1128-6th-ave-des-moines-greg-nepstadCourtesy photo Polk County Assessor’s Office
Greg Nepstad was killed in a fire that destroyed an apartment house once located on this now empty lot at 1128 6th Ave. in Des Moines.

Greg Nepstad

Homicide

Greg Nepstad
1128 6th Ave.
Des Moines, IA
Case # 1975-34651
September 27, 1975

Greg Nepstad was killed in the early morning hours on Saturday, Sept. 27, 1975, when a fire destroyed an apartment house located at 1128 6th Avenue in Des Moines.

Little information is known about this case.

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Court records cite that Gregory L. and Dona J. Nepstad and the City of Des Moines were later listed as defendants in a lawsuit concerning the deaths and injuries resulting from the fire.

Information Needed

If you have any information on Greg Nepstad’s unsolved murder please contact the Des Moines Police Department at 515-283-4864.

Sources:

3 Responses to Greg Nepstad

  1. andrea says:

    There were at least 4 others killed in the fire: Barbara Gill, Shawn Gill, Sharion Louise Owens, and Christopher Wayne Owens.

  2. Jack Jackson says:

    There may be some sort of mistake here, either in the information posted here or in the source it came from. It seems to imply that a “Greg Nepstad” was killed in a fire at an apartment building owned by a “Greg L Nepstad” on 09/27/75. By all accounts I can find, there is only one Greg Nepstad, and he didn’t die in said fire. I was able to locate three separate articles in the Des Moines Register, dated 09/28/75, 09/29/75, and 10/08/75, which all say that “one woman and three children” died in the fire, and multiple others which say “four people” died in the fire.

    The names of those four individuals were named above by Andrea. Sharion Owens and her infant son Christopher, as well as brother and sister Barbara and Shawn Gill, were killed that day. The Gill children did not live at the apartment; they were staying there with a baby sitter while their parents were out of town in New York. Several other individuals sustained moderate to severe injuries while escaping the fire. Each of those individuals names were provided as well. None, however, were Greg Nepstad. The apartment had been the site of two small fires in the days leading up to the fire, but both had been put out by residents and the fire department was never called. The fire that killed the four individuals mentioned above was actually the third apparent attempt to burn down the building. Police speculated that the fire was probably arson due to burn patterns at the scene and the lack of apparent natural causes; however, as far as I could tell it was never officially ruled as an arson.

    A poignant aside to this story is that only five days later, Des Moines kicked off Fire Prevention Week three days early (it officially began on the 5th of October) with a large parade. A number of stories and advertisements were run in local media that week regarding fire safety and the use of smoke detectors.

    In any case, it is perhaps useful to put this story in context in order to possibly shed light on the lack of specifics for the case. In late 1975, Des Moines, and particularly the “near-north” sector of the city, was experiencing a severely high number of fires, some of which were from leaf fires, some from electrical problems, but a huge number of which were suspected to be the work of arsonists. Arson was so common at that point that on some days there would be several incidents just between dusk and dawn. It got so bad that the fire department prepared a special budget in order to fund crews for a pair of fire engines that actively patrolled the city between 10 PM and 6 AM for arson fires yet to be reported to the department. Within a couple of weeks of the fire referenced in this post, hundreds of thousands of dollars in fire damage to homes, apartments, businesses, and even a bridge were being investigated by the fire marshal. A number of individuals, primarily boys under the age of 18, were arrested in completely separate arson incidents over the month that followed. Unfortunately, the resources simply weren’t available to solve all of the cases. As far as I can tell, this case was one of those. One individual was detained as a suspect (via a separate traffic warrant), but evidently was never formally charged with starting the fire.

    I of course could be wrong about this, but from all of my research, there was only one Greg Nepstad. He owned the apartment but did not live there. He did not die in the fire. At minimum, the “Gregory L Nepstad” who owned the apartment is certainly still living.

    I suspect something was lost in translation or transcription somewhere; if anything, this case appears to refer to four individuals not named “Greg Nepstad” who were killed in a fire, the cause of which as far as I can tell was never confirmed, arson or otherwise.

    – Jack Jackson

  3. andrea says:

    Thank you Jack for posting that!

    I just did some googling and found this link:

    https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/128363684/

    “RENT PAY PLAN DRAWS A FINE

    “A Des Moines real estate agent was fined $300 and placed on six months probation in U.S. District Court Friday for charging tenants a premium for living in subsidized housing. Gregory Nepstad, 29, owner of Forest Realty, 1370 Twenty-third St., pleaded guilty before Magistrate Ronald Longstaff to two charges of attempting to receive unauthorized rent payments. U.S. District Attorney Roxanne Conlin said Nepstad was charged with attempting at two places to collect $20 per month more in rent than is permitted under federal regulations for subsidized housing. The Federal Rent Assistance Program subsidizes rent payments for low-income tenants in privately owned rental units. Conlin said Nepstad had attempted to collect premiums from tenants in buildings at 2519 and 2525 Clarkson St. whose monthly rent is $170. As part of a plea-bargaining agreement, Nepstad agreed to cooperate with her in attempts to eliminate similar fraud in other Des Moines housing projects, Conlin said. “This has been a real unfortunate incident, a nightmare for me,” said Nepstad in an interview Friday. “We did something I thought was a widespread practice without any idea it was against the law.” Nepstad said the situation arises because U.S. Housing and Urban Development guidelines set rent subsidies too low for the Des Moines housing market. “I believe it’s going on all over town. We wouldn’t have done it if we didn’t think it was a widespread practice,” be said. One year ago, Donald G. Bettls of Albia was fined $500 and placed on one year’s probation by Longstaff on similar charges.”

    Makes one wonder about the state of his rental property.

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