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Myrtle Zelda Cumpston, 60, was shot and killed in the display area of her rural Dallas County business — C & K Aqualand, Incorporated — on Tuesday, March 9, 1965. Cumpston co-owned the tropical fish aquarium near Adel, Iowa, with business partner and neighbor, Mrs. Robert King.
King discovered Cumpston’s body around 10 a.m. when she arrived to help out with work. Cumpston had been shot in the back of the head, and $50 was missing from the business’s cash box.
Cumpston’s husband, Charles Cumpston, 60 — a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector with the Animal Disease Eradication Division — told authorities he left the couple’s home at 8 a.m. for a trip to Oskaloosa to examine farm animals.
The [then] Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation worked with the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office in investigating Mrs. Cumpston’s murder, which Sheriff John T. Wright said they’d ruled as a robbery-murder.
The friendship between the Cumpstons and Kings went back ten years.
The couples met through a mutual interest in tropical fish, and initially established a business they operated from the King’s West Des Moines home. When the customer base thrived and grew, the Kings decided in 1961 to build a house a half mile from the rural Redfield home where the Cumpstons had lived for 30 years.
Mrs. Cumpston and Mrs. King conducted day-to-day operations from the Cumpston’s farm, conveniently located just one quarter-mile east of Redfield.
The day before the slaying, the women deposited $700 from weekend receipts into a Des Moines bank.
In addition to raising children and helping out with the family business, Mrs. Cumpston was also a member of the Redfield Methodist Church, the Order of the Eastern Star, and many other worthy organizations.
No one has ever been charged with her murder.
Myrtle Zelda (Dickerson) Cumpston was born September 1, 1904, at Coalville, Iowa, the daughter of George A. and Mamie C. Dickerson. She married Charles Lewis Cumpston on February 10, 1923. The couple had six children.*
Myrtle and Charles operated businesses in Fort Dodge and Tama, and established themselves in the Adel/Redfield community in 1936. They moved to the rural Redfield farm in 1939, where they resided at the time of Myrtle’s death.
In addition to her husband, Myrtle was survived by the couple’s six children: Dale and his wife Margaret of Lawrence, Kansas; Duane and his wife Mary Lea of Atlantic, Iowa; Geneil and husband Earl Mestad of Waterloo, Iowa; Gardette and his wife Betty of Peneville, Louisiana; Kay Eloise Cumpston, a student at the University of Iowa; and 16 grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents. (* Obituaries referenced — see page bottom — state the couple had six children, though only five names are provided in online archives.)
Memorial services were held Saturday, March 13, at the Redfield Methodist Church under the direction of the Evans Funeral home, with the Revs. John Latta and Ernest Baiotto officiating. Myrtle was buried in the Dexter Cemetery in Dallas County.
When the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Myrtle Cumpston’s murder was one of approximately 150 cases listed on the Cold Case Unit’s new website as those the DCI hoped to solve using latest advancements in DNA technology.
Although federal grant funding for the DCI Cold Case Unit was exhausted in December 2011, the DCI continues to assign agents to investigate cold cases as new leads develop or as technological advances allow for additional forensic testing of original evidence.
The DCI remains committed to resolving Iowa’s cold cases and will continue to work diligently with local law enforcement partners to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice for the victims and their families.
If you have any information about Myrtle Cumpston’s unsolved murder, please contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office at (515) 993-4771.