Exactly 39-years to the day of her death, authorities announced an arrest in a murder cold case of an Iowa high school student.
Authorities announced Dec. 19 they have arrested Jerry Lynn Burns, 64, of Manchester, for the murder of Michelle Martinko. Martinko, born Oct. 6, 1961, was 18 at the time of her death.
According to court documents, Martinko was last seen alive at the Westdale Mall in Cedar Rapids on Dec. 19, 1979. The following day, authorities found her dead in her parents’ vehicle parked at the Westdale Mall.
Martinko drove her family’s Buick to the mall to shop for a winter coat after leaving a school banquet that evening, a press release states. Martinko’s parents reported her missing around 2 a.m. the following morning. Martinko’s vehicle was found at approximately 4 a.m.
Martinko suffered multiple stab wounds and later analysis of her clothing found blood that did not belong to her.
Authorities say a partial male DNA profile was developed from the stain and “fewer than one-in-one-hundred-billion unrelated individuals would have this same profile,” documents state.
Another male blood sample was recovered from the gearshift knob of the vehicle where Martinko was found.
In October 2006, cold case investigators announced the recovery of the DNA and indexed the results into a national database.
“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,” the release states. “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.”
Cedar Rapids Police utilized DNA genetic genealogical research to narrow the profile down to a specific pool of suspects, court documents state, and that pool included Burns.
Police “collected covert DNA from the defendant which was sent to the DCI Crime Laboratory for analysis,” documents state. The DNA that was “covertly collected” was a match to both the blood found on Martinko and in the vehicle.
Authorities say they interviewed Burns at his place of employment Dec. 19, where he initially denied being present at the crime scene the night the murder took place. Burns ultimately claimed he did not have any recollection of committing the murder and could not offer any plausible explanations as to why his DNA would be found at the crime scene, documents state.
The Cedar Rapids P.D. and Linn County Attorney’s Office will continue to treat this case as active and ongoing, the release states, and while they will not be releasing any additional information, they are asking anyone from the public with information to contact them.
Burns is being held on a $5,000,000-cash-only bond after his initial hearing. Another court appearance is scheduled for Dec. 28 at 8:30 a.m.