Tests on degraded DNA can't link 'In Cold Blood' killers to unsolved Florida slayings

Did the two men made infamous by Truman Capote’s true-crime novel, In Cold Blood, kill not only the four members of a Kansas farm family, for which they were executed, but four members of a Florida family, too?

Law enforcement officials believe Richard Hickock and Perry Smith likely were involved. But DNA testing that authorities had hoped to use to prove a link between the two executed murderers and the slayings of Christine Walker, her husband and her two young children didn’t work, because samples are too degraded, according to the Associated Press and the Herald-Tribune.

The testing does not exclude Hickock and Smith as potential suspects, noted Capt. Jeff Bell of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. “It wouldn’t exclude them, but it also does not provide us with any level of confidence to say there’s a match because there’s not.”

The pair fled to Florida after killing the Clutter family in Kansas near the end of 1959. Authorities say there may have been a connection created by the 1956 Chevy Bel Air, which Hickock and Smith had stolen and were driving in Florida. The Walkers had been considering purchasing such a car.

Although the prospect of making a DNA match at any point in the future now appears dim at best, the Walker murder case remains open.

“It remains an unsolved murder,” Bell told the AP. “The mystery continues, and we’ll look for other opportunities. We’ve reached a point where we don’t believe we’re going to accomplish that through DNA testing.”

A press release Tuesday by the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office noted that potential contamination from handling and storage over the years as well as degradation of samples from both the Walker home and Hickock’s and Smith’s bodies made a DNA match impossible.

However, “based on the totality of the evidence, investigators still regard Smith and Hickock as the most viable suspects in the Walker murders,” a sheriff’s office spokeswoman told the Herald Tribune.

See also:

ABA Journal: “In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote”

ABAJournal.com: “Did convicted ‘Cold Blood’ murderers in Capote novel also kill a Florida family?”

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