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Purk 1st degree murder retrial underway

November 7, 2017
By John Speer - Editor ( , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Prosecution witnesses began testimony on Monday, Nov. 6, in Tama County District Court in Toledo in the re-trial of Tait Otis Purk on a charge of 1st degree murder.

Purk, 52, is accused of killing his fiancee, Cora ann Okonski, then age 23, and burying her body in the year 2000. Authorities had reopened the cold case in 2015 leading up to a Tama County Grand Jury indictment of Purk on a 1st degree murder charge on Dec. 6, 2016.

Okonski nor her remains have never been located since she was reported missing on April 16 of that year.

Article Photos

Opening statement by Tama County Attorney Brent Heeren in the Tait Otis Purk retrial on a charge of 1st degree murder in Tama County District Court in Toledo on Monday, Nov. 6, 2107. (L-R) Prosecutors Assistant Attorney General Laura Roan, Heeren, defense attorney Scott Hunter, Purk, defense attorney Aaron Siebrecht.
Chronicle / News- Herald photos / John Speer

An Iowa County District Court Jury found Purk, 51, guilty, in a trial in May. The trial was moved to Marengo on a change of venue. The presiding judge, Mitchell E. Turner, threw out the jury verdict in August. He ruled, in part, he did not find some of the prosecution witnesses' testimony to be collaborated.

Judge Ian K. Thornhill is hearing the case in Toledo with the re-trial expected to take three to four days. The judge did not indicate when he would rule following hearing the evidence.

Prosecution witnesses on Monday offered much the same testimony heard by the jury in May.

The case is being prosecuted by Tama County Attorney Brent Heeren and Assistant Iowa Attorney General Laura Roan.

Purk is again represented by public defenders Aaron Siebrecht and Scott Hunter.

Ricky Jo Weber Santos testified she was a friend and co-worker of Okonski at the King Tower Cafe in Tama, had given Okonski a ride to Irving, Iowa, on April 16 and returned there to pick her up and bring her back to a residence in Tama Okonski shared with Purk.

Santos testified Okonski expressed "fear for her life" and asked Santos to keep an eye on her home that night.

Okonski's adoptive parents, Jerry and Cecilia, gave testimony they were summoned by Tait Purk to come to Tama on April 18 to pick up Okonski's year and one-half year old son after she had not returned home on the night of April 16.

Cecilia Okonski denied under defense questioning Cora ann had "run away 48 times" as a mental health document offered in court claimed.

However, both Okonskis did confirm she did have a habit of leaving unexpectedly but always reestablished contact within a week.

Chad Rogers testified he met Tait Purk while both were assigned to a Marshalltown halfway house. He said Purk once told him he had to "kill a girlfriend" to avoid being charged in connection with a stolen pickup and break-in at a Tama convenience store.

Rogers admitted both Purk and himself used methamphetamine at a rural Hardin County residence following their release from the halfway house under cross-examination.



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