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St. Petersburg police identify man whose severed head was found last year

Donald Edward Coston was found days before he would have turned 81. St. Petersburg police need help figuring out what happened to him.
St. Petersburg police on Friday released the name of the man whose head was found by a jogger on July 7 along 38th Avenue South west of 31st Street South.
St. Petersburg police on Friday released the name of the man whose head was found by a jogger on July 7 along 38th Avenue South west of 31st Street South. [ St. Petersburg Police Department ]
Published Apr. 23
Updated Apr. 23

ST. PETERSBURG — The name of a man whose severed head was found last year alongside a sidewalk was released by police on Friday.

The head of 80-year-old Donald Edward Coston was discovered by a jogger on July 7 near the sidewalk on 38th Avenue S, west of 31st Street S, police say. Coston was born in 1939 and would have turned 81 days later on July 24, according to St. Petersburg police.

Police did not release any information about how the St. Petersburg resident died, how his head wound up there or how it came to be removed.

“The investigation into Mr. Coston’s death is ongoing, as we have little information about the last few days of his life,” said a St. Petersburg Police Department statement. “We strongly encourage anyone with details on his whereabouts in early July 2020 to contact us at 727-893-4823.”

Coston was arrested in May of 1984 on a charge of first-degree murder. A St. Petersburg Times article at the time said the murder charge stemmed from a shooting that took place at Cotson’s apartment on Fifth Avenue after a day of drinking turned violent. One man was shot in the head and died, police said, while another was shot in the chest but survived.

He was 44 at the time and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree murder in August of that year and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

After his release, records show a woman sought a domestic violence injunction against him in 1995, which was granted. He was accused of violating the injunction in 1995 and a capias was issued for his arrest in 1996, though he wouldn’t be arrested until 2001. He pleaded no contest and got six months of probation.

No other criminal records for Coston in the 21st century could be found in Pinellas County.

Anyone with information or tips about Cotson can contact the St. Petersburg Police Department at 727-893-4823. or text the information with the letters “SPPD” to TIP-411.