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Pottawattamie Co. authorities provide update on arrest in 1983 death of UNO student from Iran

Public asked for more information
Theulen-Wilber.JPG
Posted at 9:05 AM, May 06, 2021

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa. (AP and KMTV) — Authorities have arrested a 67-year-old registered sex offender from Nebraska in the 1983 slaying of an Iranian exchange student. Bud Leroy Christensen is being held in the Douglas County Jail in Omaha awaiting transfer to the Pottawattamie County jail in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on a first-degree murder charge.

He is a suspect in the death of Firozeh Dehghanpour, whose body was found on Aug. 14, 1983, under a bridge north of Council Bluffs.

Dehghanpour was a student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha at the time. An autopsy determined she bled to death from several stab wounds.

Firozeh Dehghanpour
Firozeh Dehghanpour

Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber is asking that anyone with information about the case reach out to the county attorney's office; that might include people who knew the victim or suspect at the time.

Typically, the KMTV newsroom is cautious about publishing a suspect's mugshot. In this case, 3 News Now is publishing Christensen's mugshot because of the law enforcement request for additional information.

Bud Christensen
Leroy Bud Christensen Jr.

In a Thursday morning, press conference Chief Deputy Jeff Theulen said that the sheriff's department keeps older cases open and is always looking for leads.

“We don’t surrender on any victim at any time,” said Theulen.

He said that finding Dehghanpour's surviving family provided several challenges, not the lease of which is the fact that Iran does not have formal diplomatic relations with the United States. Law enforcement officials in the metro area worked with Pakistani embassy in Washington, D.C. which houses an office for the Iranian government. He also said that the Metropolitan Police Service of Greater London worked with Pottawattamie County Sheriff's Investigator, Jim Doty to find the Dehghanpour's brother.

Doty said that he spent an hour on the phone with the brother who was able to reach out to other siblings. They also have an elderly father who is living in Iran.

“Learning about her and who she was as a person makes all the hard work worth it,” said Doty.

After the homicide occurred in 1983 several agencies worked on the case. Evidence was collected and stored. Hadley Mikovec, Pottawattamie County Sheriff Crime Scene Technician said that in Iowa evidence from homicides is stored for 99 years.

Jesse Cox, M.D., Ph.D. is the director of the molecular forensics laboratory and tissue typing laboratory at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. He explains advancements in DNA testing in this extended interview with KMTV 3 News Now Digital Content Manager, Katrina Markel.

In the fall of 2020, a friend of Dehghanpour called the sheriff's office and asked that they review evidence.

“Found some really good pieces of evidence that looked like they may have some value," said Wilber.

That evidence was sent to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) for further analysis and a DNA link to Christiansen was identified.

Wilber said that in Iowa there is one crime lab for the entire state and it isn't possible to send in evidence on every cold case at once.

According to Theulen, crime scene technology has improved significantly since 1983, “The technology that solved this case was not available to those investigators.”

The law enforcement team encouraged other agencies to look through evidence files for cases that might be solved with improved forensic science. This particular investigation involved several agencies in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area, Iowa DCI and international cooperation.

Watch the press conference with Pottawattamie County officials below or on our Facebook page.

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