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Arrest Made in 39-year old cold case Homicide of Michelle Martinko

December 19, 2018
From: Cedar Rapids Police Department , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Released 12/19/2018. 7:15 p.m.

The Cedar Rapids Police Department, with the assistance of the Linn County Attorney's Office, has made an arrest in the homicide of Michelle Martinko. Michelle Martinko, DOB/10-06-1961, age 18 at the time of her death, was found stabbed to death in the parking lot of Westdale Mall just after 4:00 a.m. on December 20, 1979.

An investigation by the Police Department identified a suspect in the case. The suspect, identified as Jerry Lynn Burns, DOB/12-23-1953, age 64, of Manchester, Iowa, was arrested today for the crime of Murder in the First Degree.

Article Photos

Martinko. Michelle Martinko

By way of background information, it was on December 19, 1979, Michelle Martinko drove her family's 1972 Buick Electra to Westdale Mall to shop for a winter coat after leaving a school banquet at approximately 6:30 p.m. that evening. Martinko's parents reported her missing around 2:00 a.m. on December 20, 1979. Police found the Buick in the northeast section of the Westdale Mall parking lot shortly after 4:00 a.m.

Cedar Rapids police investigators have continued to work the case over the past 39 years. On October 2, 2006, cold case investigators announced new evidence, the suspect's DNA, was developed in the case. The DNA was uploaded in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a national database that houses DNA profiles developed from crime scenes. When profiles of convicted offenders are uploaded to the database, CODIS searches its current index system to see if the offender's DNA matches a profile in an unsolved crime. Investigators never received a match through CODIS.

Investigators sought the services of Parabon NanoLabs, a company that specializes in DNA phenotyping, the process of predicting physical appearance and ancestry from unidentified DNA evidence. They produced trait portraits for the associated person of interest. Predictions were made for ancestry, eye color, hair color, skin color, freckling, and face shape. The Cedar Rapids Police Department released the composites at a press conference on May 16, 2017.

Since that time, investigators continued to pursue information and Jerry Lynn Burns was identified as a suspect from DNA evidence. He was questioned today at his place of employment in Manchester and denied committing the offense but could offer no plausible explanation why his DNA would be found at the crime scene.

The Police Department and Linn County Attorney's Office will continue to treat this case as an active and ongoing investigation until there is adjudication in court. Because the case is now in litigation, the Police Department and Linn County Attorney's Office are unable to provide additional information at this time. However, we continue to ask for assistance from the public and would encourage anyone with information about the case to contact the Cedar Rapids Police Department.

Police Chief Wayne Jerman said, "Last year, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Michelle Martinko's sister, Janelle, along with her husband, John Stonebraker. They were so grateful to the Police Department for continuing to work on this case. The family never gave up hope that this case would be solved. Today's announcement makes it clear that this Police Department and our investigators never gave up on this case either. I am very appreciative of the work of our investigators and their persistence with this case, including the use of the latest technology that can aid in the investigation regardless of how long ago the violent act occurred."

Today's arrest and filing of charges against Jerry Lynn Burns was the result of persistent and determined investigative work by the Cedar Rapids Police Department and the results of scientific DNA analysis. The defendant will make his initial appearance tomorrow morning in Linn County District Court and the case will eventually be scheduled for trial.

Disclaimer: Any arrest information included above is based on the legal conclusion that, as with any criminal case, a charge is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.



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