The Walker family were 4 people, Cliff, 25, Christine, 24, Jimmie, 3, and Debbie, 2 who lived in Sarasota County, Florida. The couple had carved out a simple but happy life in the five years since they married. Their home was sparse, with the basics they needed to survive and little else. Most of the wooden walls were bare, except for the Walkers’ marriage certificate, which they hung on the living room wall in a plain frame. One wall in the living room was taken up largely by the clunky gas heater they used to keep warm. In the bathroom, someone had started painting the walls but never finished. Though her wardrobe couldn’t compare to those of the wealthier women who lived north of Clark Road, Christine’s body, described by many as “well-built”, lent a quality to her outfits that women envied and men desired. Since her days at Arcadia High School, Christine’s figure and outgoing personality had made her popular with men. She shot down marriage proposals from more than one high school sweetheart before settling down with Cliff when she was 19. But even after marrying, it was said that Christine seemed to enjoy the long glances she drew from men. Friends said she would flaunt her figure in short shorts and a skimpy top because she craved the attention, and perhaps a bit too much. Most of the whispers focused on Christine fending off the advances of men whose flirting sometimes crossed the line.
On December 19, 1959, at 4:00 p.m., days before Christmas, authorities believe that Christine, who had been out of the house, arrived at the family’s farm home. As she pulled up to the house, she didn’t park in her normal spot near the gate. Detectives would later theorize that a man she knew had taken her parking spot and that she invited him inside. Christine took a few moments to hang her purse in the kitchen and put away the groceries as the guest stood by. The visitor, perhaps someone who had been drinking, had fancied Christine for a while and now saw an opportunity with Cliff out of the house. She resisted his advances.and the situation turned ugly. Out on the Walkers’ covered porch, the man punched Christine in the face, bruising her left cheek. She fought back fiercely, bloodying her attacker with her heeled shoe and wrestling with him until they ended up in Jimmie’s bedroom with the man on top of her. First, he raped her. When he was done, he pointed a gun at Christine’s head and shot her twice. He then used a quilt from Jimmy’s bed to cover the corpse. Normally, when a killer shows remorse or tenderness in any manner towards a corpse, in this case, covering Christine’s body with a quilt, this suggests the murderer had an intimate relationship with the victim, or at least that he knew her. This behaviour was exhibited in the Jonbenet Ramsey case: her favorite nightgown was laid on the floor beside her little corpse after the murder.
At 4:35 p.m. Cliff and the children pulled up outside the house in the Jeep with no idea what was waiting for him inside. This in itself may be a telling clue: the killer was comfortable enough to remain at the crime scene and wait for the remainder of the Walker family to return home. Either the Walkers knew his name from an earlier telephone communication, since the Walkers were in the process of selling Christine’s car, or the killer hadn’t enough time to exit the scene without being caught. Most likely the latter is true. Cliff walked through the front porch, opened the French doors and stepped into his living room. A bullet greeted him at the door and he was shot to death. The killer may have taken a brief moment to consider the children. They were just babies, really. But they might be able to identify him one day. So he eliminated that possibility. He put the barrel of the gun inches from Jimmie’s head and squeezed the trigger. The boy fell to the floor, dropping his lollipop stick. He writhed around in agony as the killer fired two more times. Finally, Jimmie curled up next to his father and stopped moving. Debbie must have crawled over to be near her mother; bloodstains show that’s where she was shot. The killer shot her in the head, but the girl didn’t die. He pulled the trigger again, but was out of bullets. He picked up the last member of the Walker family and brought her into the bathroom, leaving a trail of blood behind. He grabbed a sock and stuffed it in the broken bathtub drain. Then he pulled the faucet handle and waited. When about 4 inches of water covered the tub bottom, he figured that was enough. He stuck Debbie’s head in and held her down until she went limp.
News stories at the time noted that there were gifts around the Christmas tree. Physical evidence left at the scene included a bloody cowboy boot, a cellophane strip from a Kools Cigarette wrapper and a fingerprint on the bathtub faucet. Gossip circulated among the members of Sarasota County. Horrified as people were by the murders, malicious rumors accused Christine of inviting the sexual attack with her manner of dress and provocative flirtations. Many people believed she “had it coming.” Pat Myers, currently the owner of Pat’s Bar-B-Que in Lake Placid, is the younger half-brother of Christine Myers Walker. Only 8 when she was killed, Myers remains angry that Christine was blamed for causing the tragedy. He believes townspeople in Arcadia smeared his half-sister’s good name when her family was killed. He claims “when a woman is raped people say she done it, she was looking for it, she was just running around. It was just easy to put the blame on her.”
Authorities seemed to disagree. They immediately suspected Perry Smith and Richard Hitchcock, the murderous duo who murdered the entire Clutter family in Kansas, and who were the topic of Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood. While that book devotes several pages to the Walker case, it dismissed a possible connection to Hickock and Smith, asserting that the two men had an alibi for that day. However, records and witness accounts collected by Kansas and Florida investigators show several factual contradictions in Capote’s account. After killing four members of the Clutter family in Kansas, 34 days before the Walker murders, Smith and Hickock fled to Florida in a stolen car, and were spotted at least a dozen times between Tallahassee and Miami. The pair checked into a Miami Beach motel, about four hours from Osprey, and checked out on the morning of the Walker murders. At some point that day, Smith and Hickock bought items at a Sarasota department store, just a few miles from the Walker home. One witness said that the taller of the two men “had a scratched-up face.” The pair was arrested for the Clutter murders in Los Angeles Nevada on December 30, 1959, and were executed by hanging on April 14, 1965. A polygraph test appeared to clear them of the Walker murders but polygraph machines in 1960 were notoriously inaccurate.
A serial killer named Emmett Monroe Spencer subsequently confessed to the murders, but the confession was discredited by Sarasota County Sheriff Ross Boyer, who labeled Spencer a pathological liar. Spencer’s confession was “determined to be cleverly constructed from real murders written up in newspapers and true-crime novels that he liked to read.” Ultimately police investigated 587 suspects for the murder but were unsuccessful in solving the case. All is not lost, however. In 2012, the Sheriff’s Office began investigating possible links between the Walker and Clutter family murders. In December 2012, Sarasota County investigators announced they were seeking an order to exhume Smith’s and Hickock’s bodies from the Leavenworth Prison graveyard, Lansing, Kansas, in the hopes that mitochondrial DNA extracted from their bones will match semen found in Christine’s underwear. Permission has been granted for the exhumation and the results, which make take weeks, are pending.