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New trial set for 2000 Tama County murder

(KCRG)
Published: Aug. 15, 2017 at 11:01 AM CDT
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A new trial has been set for Tate Otis Purk.

Purk was found guilty on May 10, 2017 for murdering Cora Okonski in 2000.

Reports said Okonski died as a result of being choked and/or slammed.

Court documents say an absence of evidence is the reason for re-opening the case.

The Police Department has identified at least four instances of Okonski being seen after the alleged incident.

The first time was when an officer testified he asked local businesses if they had seen her and one said they had in mid-April 2000.

The second evidence of a sighting was a woman who said Okonski was in Chicago in May of 2000.

An officer went to Chicago trying to locate James Lambert, Okonski's ex-boyfriend and the father of her son, in June 2000. A possible suspect, Lambert was never able to be found.

While trying to find Lambert, the officer found two people at a truck stop who said they saw Okonski at the truck stop near Chicago before.

After having multiple confirmations that people had seen Okonski, the officer on the case closed the missing person's case referable to Okonski as a found, positively identified, missing person. The officer later said he believed it was a wrong decision.

Okonski's father said that she had mental health issues, was erratic and would periodically "take off," travelling to Florida, Arizona and Mississippi.

Court documents say the issue is not whether or not she is deceased. Instead, it is about the evidence at trial that says Okonski died April 16, 2000 as the State alleges.

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