Sad chapter

12/6/2012

Even many decades later, family deserves closure.

Even many decades later, family deserves closure.

In late 1959, a family of four was brutally murdered in Florida.

The case resembled the tragedy that unfolded in Kansas just a few weeks before, when four members of the Herb Clutter family were killed at their Holcomb farm home.

The Clutter murders rattled the Finney County community, which also saw the case become known worldwide because of Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" novel.

Of course, the two killers — Perry Smith and Richard Hickock — were apprehended and executed for killing the Clutters. Yet in Florida, the crime involving the deaths of a couple and their two young children remains unsolved decades later.

Now, law enforcement officials in Sarasota County, Florida, are taking another look at whether the killings in their back yard could be tied to Hickock and Smith.

A reopening of the Florida case has led investigators to pursue an avenue not available decades ago in DNA evidence. Florida investigators are working with Kansas authorities to petition a judge to approve exhuming the bodies of Hickock and Smith, buried side-by-side in a Lansing cemetery.

Such an unusual development could be seen as another painful reminder of what happened so long ago in Holcomb. But it's a necessary move.

Imagine if the situations were reversed. Folks here would be relieved to possibly close a case unsolved for so long — especially knowing, as is the situation in Florida, that suspicion focused on Hickock and Smith early on.

After the pair killed the Clutters in November, they fled to Florida in a stolen car. Witnesses placed them in the Sarasota area at the time of the December slayings.

But when the killers were arrested in Las Vegas, a polygraph test cleared them of the Florida murders. Now we know the tests taken in those days were worthless.

Even though many decades have passed since the two tragedies, family members in Florida deserve to know who was responsible for that horrible crime in December 1959.

It's time for closure. And if the case is solved, perhaps the last sad chapter in a horrible saga that seemingly has no end may finally be written.

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