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Fire damages house where 'In Cold Blood' killings occurred

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, August 22, 2011, at 3:05 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, June 4, 2013, at 9:35 a.m.

An unattended cigarette is being blamed for a fire that damaged the house in southwest Kansas where Herb Clutter and his family were murdered on a November night in 1959.

The fire was reported just after 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the house on the edge of Holcomb, Garden City Fire Chief Allen Shelton said.

The fire was contained to a bedroom, he said, but heat and smoke damage spread to the rest of the house and water damage accumulated in the basement.

Donna Mader, the 74-year-old woman who lives at the house, was not hurt in the fire.

"She'll be out of the house for a few days, but it'll be livable again as soon as they get a few repairs done," Shelton said.

The house was in rural Finney County when Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, on parole from the state penitentiary, murdered Herb and Bonnie Clutter and their children Nancy, 16, and Kenyon, 15, on Nov. 15, 1959.

The crime shocked a nation and became the basis for Truman Capote's literary classic, "In Cold Blood." Hickock and Smith were captured six weeks after the killings and executed on April 14, 1965.

Though interest in the case and the house remains high, Shelton said, Mader does not give tours of her home.

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or sfinger@wichitaeagle.com.

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