Monday, February 14, 2011

Urban Counties Urge Release of Parole Violators

Perry Smith and Dick Hickock of “In Cold Blood” fame, were non-violent parole violators – until they splattered an entire family all over the walls of their rural farm house. McLennan County Commissioners to ponder letting Jail Magistrate Raymond Britton to release parole violators to the community until the state can “blue warrant” them back to the pen...

The language in the bookmarked agenda of the McLennan County Commissioners' Court is stark, brief, and to the point.

“Allow county magistrates to release on bond non-violent parolees confined on parole violations pending a revocation hearing.” - Texas Conference of Urban Counties

On a November night in 1959, two parole violators journeyed several hundred miles from the Kansas City suburb of Olathe to rob a western Kansas wheat farmer's safe of some tens of thousands of dollars another con in the penitentiary at Lansing had told them was kept there.

According to Floyd Wells, Herb Clutter, a wealthy rancher and former County Agent, kept something like $40,000 in cash in a wall safe in his office. He once worked for Mr. Clutter as a hired man on the place. The only problem the two robbers encountered was that there was, in fact, no safe and no money to rob. Mr. Wells was talking through his hat.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. In fact, anyone who knew Mr. Clutter knew that he often wrote a check for morning coffee he shared with friends at the local cafe in Holcomb, a tiny farming hamlet. He almost never paid cash for anything. His check was good anywhere.

But Dick Hickock and Perry Smith believed Mr. Wells. They planned to leave no witnesses. So they took Mr. Hickock's father's shotgun along for the trip.

When they were finished, all four of the Clutter family lay dead, their heads nearly blown completely off their bodies.

The two robbers netted about $40. Five years later, they both hanged for the crime and Truman Capote published a non-fiction fiction account of their depredations in “The New Yorker.” The book became a multi-edition perennial best seller. It set a new literary style of using fictive techniques to tell a non-fiction story in the style of a novel, often copied by writers of every stripe worldwide who chronicle anything from true crime to political intrigue, war, famine and disaster.

Indeed, Mssrs. Hickock and Smith were non-violent offenders. Their parole violations included passing hot checks, associating with a known felon and possessing a firearm – as well as robbery, home invasion and first degree murder, interstate flight to avoid prosecution, and a book full of other crimes.

According to a panel of expert psychologists and psychiatrists, including Dr. Karl Meninger of the famed Meninger clinic, neither of the two would have committed so violent a crime if he acted alone.

The curious fact was that together, they formed a super personality to whom it made perfect sense to murder a man and his family in cold blood for so little gain - $40.

Mr. Hickock was a serial sex offender who loved to violate the trust of young girls. He would force them to have sex with him after charming them with small gifts and affectionate talk. A thief, burglar and con man, he had cost his parents a lifetime of misery.

A severe auto collison had left him with a vertically split skull that made one eye much higher than the other and caused him a lifetime of suffering from splitting headaches he called “the bastard kind.”

Perry Smith was the son of itinerant rodeo trick riders – a white Irish pug and a Cherokee maiden – who stayed drunk at each other all over the west, often fighting with scalding water, knives and bullwhips. A product of foster homes, he was brutally whipped and abused by nuns in a San Francisco orphanage for repeatedly wetting the bed. It left him with no normal sex life and a fetish for the kind of black stockings the brides of Christ wore. He had stolen some office equipment and tried to sell it in an inept scheme to make some money the easy way.

His legs were twisted and broken in a motorcycle wreck that left him in constant pain and nearly crippled. Due to his homosexual relationship with Mr. Capote, from which he derived such goodies as art supplies, books, cigarettes and his need for aspirin, lots and lots of aspirin, he was able to tell the bulk of the macabre tale that unfolded during their visits over the five-year period while the federal courts played out the futile appeals of the death sentence the State of Kansas finally meted out one rainy night.

Had the two been apprehended prior to their murderous attack on Herb Clutter, his wife, son and daughter, they would surely have been jailed pending a revocation hearing that would have sent them back to Lansing.

Under the proposal pending before Commissioners' Courts from Dallas to Laredo and from Houston to El Paso, they would have been released by some politically-appointed minor magistrate – possibly on their personal recognizance, without having to put up any bond fee.

Public comment on the proposal is heartily recommended by The Legendary, a well-seasoned crime reporter, and his associate, Mr. R.S. Gates, a certified police officer with 20 years of experience.

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