Walker Family

On 19 December, 1959, the Walker family were preparing to spend Christmas together. At around 3:30PM, 24-year-old Christine Walker came home to the family farm after running errands. When she entered her family home, she was raped and shot dead.

Later on at around 4:35PM, her husband, 25-year-old, Cliff, arrived home with the couples two young children – 3-year-old Jimmie, and 2-year-old Debbie. The killer was still in the house and shot dead Cliff and Jimmie. The gun was then turned on Debbie. She was shot with the last bullet which failed to kill her. The killer then drowned the little girl in the bathtub.

The Gruesome Discovery

On the morning of December 20, 1959, Daniel McLeod woke up and prepared for another ordinary day. McLeod, a ranch hand for the Palmer Ranch, would get ready for the day and then head over to Cliff Walker’s house. McLeod and Walker had planned to go hog hunting that morning. As McLeod and his truck pulled up to the Walkers’ modest residence, he noticed that it was unusually dark and silent inside.

Cliff, a 25-year-old ranch worker, and his family—Christine, whom he married when they were both 16 and Christine’s toddlers, Jimmie and Debbie—lived in a house on Palmer Ranch. They were all early risers and their home was always bustling with activity because of it. Assuming that Cliff had inadvertently slept in, McLeod rapped loudly on the door. After waiting anxiously for a response, he breached the home’s security by slicing through the screen door.

What he discovered shocked him.
Christine was found laying in a pool of blood near the entryway to the living room. A bullet had pierced her skull after she had been raped. Cliff and Jimmie, who had both been shot in the head, were huddled together in a far corner of the room. Debbie had vanished into thin air. Quickly dialing 911, McLeod left the modest house for a search by law enforcement.
Debbie, who was not yet two years old, was found dead in the family’s bathtub after being shot.


walker family
Actors Robert Blake and Scott Wilson during the filming of In Cold Blood, where they played Perry Smith and Richard Hickock respectively. Reprinted from Prisons of Cañon City by Victoria R. Newman (pg. 84, Arcadia Publishing, 2008).

Immediately, detectives started looking for leads as to who would have wished to hurt the Walkers. Upon a thorough search of the residence, it was discovered that Cliff’s pocketknife, Christine’s high school majorette uniform, and, most intriguingly, the couple’s marriage licence were vanished.

Due to the sequence of events, investigators concluded that whomever murdered the Walkers must have known the pair, and was maybe in love with Christine because she was the first to die. Elbert Walker, Cliff’s cousin with a violent past, and Daniel McLeod, the man who discovered the dead, were both questioned. Not a single person was apprehended as a result of these interviews, and the case eventually died.

There have been a number of hypotheses put forward since the initial murder investigation regarding what may have occurred to the Walkers. Emmett Monroe Spencer’s confession, who was later found to be a serial killer, provided some support for this notion. Nonetheless, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s office, who had already labelled Spencer a “pathological liar,” wasted no time in discrediting his confession.

However, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote contains the most widely accepted explanation for what happened to the Walkers.

Holcomb, Kansas, 1959. At dawn on a day in the middle of November, newly released criminals Richard Hickock and Perry Smith broke into farmer Herb Clutter’s house. They had learned in prison that Clutter had a safe containing a substantial quantity of money, and they intended to use this cash to help finance their move to Mexico and start a new life there. Hickock and Smith explored the Clutters’ home but came up empty-handed. There was no money. In retribution, Hickock and Smith murdered the entire family, include Herb, his wife, and two of their children.

There were significant similarities between the Clutter and Walker killings. Both were quadruple homicides of whole families, who were all shot in the head. After the murder, burglars broke into both houses and took various goods. Hickock and Smith were in Florida a month after the Clutters’ murders, putting them in close proximity to the Walkers when they were killed.

Capote originally disregarded the possibility that Hickock and Smith were guilty for the murders, based on their alibis. Both Hickock and Smith were exonerated from suspicion in the Walker murders after passing polygraph examinations. Hickock and Smith’s remains were unearthed in 2012 so that DNA evidence could be compared to that found at the crime site, and authorities continue to believe they are the most likely suspects in the case today. Unfortunately, the findings of these tests were inconclusive.

Although it is probable that Hickock and Smith had something to do with the Walkers death, their motive for murdering the Walkers remains unknown. Unfortunately, these murders will most likely remain unsolved.

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