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Edward Kriz, 43 — a World War II veteran who served in the U.S. Army — was shot outside the Hamburg Inn No. 2 in Iowa City on November 10, 1962, when he startled a would-be robber.
Cedar Rapids Gazette reporter Vanessa Miller covered the half-century-old homicide on November 10, 2012, which follows.
IOWA CITY — After closing George’s Buffet early Nov. 10, 1962, owner Edward Kriz, his wife and a bar tender walked to the Hamburg Inn No. 2 for coffee and a sandwich.
It was a common routine for the 43-year-old Iowa City businessman and his wife. But this time was different. This time, their early-morning custom turned tragic.
As Kriz and his wife left the diner out a backdoor, there was a noise described as a “firecracker,” according to a story in the Nov. 11, 1962, edition of The Gazette. Kriz pitched forward and struggled with a man wearing a Halloween mask before two more shots were fired and Kriz collapsed, according to the newspaper report.
The killer fled, and Kriz died minutes later. Police believe he inadvertently stepped in the path of a would-be robber.
Today – 50 years since the homicide – the case remains cold. Unsolved.
Kriz’s wife has died, along with the lead detective in the case, the county attorney at the time, and the Iowa City police chief in 1962. But, thanks to advancements in forensic technology, current Iowa City detectives remain optimistic of one day solving the case.
“We still have hope we would get a conviction,” said Iowa City detective David Gonzalez. “But it goes beyond hope. The family wants answers, and that’s what we’re working for.”
Gonzalez said he’s looking at how new technology analyzing DNA, fingerprints and ballistics, for example, could help bolster the investigation.
“We are determining if our evidence is suitable for further analysis,” Gonzalez said.
Among the pieces of evidence that have been publicly aired over the years is a button officers believe was torn off the lapel of the coat Kriz’s killer was wearing. That button, along with a tip, led investigators to arrest 18-year-old Robert Joseph Schneider in December 1962 in connection with Kriz’s homicide.
Paul Hoffey, an Iowa City police investigator in 1962, told The Gazette that he recovered the button near where the body was found. Hoffey then obtained a search warrant for the home of Schneider’s parents and found a crucial piece of evidence linking the teen to the crime scene.
“At that home, in his bedroom and in his closet, I located a tan colored trench coat with a lapel that had been torn,” Hoffey said. “The button was gone, but the threads were still there.”
The police chief asked Hoffey to hand deliver the evidence to an FBI lab in Washington D.C. But when Hoffey returned to recover the evidence that was supposed to have been processed, he learned the lab had made a grave error.
“They told me the button had been lost,” Hoffey said. “It wasn’t there. They couldn’t find it.”
The news shook the foundation of the case – and it has troubled Hoffey deeply.
“I’m still upset about it,” he said. “It’s been bothering me for a long long time.”
In February 1963, the county attorney dropped the murder charge against Schneider, saying the evidence did not show guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Hoffey, now 78, told The Gazette the missing button played a significant role in prosecutors’ decision to drop the murder charge.
“We could not link him from the crime scene to the trench coat that was hanging in Schneider’s bedroom closet,” Hoffey said. “That was crucial.”
But, in Hoffey’s mind, Schneider remains a “person of interest.” And he’s alive, detectives said, although his exact whereabouts aren’t known.
In 1962, Kriz’s violent death shook Iowa City and created a sense of fear among residents, Hoffey said.
“We didn’t have very many armed robberies in Iowa City,” Hoffey said. “So when we had one, there was a great deal of concern.”
Kriz was “a good man,” according to Hoffey, and he left behind a wife and two sons.
Thomas Kriz, Johnson County treasurer and a distant relative of Edward Kriz, was 15 years old at the time of the crime and remembers the impact it had on Iowa City.
“Any time someone was murdered, it became a big thing,” Kriz said. “But this became bigger because they were so sure they knew who did it but couldn’t get the county attorney to prosecute.”
Hoffey said he’s met with Iowa City detectives about the investigation and is encouraged they’ve not given up on the case. But he’s only cautiously optimistic.
“I hope it doesn’t hang forever,” he said. “You always hope that the person who committed the crime will be found and will face justice, but it was a long time ago.”
Copyright 2012 The Gazette
Edward J. Kriz was born May 18, 1919 in Coralville, Iowa, to Mary E. Chambers and Fred James Kriz. He had two older siblings, Frederick John Kriz and Helen C. Kriz. He married Bernice R. Tesar on December 3, 1946. The couple had two sons, Steven and Tom.
Edward was buried at the Saint Joseph Cemetery in Iowa City.