Kansas has sued the family of a deceased Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent who worked on the 1959 murders that became the subject of Truman Capote's novel In Cold Blood.
The lawsuit seeks a decision on the legal ownership of Harold Nye's case files on the murders of the Clutter family in Holcomb, KS.
Ronald Nye grew up watching his dad track down leads with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
Harold Nye planned to write his memoirs about the cases he covered and made copies along the way preparing for that. Now, years after his death, the state of Kansas says that was wrong.
Ronald Nye is fighting to save his father's documents and his reputation.
"We would go up to the state capitol, and dad and I would go in and go down into what he called the dungeon," Ronald Nye said. "We would go in and hunt for a particular box of case files."
Nye said his father told him many times that he had permission to make these copies from Logan Sanford, who was the director at the time.
But Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says there is no record of that. Schmidt has filed a civil suit to make Ronald Nye return the documents and accused his father of wrongdoing in keeping them.
"My father was a stickler for rules. He knew policies and procedures. He knew state statutes. He would have followed them," Nye said.
The controversy began when Ronald Nye tried to sell the materials. He now has auctioned off a signed copy of In Cold Blood, fetching a five-figure price, and personal letters from Capote to his dad.
"Mostly [Capote wrote] that he was frustrated because of the appeal process. It was dragging out, and he needed an ending for his book," Nye said.
Those items aren't contested, but the casework and crime scene photos still are. A Clutter family spokesman asked the sellers to consider the pain and anguish it would cause the family if these items were allowed to become public.
Agreeing, Nye returned the crime scene photos to the state early on. But he says the rest are only copies the state already has, and now this is a personal fight to protect his father's name.
"I'm on my dad's side. I think this is might versus right, and I'm just going stand up," he said.
A state archivist believes there is precedent that those documents belong to the state, but Nye wants that proved in court. He won't auction anything more until then.
Surviving members of the Clutter family also accused Nye of trying to profit from their loss. He says he has worked to prevent exploiting them, but needed money to care for a disabled friend.
Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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