Public Safety

Tama man charged in 2000 cold case wants murder trial moved

Attorney for Tait Purk says 'prejudice' exists in Tama County

A Tama man, charged in the homicide of his fiancé who went missing in 2000, is asking for his trial to be moved out of Tama County District Court.

Tait Purk, 50, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Cora Okonski, 23, of Tama. A grand jury indicted Purk on Dec. 2. 

Purk was serving time in the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan., for manufacturing methamphetamine and other firearms charges, but a judge requested he be sent back to Iowa, where he will remain in state custody until his trial is over. The trial is scheduled to begin on Feb. 21.

Scott Hunter, Purk’s attorney, filed a motion for the change of venue Thursday, claiming there is a “such a degree of prejudice” that exists in Tama County which would prevent a fair and impartial jury from being selected.

Purk has pleaded not guilty in the case and remains in jail pending trial.

In 2003, while being held on federal drug charges, Purk told The Gazette in a phone interview from the jail that he wasn’t a suspect in Okonski’s disappearance and he feared for her well-being.

During this time, Purk told investigators Okonski borrowed some money from him to buy cigarettes on April 16, 2000, and never returned to their Tama home, where her 2-year-old son Austin was at the time.

Court records show Purk was charged with domestic assault against Okonski in December 1999 and a judge placed a no-contact order against him. The order was lifted in March 2000, and they had plans to marry in May of that year.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com