Ohio man found guilty of killing 9-months-pregnant wife after he tells cop about her 'suicide' 24 years later
Scott Purk had killed her by putting his knee against the back of her head and yanking a belt wrapped around her neck until she died
STOW, OHIO: In 2009, Scott Purk was a free man who had a loving wife and two teenage children, though he did meet a tragedy in the form of a home that burned down. Just five years later, he was in jail for life for arson, as well as the two-decade-old murder of his first wife, who was pregnant at the time he strangled her to death.
When authorities responded to his Uniondale Road, Stow, home in March 2009 in response to a fire, everyone had all but forgotten about Margaret Purk's 'suicide' in 1985. Nine-months-pregnant at the time, Purk told emergency medical personnel then that he had found her hanging from a rope inside their apartment and tried CPR.
She was rushed to the hospital, and paramedics had been hopeful of saving her as they could still feel the baby kicking inside. But despite their best efforts, she later died, and her death was officially ruled a suicide.
Twenty-four years later, Purk casually mentioned her death to Police Lt. Ken Mifflin even as his home was burning down, a moment that stuck with the officer.
"It's like, 'Why are you bringing this up while your house is burning down?'" he later recalled in an interview. "That case had nothing to do with this so, yeah, that definitely drew suspicion."
Purk was also suspected in the arson of his home and was arrested for it a year later when he set fire to a nearby Berger Avenue duplex in a bid to throw police off his tracks and convince them there was a serial arsonist on the loose. It later emerged he had set fire to his home to collect the insurance money.
"The red flags, in this case, he had packed up his minivan with many different personal sentimental items," Mifflin told Dr Oz while talking about the case. "He had a cookbook that had been with the family for generations, why would you do that? It's because you want to preserve those items, so when you move on with your life, they're not destroyed in a fire. It was just pointed to more and more to that this was an arson."
While detectives were all but convinced about his guilt in the arsons, Purk's out-of-place comments on his wife's death raised enough suspicion that it convinced the Akron police to ask the Summit County Medical Examiner to re-examine her death in 2011.
Summit County Medical Examiner forensic pathologist Dr Dorothy Dean looked at the original photos and reports and immediately noticed they were inconsistent with a hanging. Her body was then exhumed and the injuries showed that the bruising on her neck went straight back, instead of angling up as is the case with the hanging.
"He really thought he was a smart criminal," Mifflin said. "Had he not said anything, had he not told me anything, I would have had no reason to have looked into [Margaret’s death], let alone known that his first wife had died."
Mifflin told Dr Oz that when they looked into Purk further, they found an extensive criminal history that included arrests for at least 10 burglaries of homes and vehicles. He also shared that Purk went by the moniker of "the ninja burglar" for his weird propensity to dress up while committing the crime.
"He liked to dress up as a ninja when he would go in these people's homes, he even watched one woman sleep while he was going through her purse in her bedroom, that was very strange. But he was self-professed, he thought of himself as a ninja," Mifflin said.
Margaret's brother, Mike Metcalf, also appeared on the show and said Purk had always been a bit of a weird one and that he and sister had married in secret without the family's knowledge.
"Scott and I went to school together," Metcalf revealed. "So there had been different things he had done all through high school, they were just very odd. My mom had even tried to talk her out of it, offered her money, just get away from him. Unfortunately, Meg wouldn't listen. There was nothing they could do. We ended up about a week after they got married, that's when we found out they were married."
The brutal details of Margaret's murder were further laid bare in a 2015 trial, where it was revealed that Purk had killed her by putting his knee against the back of her head and yanking a belt he had wrapped around her neck until she died.
He then put a rope around her chest and dragged her to the spot where police found her, an overhang, where Purk claimed she had hung herself. When questioned about the marks, he said it was made by a bra.
Purk, at the time, was already serving a 28-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to charges of attempted aggravated murder, aggravated arson, insurance fraud, disrupting public services, and child endangerment in 2013 in connection to the Stow arsons.
The jury of eight men and four women eventually found him guilty of murder and felony tampering with evidence in Margaret's death, following which he was sentenced to life in prison.