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New judge named to hear Purk murder case

October 12, 2017
By John Speer - Editor ( , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald


District Court Judge Ian K. Thornhill has been assigned to replace Judge Mitchell E. Turner in the Tait Otis Purk murder trial. An order by 6th Judicial District Chief Judge Patrick R. Grady making assigning the change was filed on Thursday Oct. 12. Judge Thornhill is also one of four judges forwarded by U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst on Thursday To President Trump to fill a federal District court vacancy in the Northern District of Iowa in Cedar Rapids.

Judge Turner has recused himself from the Tait Purk murder trial. His action apparently came during a telephone conference call with prosecutors and defense attorneys on Wednesday, Oct. 11. Tama County Attorney Brent Heeren had filed a motion for Judge Turner's replacement in the case on Monday. (SEE EARLIER STORY BELOW.)

Article Photos

Tama County District Court Judge Mitchell E. Turner

In August Judge Turner threw out the murder conviction of Purk, 51, who was found guilty of 1st degree murder by an Iowa County Grand Jury in May of this year. The trial was held in Marengo on z change of venue form Tama County.

Purk has waived his right to a trill by jury and the second trial verdict will lie with a judge.

Purk is scheduled to go on trial again on Nov. 6 in Tama County District Court in Toledo according to Laura Roan, assistant Iowa Attorney General who, along with Heeren, served as prosecutors in the May trial.

He was indicted by a Tama County Grand Jury in December of last year on a charge of 1st degree murder. Purk is accused of killing and disposing of the body of his fiance, Cora Ann Okonski, then age 23, in the year 2000.

Her body has never been found.

The cold case was reopened by authorities led by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation in 2015. Tama Police, the Tama Coutny Sheriff's and County Attorney's Office and Iowa Attorney General's Office all were reported to have aide in the case.



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