EXCLUSIVE: After new evidence emerged in the 1959 murders of the Herbert Clutter family, made famous by Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood, Glass Entertainment Group and Daniel H. Birman Productions have joined to produce a limited series based on what is one of the most famous crime stories in American history. This is the second series that we know of that is re-examining these murders. The other coming this fall is from documentarian Joe Berlinger and Sundance TV which has a four-part doc series tentatively titled Murder in the Heartland: In Cold Blood Revisited.
The Clutter family of Holcomb, KS were murdered one by one on their ranch in their pajamas on November 15, 1959 — the father Herbert, the mother Bonnie Mae and children Nancy, 16, and Kenyon, 15 — all bound and all but the young girl gagged before being shot in the head. Two of the Clutters’ neighbors walked through the crime scene — tipped off by a friend of Nancy Clutter, who had gone by and said she had seen a body — before the sheriff’s department and then the Kansas Highway Patrol arrived. The murder was a shock to the entire area as the family was well-known and well-liked. About 1,000 people attended their funeral.
Capote’s 1966 book In Cold Blood which was sold as non-fiction, became an instant bestseller after he interviewed the two killers, but the account wasn’t without its critics who said portions of the book — and even some quotes — were fabricated. The book was noteworthy for several reasons: It gave launch to true crime books in American literature; it made celebrities out of those least worthy of the honor, cold-blooded murderers; and “in cold blood” became part of our country’s lexicon. Capote and his old friend, To Kill A Mockingbird author Harper Lee, traveled to Kansas to investigate the deaths and Capote interviewed the killers. Capote then wrote a harrowing and detailed account of the murders that catapulted him to super stardom as an author.
In Cold Blood was must-reading for most high schoolers in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Capote’s life around that time was made into more than one film in recent years so there is an audience that spans multiple generations that Glass Entertainment and Birman can tap into and who would be interested in knowing the motivation and truth of that night.
The new, limited series will reveal never-before-seen evidence gathered by law enforcement during the original investigation. It also brings to light newly discovered clues as to what really happened the night the Clutter family was killed.
Author Gary McAvoy, who spent five years researching the now 58-year-old murder case, has a new theory of the crime. The author had been battling for the right to make the information he uncovered public. Viewers will also hear revelations by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Kevin Helliker, who has also investigated the case.
In the series, McAvoy will talk about the lawsuit aimed at suppressing the information he held. “That was a challenging time for us but in the end we won, and the story we have is a very different one than Capote told, with details the Kansas Bureau of Investigation did not want made public.”
“Daniel Birman is an award-winning filmmaker who brings great prestige and credibility to this project,” said Glass Entertainment’s Nancy Glass, CEO, and J.C. Mills, president and GM, in a joint statement. “This project is extraordinary because of the nature of the material that Gary McAvoy has assembled.”
“My company, including producer and VP of Production, Megan Chao, has been following this project closely with McAvoy, and the timing is right to bring it forward,” said president and executive producer Birman. “After a couple of meetings with Nancy and J.C., we realized that this is a collaboration that will give us more creative muscle to produce the series.”
Glass is repped by ICM Partners.