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- December 02, 1996
- Vol. 46
- No. 23
Decades After the in Cold Blood Murders, the Curious Still Gather at the Scene of the Crime
More, no doubt, will follow with the airing (on Nov. 24 and 26) of CBS's remake of the movie, starring Eric Roberts and ER's Anthony Edwards as killers Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, who were hanged for the crime in 1965. "It's like The Amityville Horror house in New York, or J.R. Ewing's house outside Dallas," explains Sonnie Baird, 44, a neighbor of the Maders who recalls that when she first arrived in town, "my family, everybody I knew, that's what they wanted to go see." Sold to an out-of-town businessman in 1962 by the Clutters' surviving children, Eveanna Jarchow, now 60, a retired schoolteacher, and Beverly English, 57, a retired nurse (as the two oldest children, they had already moved out of their parents' home before the night of the murders), the house was rented as a location site to the In Cold Blood moviemakers in 1967. Later the Maders opened it to the public for $5 tours after they moved in. "We had all this interest," explains Donna, who ran the tours despite the protests of some locals who thought of them as unseemly, "yet [the flow of people] wasn't consistent enough to live there and keep everything ready and clean."
Now, except for what's believed to be a bloodstain in the furnace room where Herb Clutter was murdered, the 5,500-square-foot house bears few traces of its violent past. Still, given the trespassers—including possible gang members who spray graffiti at night on what was once the farmhands' quarters—the Maders are cautious. "I've got my dogs, and security on the doors," says Donna, who, when she's not working part-time as a clerk at the local recreation center (Leonard farms wheat, corn and milo), invites their six children and 14 grandchildren over. "What worries me the most is someone trying to get in and reenact this case and make a name for themselves." Not that the Maders are publicity-shy. Deciding they're too old to follow through with plans to turn the place into a bed-and-breakfast ("I think it would be a gold mine," says Donna), the Maders are hoping someone will make them an offer. After all, says Donna, there's more to the house than its infamous past. "It's beautiful and it's huge," she says. "I've been in houses where there's no feeling. This is a warm-feeling house."
JOANNE FOWLER in Holcomb
- Joanne Fowler.
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