Something To Give

Alvin Dewey, Clarence Duntz, Harold Nye and Roy Church were among the “twenty odd witnesses” present for the hanging of Perry Edward Smith and Richard (more commonly known as Dick) Eugene Hickock. Smith and Hickock were hanged on June 22 1965, more then two years after they savagely murdered four members of the Cutter family. The two killers took their last breaths on the gallows at the Kansas state prison. ‘“Dick, 33, died first, at 12:41 A.M.; Smith, 36, died at 1:19…”’

It all began back in “the walls” of Lansing Prison. Dick was in for writing “hot” checks and Perry for robbing an office supply store. It wasn’t until Perry was released on parole that Dick got the new cellmate Floyd Wells that started it all. Floyd Wells, a former employ of Mr. Cutter, often told Dick about the Cutter family and the layout of their home. He included tempting details. Such as, Herb Cutter kept a safe filled with cash. This stash, we would later find out, was the motive of the crime. Ironically the safe full of cash never existed; there was little more then 40 dollars.

Although the plans of the robbery were all Dick’s, it was Perry who pulled the trigger on all four members of the Cutter Family. Perhaps the reason why Holcomb was hit so hard by the murders was the irony of it all. If this could happen to a family as perfect as the Cutters others feared it could easily happen to them. Starting off with the youngest, Nancy was the town’s darling. She was “a straight A student, the president of her class the leader in the 4 H program and the Young Methodists leagues, a skilled rider and musician (piano and clarinet) an annual winner at the country fair…” Then there was Kenyon a quiet reserved boy with a passion for carpentry and machinery. Herb Cutter was the community leader who had managed to build His large property, River Valley Farm up from the ground. Last Bonnie Cutter who suffered form ever depression. Perry tied up and shot all four of them. He also slit Herbs throat. Nancy and Bonnie were found dead tucked into their beds while Herb and Kenyon were found in the basement. In the trail it was revealed that Dick wanted to rape Nancy a fact that shook Holcomb even more then the whole murders themselves.

But even such a cruel, cold, bloody crime as this did not warrant the loss of two more lives. Just as there's always more then one side to story there were other factors that led to the crime. One such factor that is highly speculated to have led to the murders is Perry’s less then perfect upbringing. There is no doubt that Perry’s unhappy childhood could have severely impacted his mental stability. Perry’s parents had a rough divorce and he was taken to live with his mother and he tried to run back to his father and he ended up in a catholic orphanage and he was severely beat by nuns for wetting the bed and he left school after third grade and his mother died and his brother killed himself and his sister “fell out” a window, leaving Perry alone. Dick’s childhood wasn’t as tragic but both he and Perry were involved in serious accidents that caused irreversible mental and physical damage. These men did not deserve to die. As Dick remarked in an earlier interview with a journalist, “Well what’s there to say about capital punishment? I’m not against it revenge is all it is but what's wrong with revenge?” Actually, there are many things wrong with revenge. One problem with it is if revenge had been the motive of the crime the two killers still would’ve been hung yet the hangman faces no such charges. Moreover, he was specially “imported from Missouri for the event, for which he was paid six hundred dollars”.

Our society has a strict double standard. Someone who takes someone else’s life is a killer yet we still pay people to perform the same task—hypocrisy at its finest. Although Dick admits, “If I was kin to the Cutters or any of the parties York and Latham dispensed with I couldn’t rest in peace till the ones responsible had taken that ride on the big swing” a close relative to the Cutter family felt much differently. Shortly after the murders, Bonnie Cutter’s brother, Mr. fox, wrote a letter to the local paper begging the townspeople to forgive the (although at this point unidentified) killers. If even Mr. Fox could see that killing killers is never the right solution maybe we should reconsider capital punishment

Capital punishment in itself is flawed. It is an outdated institution that does nothing but take more lives due to a domino effect. Each murder causes several others. The plain truth is killing killers doesn’t bring anyone back from the dead. Nor does it make the world any safer than if the killers served a lifetime in prison, which I see as a much better alternative. Unfortunately, proponents of capital punishment do not agree. They see lifetime imprisonment as an unfair alternative because it wastes taxpayer’s money. Adversaries also argue that capital punishment provides relatives of the victims with closure and gives the murders what they deserve. But petty things like money and vengeance shouldn’t matter when people’s lives are at stake. When someone dies all of humanity suffers. What the adversaries fail to realize is each person, each individual, each one of us have something to give. In the case of the Cutter’s not only four prospective gifts were lost but six. Perry’s last words were, “maybe I had something to contribute, something…” Now we will never know what that something was.





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