins from Garden City whose son Carl, attends Southwestern and they also were at Winfield for homecoming.

Beverly was summoned from the church, and the Martins also were informed. They returned here Sunday night with the girl.

The eldest daughter, Eveanna, now Mrs. Don Jarchow of Mount Carmel, Ill., is expected to arrive here by train tonight, with her husband. They have one child, a son, Tracy Lee.

A downloadable PDF of the Telegram's front page from Nov 16, 1959 is available here.

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