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Judge delays auction of items from ‘In Cold Blood’ case

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, April 23, 2013, at 12:55 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, June 4, 2013, at 9:35 a.m.

Photos

A Kansas judge has decided that, for now, a family member of one of the lead investigators in the “In Cold Blood” case cannot sell or use his father’s memorabilia and documents collected during the infamous case.

Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks granted a temporary injunction Tuesday in favor of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, which filed the case against Ronald Nye of Oklahoma City and Seattle memorabilia dealer Gary McAvoy. The KBI and the attorney general’s office have argued the records belonged to the state of Kansas.

It has been more than 50 years since two ex-convicts on parole from the state penitentiary murdered Herb and Bonnie Clutter and their children Nancy, 16, and Kenyon, 15, on Nov. 15, 1959, near Holcomb.

Nye’s father, Harold, was one of the KBI agents who led the murder investigation. Perry Smith and Dick Hickock were caught after a six-week manhunt. They were executed on April 14, 1965.

In the process of the investigation, in addition to his personal notes, Harold Nye collected crime scene photographs, hand-penned letters from Truman Capote – the author of “In Cold Blood” – and a stenograph pad autographed by Nelle Harper Lee, who assisted Capote in the reporting of the book. Six months after she signed the notebook, her own book, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” was released and became a best seller.

According to media reports, when Harold Nye died in 2003, his son rescued the files from a garbage truck outside his mother’s home. Vintage Memorabilia, an online site, then offered to auction the items.

Family members of the Clutters protested, saying the pain and anguish would be too much if the records were allowed to become public.

On Tuesday, Hendricks said that the temporary injunction allows him time and the chance to personally review the files.

“My ruling required them to provide documents and material … for my viewing and inspection,” Hendricks said. “I don’t know for sure what all that stuff is. If it is the information they believe it to be, I think it is important for me to view that.”

Hendricks said his ruling, for now, is only temporary.

“They can always come back and ask me to lift it if new facts come up,” he said.

A pretrial hearing in the case is set for later this fall.

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com.

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