TOPEKA, Kan. – A judge ruled Tuesday that investigation materials pertaining to the 1959 "In Cold Blood" murders that a Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent kept at home may not be auctioned off or publicly revealed until he's had a chance to review them.
Shawnee County District Judge Larry Hendricks said the state could face "irreparable harm" if the materials found in Harold Nye's home became public. The materials include Nye's personal journals, copies of records and other materials about the investigation that inspired the Truman Capote classic.
Crime scene photos in his possession were returned to the state last year by his son, according to lawyers.
Ronald Nye, of Oklahoma City, kept the materials after his father's 2003 death and gave them to Seattle memorabilia dealer Gary McAvoy to auction off. But the Kansas attorney general's office contends the materials belong to the state, and it is suing to get them back. The case is scheduled to go to trial in November.
Hendricks said his order will remain in place until the case is settled, but he left open the possibility that he could rescind it after reviewing the documents to determine how much private material they contain.
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"Folks, I think I need to see them," he said from the bench. "I need to look at them."
McAvoy and Ronald Nye now say they don't plan to auction off the materials, and that instead they plan to write their own book about the killing of Herb and Bonnie Clutter and two of their children at their remote farmhouse in Holcomb. Hendricks' order bars them from even speaking about the files' contents publicly.
The hunt for the killers mesmerized the nation and drew journalists from across the U.S. to the small western Kansas town. The state executed two parolees, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, for the killings in 1965. Four years later, Harold Nye began a two-year stint as the KBI's director.
Capote's book about the murders, Hickock and Smith's trial and their executions is celebrated because it reads like a novel. However, scholars have debated its accuracy since it was published.