10 Surprises from Cold-Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders

A Sundance TV Docuseries Digs Deep

If you’re an In Cold Blood reader, you probably feel a little cheated — out of images.

Eveanna and Bonnie Clutter. Eveanna and her sister Beverly survive but won’t talk to media

The same few pictures of the four members of the Clutter family who were murdered in 1959 in Holcomb, Kansas, have shown up in the media for decades.

Fresh perspective. You might also have a pent-up need for more insight into the Clutters. The wholesome farm family and their killers — Perry Smith and Dick Hickock — were the subjects of In Cold Blood, which established the nonfiction novel genre and made Truman Capote the most glamorous writer in the U.S.

Well, now Sundance TV can help you out.

Cold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders, produced by Joe Berlinger (Paradise Lost), taps into the mother lode of unpublished pictures of Herb, Bonnie, Nancy, and Kenyon Clutter as well as Hickock and Smith.

Gratis deal. It also shares rare video footage and audio recordings and new interviews with Kansans who knew the Clutters and discuss their feelings in an unpretentious way.

More good news: Sundance TV is offering a seven-day trial membership via SundanceNow.com, so you can watch the 4-part bingefest online for free.

Here are 10 revelations from the series:

1. The surviving relatives of Bonnie Clutter who hated In Cold Blood because it portrayed her as emotionally impaired weren’t necessarily just being defensive. The docuseries features people who knew her well and remember her as a great hostess and a lot of fun.

Perry Smith in the army

2. The family of killer Richard Hickock tried to make amends once Dick turned into a petty criminal. They would give a gift of a horse to parties he had wronged.

3. Although she didn’t appear on camera, one of Herb and Bonnie Clutter’s granddaughters gave voice interviews to the documentary makers. It’s surprising because her mother, Eveanna Mosier — Nancy and Kenyon’s older sister — shunned the press and never liked In Cold Blood.

4. As a child, Perry Smith sustained a severe penile injury when a nun hit him with a flashlight. The book made mention of other nun-inflicted abuse at school because Smith was a bed wetter — but it never revealed anything quite as perverse.

Eveanna, Beverly, Nancy, and Kenyon Clutter.

5. Nancy Clutter’s boyfriend Bobby Rupp said that he looked up to her father as a role model despite that the book alleged Herb Clutter pressured Nancy to break up with Bobby because he was Catholic and the Clutters were Methodists.

6. At age 28, Richard Hickock sounded like a weary old man in a recording of his police questioning. Capote portrayed him as ever-charming, sly, and upbeat.

7. The psychiatrist who evaluated Smith and Hickock after their arrest and Smith’s army buddy who testified for him at the trial are still alive and appear on camera.

8. In Cold Blood and the Clutter case garnered so much attention that even David Hickock, the brother of killer Richard Hickock, snagged a writer to pen his biography.

Flo Buckskin

9. The filmmakers somehow managed to get hold of two photos of Perry Smith’s parents, Flo Buckskin and Tex Smith, who performed in rodeo shows together before they had four kids and she sank into alcoholism.

10. “Olathe” (as in “Olathe, Kansas”) is pronounced “oh-lay-thuh.”

That’s all for this post. Until next week, cheers. RR