Death in a Cubicle: Murder of Fred Coste 1959

Murder Victim

Frederick Leonard Coste
47-year-old Manager
Family Finance Corporation
Cause of Death: Stabbed
Motive: Robbery

Murder Scene and Date

Family Finance Corporation
312 Second Avenue SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Linn County
October 15, 1959


By Nancy Bowers
Written October 2010

Frederick “Fred” Coste

At noon on Thursday, October 15, 1959, Thomas McMurrin and Donald McSpadden climbed the stairs to the second story of 312 Second Avenue SE in downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa. They were looking to take out a loan at the Family Finance Corporation.

Instead, they found the company’s manager, Frederick “Fred” Leonard Coste, 47, lying face up in a pool of blood inside the loan interview cubicle.

from the Cedar Rapids Gazette

The men rushed to the DeVar Restaurant on the first floor of the building and located Patrolman Don Hollister, who was having lunch. Hollister summoned detectives.

Coste died about 10:00 a.m. He was punched in the left eye and then stabbed six times in the chest with what Linn County Medical Examiner Dr. Percy Harris said was a knife so long and wide that the blade penetrated the ribcage in three places. His heart was also pierced.

Coste was at the job for only a month and operated the business alone. The “office girl” had quit two weeks before to take other work.

For 12 hours on Thursday night and into Friday morning, Capt. John Kuba and other Cedar Rapids Police officers questioned three suspects, including McMurrin and McSpadden who found the body. The third person was unidentified.

All three voluntarily took lie detector tests. The first two were judged to be telling the truth, but results for the third person were not released.

A large knife belonging to one of the suspects was sent to the FBI lab in Washington, D.C., but tests there showed blood on it was rodent, not human.

Chalk outline of Frederick Coste’s body (from the Cedar Rapids Gazette).

Louis Christianson, the previous office manager, examined the books and estimated $258.85 was missing from the cash drawer. The files of all people doing business with the firm were scrutinized and it was discovered that records for two people who had taken out loans were missing.

Two years earlier, the same office was robbed by what a newspaper called a “daring daylight holdup man,” who escaped but was later captured.

Carl V. Wiese, President of the Iowa Consumer Finance Association, announced a 200 dollar reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer and said the death had “shocked members of the finance industry.” On October 24, 1959, an anonymous donation of $2,500 was added to the reward fund.

Cedar Rapids Police received numerous tips, but the murder-robbery was never solved and Fred Coste has not received justice.

Until recently, the loan office and DeVar Restaurant building was occupied by Brick’s Bar and Grill.

☛ Fred Coste’s Life ☚

Ames Daily Tribune

Frederick Leonard Coste was born December 9, 1911 in Kobe, Japan, to Louisa Mary Ann Yerrell and Frederick Walter Coste, both natives of London, England. His father was a mechanic for East India Rubber. When Frederick was six, the Coste family left Japan for British Columbia. By 1930, they lived in Atlanta, Georgia.

Fred Coste served in the Army during WWII, enlisting at Fort Mcpherson in Atlanta in April of 1943; at that time, he was already involved in the finance business. Before taking the Cedar Rapids position, he worked for the Family Finance Corporation in Baltimore, Maryland; Atlanta, Georgia; and Charlotte, North Carolina.

He was survived by his wife Elizabeth P. Coste, his 7-year-old daughter Diane, and his mother Louisa Coste.

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



  • ☛ “C.R. Finance Man is Slain: F.L. Coste Is Stabbed In His Office,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, October 15, 1959.
  • ☛ “Free Three In Probe Of Slaying,” Waterloo Daily Courier, October 16, 1959.
  • ☛ “Detectives in Murder Case Trace Leads,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, October 17, 1959.
  • ☛ “Investigation into Coste Killing Proceeding Slowly,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, October 21, 1959.
  • ☛ “Police Ask Public Aid In Slaying,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, October 16, 1959.
  • ☛ “Police Question, Release Three in C. Rapids Slaying,” Oelwein Daily Register, October 16, 1959.
  • ☛ “Post $200 Reward in CR Death,” Ames Daily Tribune, October 22, 1959.
  • ☛ “Post $2,500 Murder Reward: Police Say Offer Made Anonymously,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, October 25, 1959.
  • ☛ “Press Probe in Stabbing Death At Cedar Rapids,” Muscatine Journal and News-Tribune, October 16, 1959.
  • ☛ “Reward Offer Brings New Leads on Coste,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, October 25, 1959.
  • ☛ “Reward Posted For Information On Coste Slaying,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, October 22, 1959.
  • ☛ “Three Quizzed, Freed in Slaying At Cedar Rapids,” Carroll Daily Times Herald, October 16, 1959.
  • ☛ U.S. Census.
  • ☛ U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946.

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