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.
‘Still upset about it’
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.
‘It was a big deal’
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.”
Cold cases Iowa City police are actively working:
Donna Lee Marshall
Date of death: Jan. 8, 1996
Crime:Marshall’s body was found by her finance and daughter in her mobile home on the southeast side of Iowa City with a gunshot wound to the head. She wasn’t dead at the time, but she died the next day.
Date of death: Sept. 22, 1997
Crime:Bloomfield was reported missing Sept. 22 by her husband, who had returned from a business trip to France. Her body was found three days later, bound with pantyhose and wrapped in plastic and duct tape, in a ditch along a highway near Rockford, Ill. Authorities believed she had been strangled in her home.
Date of death: Nov. 10, 1962
Crime: Kriz was shot as he was leaving the Hamburg Inn No. 2 and encountered a would-be robber.
Date of death: May 16, 1966
Crime:Lipsius, owner of the Clover Food Market in Iowa City, was fatally shot while chasing a woman who stole $50 from his store. The woman, described as “pudgy,” shot Lipsius with a .22-caliber pistol as he chased her down the sidewalk.