The Clutter Family Murders Changed The Way We Lived

by Sherry Stocking Kline
Nov 15, 2009

In 1959 The Clutter Murders Shattered Our Peaceful Life

There are times in your life when some event occurs and it changes your life in profound ways.

Fifty years ago, on November 15, 1959, when four members of the Clutter family were murdered in Holcomb, Kansas, it sent shock waves through our small community and especially in our farm home. And it changed the way our family lived and viewed the world.

We didn’t know them. In fact, we lived hours away from Holcomb. But that murder changed the way our family lived.

The Family Was Murdered for About $40.00…

What we heard on television and read in the newspaper, was that the farm family of four had been murdered for about $40.00.

I remember my parents, my dad and mom sitting at the kitchen table, faces somber, frightened looking even, and my father, saying “If people will murder a family for so little, they will do anything.”

(Later, we read that the murderers had heard in jail that the family kept a large amount of money at their home; but all we knew then was that an entire family had been brutally murdered for such a small sum.)

Murder was something that happened in far-away cities…

Murders like that were something you rarely heard of, they were something that happened in far-away large cities, not something that happened to Kansas farm families.

Up until then, our doors were never, and I mean NEVER locked, not in the daytime when we were gone, not at night when we were asleep.

Up until then, there was no need.

They were always locked at night after the Clutter murders.

Up until then, because the air conditioning we had wasn’t really that great, my folks would put beds and old Army cots out into the back yard on the hottest summer nights, and we slept under the stars.

And before the Clutter murder the only thing we worried about while sleeping outside was getting bitten by mosquitoes, and the only thing I worried about was whether the coyotes we could hear yodeling at each other in the distance would come closer.

We never felt completely safe again…

After the Clutter murders, a new fear, a new possibility had entered our lives and our minds, and that changed our lives.

The peace and safety that had been ours was gone. We never felt completely safe on the farm and we never slept in the yard under the stars again.

You can read more about the Clutter Family at the Wichita Eagle website here.

6 Responses to “The Clutter Family Murders Changed The Way We Lived”

  • Of course, this is the case written about by Truman Capote in In Cold Blood. That was chilling reading, for sure. A very scary journey into the killers’ warped, insane world. I don’t know about anyone else, but I came away from the reading very glad of the ending (when they were both hanged) and feeling very sad for the family. That sadness extends to the entire region, after reading your post.

    In that era, we also never locked our doors. Didn’t need to, and we didn’t live in the country, we lived in the suburbs of a moderate-sized city. But now, even though we do live in the country, we lock all our doors — even in the daytime, when we’re home!

    It is indeed a different world. Good post.

    • Thank you for for stopping by and for your lovely comment. You are right, this was the case written about by Truman Capote in “In Cold Blood” and I read that book after it came out a few years later. It was chilling, and it was good to know that they would never kill anyone again.

      Sadly, this kind of murder isn’t that uncommon any more.

      And we now live in a small town, where (mostly) we’re safe. But we do lock our doors and feel the need to, and neither my daughter or myself would dream of letting the granddaughters walk anywhere by themselves, and can’t understand those that do. And isn’t that sad.

  • Good post. It’s always interesting to read how regular people were affected by famous (or in this case notorious) events. It’s so sad the way a violent crime can shatter your sense of safety and well-being.

    • What prompted this post was an e-mail from the Wichita Professional Communicator’s group asking for memories of this event for the Wichita Eagle writer, Beccy Tanner. That e-mail started a flood of memories for me.

      I had decided a few weeks ago that I would add my own childhood memories to this site (otherwise I might never get it done!) and then will eventually include them in a family book. Because this murder changed the way our family lived, and the way that they felt about their safety I felt I should include it in my memories.

      Thank you for stopping by!

  • Hello Sherry…..I always enjoy following your posts. I have picked you to receive the Kreativ Blogger Award. Please stop by “Our Twigs” to pick it up…..Louise

    • I am very honored, thrilled, and excited! I will pick up my award asap! I find myself challenged each day with new things that I don’t know how to do, so will try to pick it up tonight, and may be chatting with you tomorrow to learn how to upload or install it! (smile)

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