Among the Tropical Fish: Murder of Myrtle Cumpston 1965

Murder Victim

Myrtle Zelda Cumpston
Co-Owner, C&K Aqualand
61-year-old Farm Wife
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Motive: Robbery

Murder Scene and Date

C&K Aqualand
Cumpston Farm
Near Redfield, Iowa
Dallas County
March 9, 1965


By Nancy Bowers
Written March 2010

location of Redfield, Iowa

location of Redfield, Iowa

At 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, March 9, 1965, Mrs. Robert King found the body of her 61-year-old business partner and neighbor Myrtle Zelda Cumpston at C&K Aqualand, a tropical fish aquarium business in rural Dallas County near Redfield the two one operated.

Fifty dollars was missing from the cash box.

Dallas County Medical Examiner Dr. Keith Chapter of Dexter — who was also Myrtle Cumpston’s personal physician — performed an autopsy that showed the victim was shot once in the back of the head between 8:00 and 10:00 a.m.

from the Muscatine Journal

Myrtle’s 60-year-old husband Charles Cumpston, a former poultry farmer, left home at 8:00 a.m. to drive to Oskaloosa to examine farm animals as an inspector for the Animal Disease Eradication Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Agents from the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation agreed with the assessment of Dallas County Sheriff John T. Wright  that robbery was the motive in the slaying.

Because the in-home business was located in such a remote area and was difficult to find, the murderer was likely familiar with the operation.

from the Burlington Hawk-Eye

That person might also have known the general banking habits of the owners, as Myrtle Cumpston and Mrs. King deposited the 700 dollar weekend receipts in Des Moines only the day before.

The two women and their husbands met 10 years before through a mutual interest in tropical fish and at first operated a company together out of the King home in West Des Moines. Because the business grew so rapidly, the Kings built a house a half-mile from the Cumpston residence in 1961.

The day-to-day operation was conducted by the two women at the Cumpston farm, located on an unpaved road a quarter-mile east of Redfield, where the Cumpstons lived.

☛ Myrtle Cumpston’s Life ☚

photo by ZBonnie

Myrtle Zelda Dickerson was born September 1, 1904 in Webster County, Iowa, the oldest child of George Asa and Mamie C. Dickerson. She married Charles Cumpston and the couple had three children — Dale L. Cumpston, Duane Cumpston, and Geneil Elaine Cumpston Mestad. Although Charles at one time owned a poultry and hatchery business in Adel, the Cumpston family had lived on the Dallas County farm for 30 years.

Myrtle Cumpston is buried in Dexter Cemetery in Dallas County.


Please note: Use of information in this article should credit Nancy Bowers as the author and Iowa Unsolved Murders: Historic Cases as the source.



  • ☛ “Farm Wife Slain in Robbery Netting $50,” Carroll Daily Times Herald, March 10, 1965.
  • ☛ Iowa Department of Public Safety Division of Criminal Investigation Cold Case Unit.
  • ☛ “Probe Murder of Farm Wife in $50 Robbery,” Waterloo Daily Courier, March 12, 1965.
  • ☛ “Robbery Slaying Motive,” Burlington Hawk-Eye, March 10, 1965.
  • ☛ “Seek Clues In Slaying At Redfield,” Muscatine Journal, March 10, 1965.
  • ☛ “Slaying of 60-year old farm wife is probed,” Mason City Globe-Gazette, March 10, 1965.
  • ☛ U.S. Census.
  • ☛ “Woman Is Slain for $50 Loot,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 10, 1965.

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