DNA evidence leads to arrest in 1983 cold case murder of UNO student

(Pottawattamie County, IA) -- A convicted sex offender is arrested in connection to the 1983 cold case murder of a University of Nebraska-Omaha foreign exchange student.

On Thursday, the Pottawattamie County Sheriff's Office announced the arrest of 67 year old Bud Christensen. The Sheriff's Office says Christensen was arrested in Omaha on Friday for the murder of Firezeh Dehghanpour. Christensen was extradited to Pottawattamie County where he was formally charged with First Degree Murder. A judge set bail for him at $1 million. A preliminary hearing was also set for May 14.

In August 1983, Dehghanpour's body was found under a bridge near Pigeon Creek, north of Council Bluffs. At that time, investigators believed that the Iranian exchange student was killed somewhere else and had been dumped under the bridge.

Chief Deputy Pottawattamie County Sheriff, Jeff Theulen, said at a Thursday press conference that in order to pursue the case, investigators had to get in touch with Dehghanpour’s family in Tehran and Europe. Authorities in Washington, D.C., and London assisted with those efforts, he said. Omaha Police Department’s homicide unit as well as criminal scientists with the OPD division of criminal investigation also assisted the sheriff's office with the case. “Hopefully, we are starting to define justice for her this morning,” Theulen said, applauding the efforts of Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s investigators who never gave up on the case.

Pottawattamie County Sgt. James Doty, who worked the cold case, explained how Christensen became a suspect. In 1983, investigators in several agencies worked the case for months, but it went cold, Doty said. But the evidence collected then was stored and preserved at the Sheriff’s Office “in case new information ever came to light.”

Then last fall, a friend of the victim contacted the Sheriff’s Office with new information on the case — a name of someone to look into. Investigators did so, but found the person had “a solid alibi that evening.” While reviewing the case reports, however, investigators sent several samples to the Iowa DCI laboratory for DNA testing and got a hit on Christensen in March and began focusing the investigation on him, Doty said.

The family was informed of his arrest on Tuesday, he said.

Investigators say although Christensen has been arrested, they will not stop working the case until he goes to trial. They ask anyone who may have information on the case, or information about Dehghanpour or Christensen, should call 712-890-2224 or Crime Stoppers at 712-382-STOP (7867).

(Photo by the Pottawattamie County Sheriff's Office)

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