Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Neptune Murders


Frederick Cowan (New York Daily News)
Frederick Cowan
(New York Daily News)

Frederick William Cowan was born June 1, 1943 in New Rochelle. He attended Blessed Sacrament Elementary School and graduated in 1957. He was an exemplary student throughout his entire 8 years at the school. One teacher said of Cowan: "You were glad to have him in your room. He had neat handwriting and always had his work done on time" (Roddy, Keefe and Kavanaugh, p. A3). Cowan went to Stepinac High School in nearby White Plains, a fine Catholic institution where he again excelled and played on the football team. Upon graduation in 1961, he enrolled in Villanova College for Engineering and remained there until he suddenly dropped out in 1962 and later joined the Army. In 1964 he got into trouble while stationed in Germany. By himself, Cowan lifted up a Volkswagen car and turned it over. He smashed up the car with his bare hands and was sent to the stockade after a court martial. The following year in 1965, Cowan left the scene of a car accident in Germany and was again threatened with jail time. He was given a general discharge and sent back to the States in March of 1965. However, when he returned to New Rochelle, he had changed.

Cowan's Nazi Articles
Cowan's Nazi Articles

Although Cowan was interested in guns even as a boy, as an adult he also developed an obsessive interest in Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party. He collected all sorts of Nazi memorabilia: WWII helmets, swords, guns, swastika flags,

Gestapo posters, berets and more. He read a great deal of Nazi propaganda literature and talked often of his hatred of blacks and Jews. But there was more. Inside a book, later found in his room on Woodbury Street in New Rochelle, Cowan had scribbled these prophetic words: "Nothing is lower than black and Jewish people except the police who protect them" (McLaughlin, Peter, p.3). Some other Neptune employees knew of his fondness for Nazism while others did not. At the local bars in New Rochelle, where Cowan would stop in for some beers or to cash his paycheck, it was a different story. Some people said Cowan's hero was Nazi SS General Reinhard Heydrich, a commanding officer of German concentration camps during World War II. After a couple of beers, Cowan preferred to be called "Reinhard" (Roddy, Keefe and Kavanaugh, p. A3), an indication of where his mind was focused. And so, over the years, perhaps fueled by his repeated failures and a consistent resentment toward society in general, the Nazi poison ate away at his heart and mind until all he could understand or feel comfort in, was hate.

The office on the second floor
The office on the second floor

Inside the deserted office on the second floor of Neptune, Cowan picked up the phone and listened for the dial tone. Later, he would use that same phone to demand food from the police. He slammed the receiver back down on the cradle and began to wrap his bleeding hand. The cut appeared to need stitches but it would have to wait. He reloaded the SACO rifle with a fresh magazine and cocked the sliding bolt. He checked his handguns and adjusted the two bandoliers he had draped across his barrel chest. Perhaps at that moment, on the wall, he saw reflections of flashing red lights and cautiously peered out the front window.

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