Purk appeals conviction

Third trial sought



TOLEDO — Tait Otis Purk, 51, is seeking a new trial and a stay of his second-degree murder conviction. A motion for the new trial and in arrest of judgment was filed this week in Tama County District Court in Toledo. The motion was filed by his defense attorney, Scott Hunter of the Marshalltown Public Defender’s Office. Purk is currently being held at the Iowa State Penitentiary at Anamosa.

Purk was found guilty following a bench trial by Judge Ian K. Thornhill in a verdict handed down on Dec. 8 in the death of his fiance, Cora Ann Okonski. The finding came after a four-day trial Nov. 6-9.

Sentencing has been set for Feb. 1. It is not immediately known whether that will proceed in lieu of the motions.

Purk was indicted by a Tama County Grand Jury back on Dec. 6, 2016, in what had been the cold case disappearance of Okonski on April 16, 2000.

The case of the missing Okonski, then age 23, was reopened by a special team of Department of Criminal Investigation agents, assisted by Tama Police and the Tama County Sheriff and Attorney’s offices and the Office of the Iowa Attorney General in 2015.

They presented evidence Purk had killed Okonski that night in 2000 and buried her body in a hole “so deep he had to build steps to get out of.”

Purk has contended Okonski vanished after leaving their Tama residence to buy cigarettes and never returning. Okonski, nor her body, have ever been found.

Purk was earlier convicted of first-degree murder of Okonski in a jury trial held in Iowa County District Court in May, 2017, on a change of venue.

On Aug. 14, Judge Mitchell E, Turner, the presiding judge in the jury trial, set aside the jury’s verdict which found Purk guilty citing issues he said he had with witnesses’ credibility.