Nearly four decades after an Iranian college student was found naked and stabbed to death under an Iowa bridge, investigators have arrested a 67-year-old convicted sex offender for the brutal murder.
Authorities announced the arrest of Bud Leroy Christensen, a registered sex offender from Nebraska, for the first-degree murder of 27-year-old Firozeh Dehghanpour in a press conference Thursday streamed by local station KETV.
“We are relieved, we are happy, we hope that she is resting in peace after all these years, and hopefully there’s some relief for her family,” the victim’s friend and former neighbor, Naser Alsharif, told The Omaha World Herald of the arrest.
Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber said Dehghanpour had been a student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha when she disappeared from the college campus in 1983.
Her body was later discovered by fishermen under a bridge in Pigeon Creek in nearby Council Bluffs, Iowa.
An autopsy would determine Dehghanpour had been beaten, stabbed in the abdomen and slashed in the throat, according to the local paper.
“Over the next several months, several agencies worked together to try to find Firozeh’s killer. Unfortunately, the case went cold,” Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s investigator Sgt. Jim Doty said during the press conference.
Then in the fall of 2020, one of Firozeh’s friends reached out to investigators with the name of a possible suspect in the case. Investigators were quickly able to rule that person out because he had a “solid alibi” the night of the killing, but they discovered evidence that had been collected at the scene that could benefit from DNA analysis.
The evidence, including a bra, underwear, blouse, notebooks, computer printouts, work glove, prescription glasses, beer can and two pens, had been stored at the sheriff’s office for nearly four decades, according to the local paper.
Investigators sent the items to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation laboratory for DNA testing and learned in March that a blood-stained glove found at the scene contained Dehghanpour’s DNA and that of a male. They were able to match the unidentified DNA to Christensen through the national Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, database, according to an affidavit obtained by the newspaper.
Investigators also found Christensen’s fingerprints on papers that had been found near the body, authorities said.
Crime scene technician Hadley Mikovec said during the press conference that the arrest in the case was made possible because of the significant technological advances in DNA analysis in recent decades.
“I would like to encourage the family and friends of homicide victims to never give up hope and continue to work diligently with law enforcement agencies handling their investigations. Let Firozeh’s case be an example that it is never too late to seek answers,” she said.
Christensen is a registered sex offender in Nebraska, earning lifetime offender status because of three past sex crime convictions. He pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree sexual assault and first-degree false imprisonment in the most recent 2014 case and was later released from prison in May 2018, according to The Omaha World Herald.
Wilber declined to say whether there were any signs of sexual assault in Dehghanpour’s murder or whether he had kidnapped her from the campus, citing his desire to protect the integrity of the prosecution’s case.
However, Doty did say investigators have found “no connection” suggesting Dehghanpour and Christensen had known each other prior to the slaying.
Authorities also said they found no evidence to suggest the Dehghanpour had been killed as part of a hate crime.
Christensen was taken into custody in Omaha on April 30 and “didn’t say a word” to investigators during the arrest, Doty said.
He is currently being held on a $1 million cash-only bond.
Doty delivered the news of the arrest to Dehghanpour’s brother, who is now living in London.
“Anytime you have a tragic crime like this where somebody loses somebody too soon, giving the family answers is the most rewarding part of being able to solve a case,” he said. “I talked to her brother for about an hour on Tuesday and I mean, he was shocked, couldn’t quite process it yet, but to be able to talk to him for about an hour and learn more about her and who she was as a person is what makes all the hard work worth it.”
Dehghanpour's elderly father is living in Tehran and will be contacted by the Iranian government, authorities said.
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