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Who is ultimately responsible for the Clutter family murder in "In Cold Blood"?

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szczepanski | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 14, 2008 at 10:19 AM via web

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Who is ultimately responsible for the Clutter family murder in "In Cold Blood"?

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ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 14, 2008 at 12:09 PM (Answer #2)

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The murders were committed by two ex-convicts out on parole, Perry Smith and Edward Hickcock. Hickock had heard from a fellow prisoner, who had once worked for the Clutters, that there was a safe at the ranch where Herb Clutter kept large amounts of cash. Hickcock hatched the irobbery idea in prison,and planned to leave no witnesses and start a new life in Mexico with the cash from the Clutter home. But once in the home and discovering no cash, Smith slit Herb Clutter's throat and then shot him in the head. Kenyon, then Nancy, and then Bonnie were murdered, each by single shotgun blasts to the head. At first Smith blamed Hickcock for the murders but later took the blame for each of the four deaths. However, as Capote suggests in the book, both of these men had suffered miserable lives of abuse at the hands of many in society and should probably have never been allowed out of prison. In the end, Capote puts most of the blame for the crimes on society itself.

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swizldizl | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 30, 2008 at 4:23 PM (Answer #3)

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They are both guilty!!  I grew up in Holcomb, my sister-in-laws grandfather was the sheriff at that time.  How could they not both be guilty of these senseless murders? 

 

I have spent plenty of time in that house most recently 2 weeksw ago.  Everytime that I'm there I think of the Clutter's and the sick men who killed them!!!

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somewhereoutthere | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 15, 2008 at 12:43 PM (Answer #4)

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I think if anyone is truly guilty it is the convict (who's name I can't recall right now) who told Hickcok about the Clutters in the first place and LIED about the safe and all the money the Clutters had in the safe.  Why in the world would he say something like that in the first place?  He was a hardened criminal, did he think his lies would go unnoticed by another opportunist criminal?  When I saw the original movie, I knew he was the one to blame for their deaths and they should of charged him with something, and if I was the family, I would of sued him even if he wasn't worth anything.  Did anyone know if he received the reward since in one of the movies, that was the only reason he said anything in the first place.  I hope he had to live with what he perpetuated for the rest of his life.  So even though Smith and Hickcock pulled the trigger, whoever that cellmate friend of Hickcock's was is the real instigator.  If he hadn't lied, none of this would of happened.

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted December 15, 2008 at 2:54 PM (Answer #5)

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I think if anyone is truly guilty it is the convict (who's name I can't recall right now) who told Hickcok about the Clutters in the first place and LIED about the safe and all the money the Clutters had in the safe.  Why in the world would he say something like that in the first place?  He was a hardened criminal, did he think his lies would go unnoticed by another opportunist criminal?  When I saw the original movie, I knew he was the one to blame for their deaths and they should of charged him with something, and if I was the family, I would of sued him even if he wasn't worth anything.  Did anyone know if he received the reward since in one of the movies, that was the only reason he said anything in the first place.  I hope he had to live with what he perpetuated for the rest of his life.  So even though Smith and Hickcock pulled the trigger, whoever that cellmate friend of Hickcock's was is the real instigator.  If he hadn't lied, none of this would of happened.

I have to disagree with you. Floyd Wells bragged about the rich farmer he used to work for, but he didn't force Hickock and Smith to go and slaughter them. If Wells hadn't come forward and told the prison warden about that conversation, the Clutter murders might never have been solved.

Think about it this way: If you tell your friend that your nextdoor neighbor has a beautiful diamond ring that she sometimes lets you wear, should you be held accountable if your friend murders your neighbor and takes the ring?

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 11, 2012 at 3:49 PM (Answer #6)

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I'd say that Dick and Perry are both guilty. We can argue that one or the other is "more" guilty than the other, but if we look at guilt as an absolute state (without gradation) we have to say that each man is guilty. 

Floyd Wells is not guilty at all in my opinion. Arguing that he is guilty because he told Dick about the Clutters is kind of like arguing that we can blame a bank robbery on someone who offers directions to the nearest bank. 

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