Published 7/20/2012 in Local News
By JOSEPH JACKMOVICH
Original documents from a local murder case that sparked a film and novel are being auctioned off to anyone looking to own a piece of Finney County history.
The Clutter case files of Kansas Bureau of Investigation Agent Harold Nye currently are being auctioned by Vintage Memorabilia, a Seattle-based auction company specializing in film and literature relics. The files include original investigation notebooks and photographs from Nye, one of the investigators charged with solving the 1959 murder of the Clutter family in Holcomb.
Author Truman Capote found inspiration in recording the case, resulting in the true-crime novel "In Cold Blood." The book later would inspire a film of the same name.
Vintage Memorabilia President Gary McAvoy said the materials for the auction were given to him a few months ago by Nye's son, Ronald Nye of Oklahoma City. With several items detailing the details of the case, McAvoy said that he and Nye worked hard to ensure the presentation for the auction was implemented properly.
"Our focus was to tastefully auction the lot off as something historic," McAvoy said. "Both Ron and I did not want to exploit the family, but it is part of the history and has to be passed on."
Nye could not be reached for comment.
The files are being auctioned off as a single lot to preserve its historical value. While McAvoy said he, of course, has no power over the items after they are sold, he hoped that whoever bought the items would have the historical respect to keep the items together.
Of particular note in the lot are crime scene photographs of the killing that have never been made public.
"The crime scene photos have never been released before by any entity, and we would prefer they not be," McAvoy said.
For the presentation, McAvoy kept the photographs small to obscure the more grisly details. He said he did this to balance respect for the surviving family with enough information that potential buyers would know what they are looking at.
Also included are letters from Capote to Nye, detailing some of his exasperation with the case. In one of the letters, he decried the postponement of convicted killers Richard "Dick" Hickock and Perry Edward Smith's executions because he wanted to finish the book and put it behind him. McAvoy said that the sentiments presented in the letters, such as the aforementioned, were not seen or heard publicly from Capote regarding the case.
There are also two copies of "In Cold Blood" included in the lot, with one of the copies signed by Capote, members of the investigating team, and members of the film crew.
"Two other dealers have said that this is the most important 'In Cold Blood' copy ever auctioned," McAvoy said.
The sealed bid auction, which is currently ongoing, was started at $20,000. McAvoy said that by the time the auction closes on Aug. 31, he expects the lot to go for at least twice that price.
He said that he has seen interest in the lot but no official bids so far, stating that collectors tend to research these auctions carefully before making a move.
Unrelated to the current auction but related to the case, McAvoy said he also has come to recently acquire the prison diaries of Smith. He said that there will be a presentation and auction for that material at a later, unspecified date.
"They're shocking, " McAvoy said in reference to the diaries. "They're just amazing."
To view the presentation of the Clutter case file auction, as well as to make a bid, visit Vintage Memorabilia at www.vintagememorabilia.com.
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