October 9, 2011
Los Angeles, California

 

RUSS REMEMBERED

Today is the 21st anniversary of my ex-partner’s murder. Here is his story IN MEMORIAM:

 

 I knew and worked with many highly dedicated and decorated cops over the decades. Dozens of names come to mind.  Men and women who served in silence–unsung heroes. Most are long retired, and many have passed on.  There is one, in my eyes, who stands a little taller and straighter than the rest–Detective III Russell Lee Kuster.  At Hollywood Homicide, during the 1970s and 1980s, Russ was my friend and partner, and later promoted to Detective III and became my supervisor. 

 

LAPD HOLLYWOOD DETECTIVES circa 1972

 

 


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Old Hollywood Police Station and Hollywood Receiving Hospital circa 1969. Ironically, this station, my and Russ Kuster’s duty assignment for 17 years, was the same police station where in 1950, a total of 18 LAPD and DA investigators were “staked out” — 24-7, listening to, and recording, Dr. George Hodel’s conversations.  Telephone lines were leased and ran from our Franklin House to the basement of this police station, a distance of– 2 ½ miles.  The six-week surveillance (Feb 18-March 27, 1950) ended abruptly, only because George Hodel fled the country, leaving the detectives with their bugs and microphones still concealed inside the residence walls.  The DA/Hodel File consists of 146 typed pages of summarized conversations from over one-thousand man hours of police surveillance.

 

Four years after my 1986 retirement, Russ was off-duty, about to have dinner at a Hollywood Hills restaurant, when Bela Marko, a parolee with a history of violence, armed with a laser-sighted 9mm automatic, became enraged after an argument with the restaurant owner. After being informed that Russ was a police detective, Marko without warning, turned and fired six shots, striking Russ in the upper chest and heart. Though mortally wounded, Russ managed to pull out his service revolver, and return fire, also striking the suspect in the chest. Within minutes, both men lay dead on the floor..

 

On October 10, 1990, (my father’s birthday) I got the early morning phone call that no cop ever wants to receive.  It was from Hollywood Detectives, informing me of my ex-partner’s murder.

 

Here is the story as told in the Los Angeles Times:

 

 

 


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Memorial buttons worn at Russ Kuster’s funeral

 

 

 

Five days later, I was in Los Angeles, attending Russ’ funeral. My below eulogy, faxed to Hollywood Detectives on the morning after his murder, was read at Russ’ memorial. 

Russell Lee Kuster, “a cop’s cop”, was one of LAPD’s greatest detectives, a proud professional; he inspired all who were privileged to know him.  May he R.I.P.

 

 

Los Angeles Police Department

Hollywood Detectives

October 10, 1990

 

Dear Friends:

It was with great shock and sadness that I received the news of Russ’s death this morning. As most of you know Russell Lee was a very large part of my life (both professional and personal) during my 14 years at Hollywood Homicide. As my partner and then my supervisor he, more than any other individual, influenced my career. And what a privilege influenced that was for me! Russ possessed a rare and wonderful blend of skill, professionalism and dedication. He was always there when the need arose. For friend and victim alike he was there to help. His strong firm Midwest beliefs fortified his faith in Justice and impassioned his drive and insistence that all Hollywood murders be solved

How many times do we all remember his year end admonition that, “85 % clearance rate is not good enough.” How many times do we all remember during “slow” months, Russ’s insistence on pulling out the unsolved books and finding the answers he knew were there and had been overlooked by us due to busier times?

Russell Lee Kuster was one of a kind. Like his heroes, John Wayne and General George Patton. Russ was an individual who never wavered in his personal beliefs. You always knew where he stood. This was true if you were a probationer at your first crime scene, or if you were a deputy chief at your 500th.

My heart goes out to all of you at Hollywood Detectives in these hours of grief. Cherish, as I do the fun and tragic times you had with this man. Cherish and remember the spirit of dedication he proudly exemplified. And finally, smile in remembrance that Russ in his final moments made sure that Los Angeles would not be burdened with another “whodunit” as he sent the “Son-Of-A-Bitch” to hell.

Love in Brotherhood
Steve Hodel LAPD Retired

Take care “Roy

 

 

 

Russ Kuster was truly one of the department’s finest. Here is a photograph from 1983 taken at my Detective III, promotional party. D3 Russ Kuster is presenting me with a plaque congratulating and thanking me for my 17 years’ service at Hollywood Division,

 

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Detective III’s Steve Hodel and Russ Kuster-1983

 


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REST IN PEACE RUSSELL LEE

 

4 Comments

  1. William T. Dumbauld on October 11, 2011 at 11:08 am

    What a detective! I can hear him talking right now as we sat around our desks on the second floor of the station. I was in charge of the Auto Theft/Juv section and Tony Baldasanno the Robb/Homi section at the time, and everyone was working hard at the time. But there was still an atmosphere of frivolity which made things more relaxed and rewarding.
    God Bless Russ and the “Thin Blue Line.”

  2. Steve Hodel on October 11, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Hi Bill!
    Talk about a voice out of the PAST. Trust all is well with you lieutenant.
    Yes, those were very special years. Seems like several lifetimes ago.
    And you are right, hardwork mixed with FUN made for a strong comraderie.
    Best,
    Steve

  3. Diana Knox Proctor on February 23, 2016 at 10:54 am

    Russ Kuster was my cousin and friend! He was always true to his profession and to his family.I’m still hoping Steve will write a book about him and the police department.He was a true hero and will always be remembered! and greatly loved and missed!

    • Steve Hodel on February 23, 2016 at 12:26 pm

      Hi Diane: Yes, Russ was one of LAPD’s best. I too miss him and think of him often, especially on October 9th which is the anniversary of his being murdered by a psychotic parolee in Los Angeles. Best Wishes to you and to all his family. Steve

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