In 1959, the brutal murders of the Clutter family at their home in Holcombe, Kansas, gripped the nation. Now, nearly 60 years after the infamous killings, relatives of the Clutter family are speaking out for the first time in SundanceTV’s documentary Cold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders.
The shocking farmhouse murders of Herbert Clutter, his wife, Bonnie Mae, their 16-year-old daughter Nancy, and 15-year-old son Kenyon made headlines in 1959. Only the family’s eldest daughters, Beverly and Eveanna, who did not live at the family home at the time, escaped the tragedy.
Ex-convicts Perry Smith and Richard Hickock bound and shot the Clutter family at their Kansas farmhouse in November 1959 as part of a plan to rob the family’s safe. While Nancy Clutter’s boyfriend, Bobby Rupp, was questioned by police, he was quickly ruled out as a suspect. Smith and Hickock were later caught, convicted, and put to death for the slayings, but there has been little comfort for the survivors and extended family members who have long opted to stay silent on the tragedy.
But elsewhere, the slayings of the Herbert Clutter family continued to make headlines. The murders were immortalized in Truman Capote’s 1966 non-fiction book In Cold Blood, paving the way for today’s true crime genre. And a 1967 movie about the story, starring Robert Blake, was nominated for four Academy Awards.
According to People, Herbert and Bonnie Clutter’s granddaughter said the family believes the two-part Sundance documentary feels like “the right time and the right venue” to get the true story out about how the Clutters died—and lived. Cold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders marks the first-ever on-camera interviews with Clutter family members, although many descendants of the extended Clutter family were reluctant to participate. The children of the eldest Clutter daughters only spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Clutter granddaughter noted that while other people have profited monetarily from the crime, the Clutters lost.
“The family has not profited from the book or movies and would have never taken any money if it was offered,” she said.
Notably absent from the documentary are surviving sisters Beverly and Eveanna Clutter, who have chosen to keep their privacy. But the unidentified Clutter granddaughter, who is the daughter of one of the sisters, reveals that the family’s faith got them through the tragedy. But even prayer didn’t come didn’t come easy at first. According to Paste magazine, Diana Edwards, niece of Herbert and Bonnie Clutter, said the close-knit family was at a loss early on.
“We forgot how to pray,” Edwards said.
“Saying the Lord’s Prayer, we couldn’t remember the order anymore… we couldn’t get past trespasses…”
Edwards, who had been close with her slain cousin Nancy, described a family wedding, which took place four days after the murders, as “a fairytale… in the middle of a nightmare.” Edwards also recalls the “efficient, well-intended aunts” going through her cousin’s belongings after the murders, something she felt wasn’t right.
The true story lives within these interviewees. Find out what happened on Nov. 15, 1959 in "Cold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders." pic.twitter.com/jK17koBviP— SundanceTV (@SundanceTV) November 5, 2017
Filmmaker Joe Berlinger told the Daily Mail he hopes Cold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders helps to show the Clutter as a real family apart from their unfortunate pop culture portrayal.
“We had a responsibility to bring this family to life in a way that they would not be resentful of,” Berlinger told DailyMail.com. “I hope they will like it, and I hope we will do them justice.”
In addition to the first-ever comments from the Clutter family members, the documentary will feature interviews with other members of the community, including Bobby Rupp, as well as law enforcement. But it’s the family interviews that have been the longest time coming.
“Nobody talked about it; nobody,” Clutter cousin Diana Edwards says in the film, according to the Daily Mail. “My family never talked about it. My mother never mentioned it. It was too painful – and I realized there is a period of time where something is literally unspeakable. It was unspeakable.”
You can see a trailer for Cold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders below.
Cold Blooded: The Clutter Family Murders airs Nov. 18 and 19 at 9 p.m. ET on SundanceTV.
[Featured Image by Charlie Riedel/AP Images]