Verdict is now in judge’s hands in Purk murder trial

Tait Purk listens during court proceedings in his murder trial this week in Tama County


TOLEDO — Tama County District Court Judge Ian K. Thornhlll heard closing arguments this week and said he will review the first-degree murder case of Tait Otis Purk, 51, Tama. The judge said he will set a hearing in open court to announce the verdict as soon as possible.

Purk is accused of murdering his fiance, Cora Ann Okonski, 23, in the year 2000.

This past May, Purk was convicted in Okonski’s murder in Iowa County, but the verdict was thrown out in August by presiding Judge Mitchell E. Turner and a new trial was ordered. He ruled, in part, he did not find some of the prosecution witnesses’ testimony could be corroborated.

The defense contends Okonski walked away from the couple’s residence on East 5th Street in Tama on the night of April 16, 200 to buy cigarettes and never returned.

Okonski, nor her body, have ever been found.

Prosecutors Assistant Iowa Attorney General Laura Roan and Tama County Attorney Brent Heeren called witnesses including former prison inmates who said Purk admitted to the killing.

Purk has denied the charge and maintains Okonski disappeared that night after failing to return to their home.

In this latest trial, Purk waived a jury trial and Judge Thornhill will make a decision in the case.

The judge announced he would find the facts specially and on the record, separately stating his conclusions of law in rendering an appropriate verdict on a date to be announced by a separate order of the court.