“In Cold Blood” Killers Connected To Florida Slaying, Bodies To Be Exhumed

In 1966, gay author Truman Capote helped birth a new form of journalism with In Cold Blood, his account of the brutal slaying of a Kansas family by Richard Hickock and Perry Smith.

Now police in Florida are asking a Kansas judge to allow them to exhume the bodies of Hickock and Smith, who were executed for the grisly slayings in 1965.

The hope is DNA tests will link the men to a similar mass murder the same year.

Sarasota County Sheriff Detective Kim McGath has tried for years to pin Smith and Hickock for the 1959 murders of Cliff Walker, his wife and their two toddlers. “Certain things kind of kept jumping out to me that got my attention. Certain clues that came to the forefront,” she says.

Notably, Smith and Hickok were on the run and in Sarasota when the Walkers were murdered. And Smith was found with a pocket knife identical to one stolen from Mr. Walker.

At the time, the men were briefly considered suspects in the Florida slaying but passed a rudimentary polygraph test after being apprehended in Las Vegas.

Capote is irrevocably linked to the two young killers, and many believe the Breakfast at Tiffany’s author was actually in love with Smith. Filmmaker Douglas McGrath even included a prolonged kiss between the two in his 2006 film Infamous.

Writing in the Advocate when the film was released, Alexander Cho contemplates a real-life liaison between the two:

Capote would never admit to a relationship with Smith even among his closest confidants. But in George Plimpton’s 1997 biography, Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances, and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career, a Kansas local who was involved with the case states flat out that Smith and Capote became lovers in the penitentiary–although he admits that he wasn’t there himself and wasn’t exactly a fan of Capote’s to begin with.

In the same book at least one of Capote’s New York literary acquaintances describes him as “in love” with Perry Smith. Of course, Capote made no bones about the fact that he found Smith fascinating, even endearing.

Whether Capote’s feeling swere romantic (or reciprocated), his examination of Smith and Hickok’s misdeeds marked the pinnacle of his career—and the beginning of the end. In Cold Blood was the last full book Capote published, and by the 1970s he was beset by alcoholism and paying the bills with TV show appearances.  He ultimately died of liver disease in 1984.