To the police, the clergy and the farm crisis experts, the killing frenzy here attributed to a 14-year-old farm boy, seemingly pushed to the breaking point by searing poverty and a relentless workload, had made a kind of tragic sense.
But it did not make sense to everyone at the coffee shops, the fire station or the grain store here. The townspeople knew something the experts did not. They knew Kirk Buckner. The boy, who died in the rampage 11 days ago, has been cleared of the killings of his parents, three young brothers and an aunt. After a deluge of calls and tips from residents convinced that the youth did not commit the slayings, the police on Monday charged the man who contended he was the sole survivor of the attack, James Schnick, Kirk’s uncle.
“There’s no way Kirk could have done it,” said one of the townspeople, George Chapman. “He’s a good boy. Everybody knows that.” Even before the authorities arrested Mr. Schnick, talk around town centered on details of the case that did not make sense.
“Oh, did we get calls,” said Don Cheever, the Webster County prosecutor. “A lot of it didn’t check out. But some of it was legitimate.”
In one of the key findings that led to the murder charges against Mr. Schnick, it was determined that the youth was left-handed but that the gun used to kill the relatives was found in his right hand.
Moreover, it seemed unlikely that the 90-pound teen-ager had been able to drag the 250-pound body of his father, Steve Buckner, to a cemetery after the man had been shot, as the police initially speculated.
Finally, Mr. Schnick, who said he had been seriously wounded in a gun battle with Kirk that ended in the boy’s death, turned out to be much less seriously hurt than he had contended.