Cold case: Arrest made in 1983 murder of UNO student from Iran

Published: May. 6, 2021 at 11:14 AM CDT|Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 2:17 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Pottawattamie County authorities on Thursday morning announced the arrest of a man they believe killed a UNO student almost 40 years ago.

Bud Christensen was arrested Friday in Omaha on suspicion of murdering Firozeh Dehghanpour, whose body was found in August 1983 under a bridge near Pigeon Creek in Council Bluffs, authorities said Thursday.

Christensen appeared in front of a judge Thursday morning and was formally charged with first-degree murder and is being held on a $1 million cash-only bond. His preliminary hearing has been set for May 14.

Jeff Theulen, chief deputy with the Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office, said in a news conference Thursday morning that in order to pursue the case, authorities had to get in touch with Dehghanpour’s family in Tehran, Iran, and across 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 PCSO with the case.

“Hopefully, we are starting to define justice for her this morning,” Theulen said Thursday, applauding the efforts of Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s investigators who never gave up on the case.

Dehghanpour was found on August 14, 1983 outside of Council Bluffs by a couple who was fishing. Investigators say her body was found nude, beaten, and with a slashed throat.

She was surrounded by clothing like her bra, underwear, blouse, shoes, and glasses. Also found at the scene were notebooks, computer papers, a beer car, pens, and a work-style left-handed glove.

At the time, known blood samples from Dehghanpour indicated her blood type was O, and blood on the evidence was also Type O. Nine of the items tested positive for Type A human blood as well.

The affidavit report says computer papers from the scene resulted in the finding of four latent prints that were compared to Dehghanpour and the UNO computer consultant who would have printed them. Two of the prints, however, matched neither of the two.

Investigator Sgt. James Doty summarized the process of tracking down Christensen as 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.”

In November of 2020, a friend of Dehghanpour contacted the Sheriff’s Office asking them to take another look at a previous suspect. Investigators did so, but found the person had “a solid alibi that evening.”

While reviewing the case reports, however, “we did find evidence that could benefit from DNA analysis,” Doty said. Investigators sent several samples to the Iowa DCI laboratory for DNA testing.

The affidavit says the left-handed glove had blood on it that was compared to the national DNA database. In March of 2021, investigators were notified that the blood matched Christensen’s DNA. His DNA was in the system for previous sex offenses in Nebraska.

“The probability of finding this profile in a population of unrelated individuals, chosen at random, would be less than one out of 6.1 Octillion,” the affidavit says.

Christensen was contacted in late March by investigators while he was at CHI Immanuel hospital in Omaha. At the time, they served a court order to obtain a saliva and blood sample., which reports say matched the nine items with type A blood that were found at the scene in 1983.

The family was informed of his arrest on Tuesday.

“I talked to her brother for about an hour on Tuesday, and he was shocked, he wasn’t able to quite process it yet,” said Doty. “Being able to talk with him for an hour and learn more about her and who she was as a person is what makes all the hard work worth it.”

HAVE INFORMATION? Though an arrest has been made and it’s been 38 years since Dehghanpour went missing, authorities said that anyone who might have information on the case — or about Dehghanpour or Christensen — should call 712-890-2224; or Crime Stoppers at 712-382-STOP (7867).

Watch Thursday’s news conference

Digital Director Gina Dvorak contributed to this report.

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