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6 An Absence of Beauty

Gary M. Lavergne University of North Texas Press PDF

6

An Absence of Beauty

“You look out the window and wonder and say,

‘Somebody ought to neuter all these people.’”

—J. W. Thompson, Austin Police Department

I

Interstate Highway 35, the major artery for Central Texas, connects San

Antonio, Austin, Belton, Temple, and Waco. Around Austin, the highway runs along the Balcones Fault, separating alluvial bottoms and agricultural lands to the east, from the rocky sediments of the Hill Country ranches to the west. In his biography of Lyndon Johnson, Robert Caro called the Hill Country “The Trap,” which accurately contrasts its mesmerizing beauty with the hardiness it took to tame the area.

San Antonio and Austin are splendid examples of the power of multiculturalism, and monuments to cooperation among diverse populations. Further north, the hamlets of the Blackland Prairie surround the larger cities of Belton, Temple, and Waco. Baylor University in Waco, the

University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Southwestern University in nearby Georgetown, and other colleges and technical schools in the area provide splendid educational opportunities to the people who live here. The hard-working, conservative, largely religious people help contribute to and take pride in their neighborhoods and schools. Throughout the area, man-made lakes provide water, recreation, and breathtaking scenery. Central Texas is a beautiful place to live.

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6: After Much Thought

Gary M. Lavergne University of North Texas Press PDF

I Z I - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - After Much Thought

several farm hands. Floyd Wells, a former employee, later served time in the Kansas State Penitentiary where he became friends with a fellow prisoner named Richard E. Hickock, who made repeated efforts to learn as much about the Clutter family as possible. Specifically; Hickock was interested in finding out if the Clutters had a safe in their home. Wells either suggested or Hickock conjured up a nonexistent safe located in a wall behind Herb Clutter's office desk,

Eventually; Hickock was paroled. Shortly afterwards he and a friend named Perry E. Smith headed for the Clutter home, where they expected to steal at least ten thousand dollars. They did not know that Herbert Clutter had a well-known reputation for not carrying cash; anyone in Holcomb could have told the pitiful fools that Herb

Clutter paid for everything by check,

Hickock and Smith sneaked into the home through an unlocked door (most people from Holcomb saw no need to lock doors) and terrorized the family before lulling Mr. Clutter, his wife Bonnie, and their two children Kenyon and Nancy. Each of the victims had been tied at the wrists. Mrs. Clutter and her children were murdered by shotgun blasts to the head from short range. Mr. Clutter's body was found in the basement of his home; he had been shot in the head and his throat had been slashed. 1

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Gary M. Lavergne University of North Texas Press PDF
Medium 9781574410297

16: APD

Gary M. Lavergne University of North Texas Press ePub

16
APD

I

Somehow, it seemed pathetically appropriate. Flags on the University of Texas campus had already been lowered in tribute to fifty-six-year-old retired Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel Richard Bryant Pelton, who had died of a heart attack on the previous Friday. If Don Walden and Cheryl Botts still wondered why the flags were lowered, they could have read about Pelton in the Austin American-Statesman in a small article, hidden in the midst of an entire issue on the Tower sniping.1

The city of Austin and the University of Texas became the focus of world news. TASS, the official Communist Party news organ of the Soviet Union, used the occasion to highlight the problem of crime in the United States: “Murders, armed attacks, robbery, and rapes have become common in present-day America.” Richard Speck and Charles Whitman dwarfed coverage of the White House wedding of Luci Baines Johnson and Patrick Nugent. When reminded that the Speck murders in Chicago had been called the “Crime of the Century,” APD Chief Bob Miles replied, “It isn't anymore.” Reporters from all over the world interviewed witnesses, victims, and victims' families.2 Charlotte Darenshori, the secretary pinned down behind the base of a flagpole on the South Mall, remembered: “I had a call from Dan Rather wanting me to be on the afternoon news, from the networks and from newspapers everywhere. I just didn't understand the interest.”3

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8: The Glass-Paneled Door

Gary M. Lavergne University of North Texas Press PDF

returned with a vengeance to turn the fallen rain into steam rising from the streets and sidewalks. A light southerly wind, not strong enough to bring relief, accompanied the heat and humidity When

Whitman left his home for the last time, at or slightly after 11 :00

A.M., the temperature had climbed to the upper nineties. Vacationers and students on semester break flocked to Barton Creel" where cold spring-fed water supplied bathers with a momentary refuge from the heat. But most Austinites could afford no such luxury and instead wearily prepared for another one of "those" days. It was hot-damn hot. I

The drive to the university would not have taken more than twenty to twenty-five minutes. Whitman entered the UT campus through a security checkpoint on 21 st Street near the corner of Speedway Avenue, the northern extension of Congress Avenue, between

11:25 and 11:30 A.M. He approached the little white outpost manned by [ack O. Rodman, a UT Security Officer there to relieve the regular security guard during a lunch break. Whitman retrieved his wallet, holding ninety-six dollars remaining from the checks he had cashed earlier in the morning, and presented a Carrier Identification Card to gain admission to the campus. The guard would have been familiar with the ID which was issued to individuals with a frequent need to transport heavy or bulky materials onto the campus. Whitman had been issued such a card as part of his lab assistant duties in Dr.

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