2016 Nebraska Book Award
In Cold Storage is an excellent history of one of the more sensational crimes in Nebraska history.— Steven Guenzel, Nebraska History
In 1973 the small southwest Nebraska railroad town of McCook became the unlikely scene of a grisly murder. More than forty years later, author James W. Hewitt returns to the scene and unearths new details about what happened.
After pieces of Edwin and Wilma Hoyt’s dismembered bodies were found floating on the surface of a nearby lake, authorities charged McCook resident Harold Nokes and his wife, Ena, with murder. Harold pleaded guilty to murder and Ena pleaded guilty to two counts of wrongful disposal of a dead body, but the full story of why and how he murdered the Hoyts has never been told.
Hewitt interviews law enforcement officers, members of the victims’ family, weapons experts, and forensic psychiatrists, and delves into newspaper reports and court documents from the time. Most significant, Harold granted Hewitt his first and only interview, in which the convicted murderer changed several parts of his 1974 confession. In Cold Storage takes readers through the evidence, including salacious details of sex and intrigue between the Hoyts and the Nokeses, and draws new conclusions about what really happened between the two families on that fateful September night.
James W. Hewitt is president of the Friends of the Center for Great Plains Studies and was an adjunct professor of history at Nebraska Wesleyan University and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He is the author of Slipping Backward: A History of the Nebraska Supreme Court (Nebraska, 2007).
“In the best tradition of Capote’s iconic In Cold Blood, James Hewitt presents a gruesome, bizarre, and tragic tale of sex, murder, and small-town intrigue, told with the objective insight of an accomplished legal historian and the gripping narrative style of a novelist. . . . This is a book you should be prepared to complete in one sitting. It’s that compelling.”—Mark Scherer, author of Rights in the Balance
“The curious, tangled, and often sensational step-by-step recounting will, by necessity, leave the reader wondering how such a crime could have been committed and may have you double-checking to make sure your back door is really locked.”—Jim McKee, historian and writer
“In Cold Storage takes us through lurid personal relations that lead to two murders and vicious mutilations that shocked and frightened all Nebraskans, especially those used to small-town life in the western reaches of the state.”—Donald Pederson, former Nebraska state senator from North Platte
List of Illustrations
1. The Place
2. The People
3. The Preliminaries
4. The Perpetration
5. The Powwow
6. The Pursuer
7. The Problems
8. The Postlude