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Purk found guilty

MARENGO — A jury on Wednesday found Tait Otis Purk guilty in the murder of his fiance, Cora Ann Okonski.

A 12-member jury received the case at about 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and reached a verdict shortly before noon Wednesday. The verdict was read in court about 12:30 p.m.

Purk, 50, was indicted by a Tama County grand jury last December, accused of killing Okonski, 23, in Tama in 2000.

She was reported missing to police from the residence Purk and she shared on Palm Sunday, April 16, of that year by Purk two days later on April 18, 2000.

Okonski, nor her remains, have ever been found.

The trial was held in Iowa County on a change of venue.

The cold case was reopened by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, the Iowa Attorney General and Tama County Attorney offices, Tama Police and Tama County Sheriff’s Office in 2015.

In the closing summation during the trial by Assistant Iowa Attorney General Laura Roan it was maintained Purk killed Okonski and then buried her body. “Cora Okonski does not walk this earth,” Roan told the jurors.

Federal inmate Sean Michael Ward had testified earlier that Purk had told him he used a “choke – slam” action to kill Okonski. Both Purk and Ward were inmates at the federal penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., at the time of the alleged confession.

Purk’s defense attorneys, meanwhile, had called another federal inmate to testify — Dennis Marcussen — who had been Purk’s cellmate for a time at Fort Leavenworth. He said Purk had never admitted to killing Okonski

Purk was serving a sentence for conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and felon in possession of weapons at the time the fellow prisoners said they talked with him.

While on the stand, Purk repeatedly denied killing Okonski under both defense and prosecution questioning.

Scott Hunter, a defense attorney, told jurors in summation there was no proof Okonski was dead and deemed the state’s case as “17 years of a bad investigation.”

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