At 2:00 a.m. on November 15, 1959, in the farming town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Herbert Clutter family are roused from their sleep, bound and gagged, and then brutally murdered by two assailants. The killers, Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, had first met in a state prison where the arrogant Dick picked out the quick-tempered Perry, aspirin-addicted as a result of the lingering pain of leg injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident, as the "born killer" he needed for a partner. The robbery had been planned by Dick when a former inmate told him that Mr. Clutter kept $10,000 in a safe in his home. There was no safe, however, and the killers left with only $43. As the police, led by Alvin Dewey of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, attempt to solve the murders, the two fugitives cash a series of bad checks and make their way to Mexico, where Perry dreams of becoming a gold prospector. But the plan, like most of Perry's fantasies, comes to naught, and Dick insists that they return to the States. Confident that they have left no clues, they cash additional bad checks. Dick's prison friend has already turned informer, however, and a police dragnet has been set up. In time the two killers are apprehended in Las Vegas and subjected to intensive questioning, during which their alibis are broken by keeping them separated while they tell conflicting stories. Finally, the soles of their shoes match footprints through Mr. Clutter's blood. Swiftly brought to trial and convicted, they are sentenced to be hanged at the Kansas State Penitentiary in Lansing; following appeals and stays of execution, they go to the gallows on April 14, 1965.