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TOLEDO — The state’s case against a Tama man accused of killing his fiancé in 2000 is now in the hands of a judge.

The bench trial for Tate Otis Purk ended Thursday in Tama County District Court. Purk, 51, had waived his right to a jury, so the evidence will be considered by Judge Ian Thornhill, who will issue a verdict at a later date.

Purk is charged with first-degree murder in the April 2000 disappearance of Cora Okonski. Her remains have never been located.

Prosecutors said Purk and Okonski had been arguing at his Tama home April 16, 2000, when he killed her with a choke slam. He allegedly hid her body in a bathroom closet until he was able to bury her in a remote location, authorities said.

Purk later reported her missing and told police she had left to buy cigarettes that night and never returned.

Purk was indicted for murder in 2016, and authorities said he gave his account of the killing to a cellmate while serving prison time for a federal drug offense in Leavenworth, Kan.

The defense said there is no evidence to back the cellmate’s statements, and there were sightings of Okonski after April 16, 2000.

This is the second trial on the matter. In May, an Iowa County jury found Purk guilty of first-degree murder, but the conviction was overturned in August by Judge Mitchell Turner who ruled the jury’s verdict was contrary to the evidence.

Purk is currently in the Anamosa State Penitentiary serving a sentence for second-degree theft.

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Police and Courts Reporter

Cops and courts reporter for the Courier

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