TOPEKA, Kansas (AP) — A Kansas judge ordered the state Thursday to release more documents to people trying to write a book about the 1959 “In Cold Blood” murders.
Judge Larry Hendricks issued the order after hearing arguments in a case that will decide what will happen to files kept at the home of a deceased Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent Harold Nye, who was part of the murder probe. The killings of Herb and Bonnie Clutter and two of their children became the subject of Truman Capote’s acclaimed novel “In Cold Blood.”
The documents will be used by Nye’s family and Seattle memorabilia dealer Gary McAvoy to defend themselves in a lawsuit filed by the state of Kansas.
The dispute arose when Ronald Nye, of Oklahoma City, decided to make the files from his late father public. Initially, he gave the documents to McAvoy to auction off. The men now say they don’t plan to auction off the materials, and instead plan to write their own book about the killing.
But the Kansas attorney general’s office contends the materials belong to the state, and it sued in 2012 to get them back. Tai Vokins, an Olathe attorney representing McAvoy and Ronald Nye, said the state has objected to most of his requests for documents needed to defend his clients.
Among the documents ordered released Thursday was the complete KBI investigative file into the Clutter killings, although the only people able to view it will be parties in the case. Hendricks also ordered Attorney General Derek Schmidt to pay $3,986 in attorney’s fees, saying he didn’t think there was a good faith effort on the state’s part.
Assistant attorney general Ward Loyd had argued it would be “over burdensome” for the state the provide the documents. Loyd declined to comment after the hearing.
Two parolees, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, were eventually convicted of killing the Clutters and were executed in 1965. Four years later, Harold Nye began a two-year stint as the KBI’s director.
The hunt for the family’s killers mesmerized the nation and drew journalists from throughout the U.S. to the small western Kansas town of Holcomb.
Hickock and Smith fled to Florida after the Kansas murders, and they remain suspects in the unsolved killing of a Sarasota, Fla., family a few weeks after the Clutters’ deaths.
“In Cold Blood,” which takes the reader through the killings, the trial, and their execution is celebrated because it reads like a novel. Scholars have long debated its accuracy. Vokins said the proposed book would contradict Capote’s account of the killings.