Jerry Lynn Burns is accused of the 1979 cold case murder of Michelle Martinko in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The Cedar Rapids Police Department said in a statement on December 19 that Burns, 64, of Manchester, Iowa, was arrested at his place of work in the town.
Martinko was found dead of stab wounds on December 19, 1979, in the parking lot of a mall where she had gone shopping for a coat. Her parents reported her missing later that night, her body was found in the early hours of December 20. She was 18 years old.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Burns Is Facing Charges of 1st Degree Murder
Burns is facing charges of first-degree murder and will make his first appearance in Linn County Court on December 20, police said. Burns is being held at Linn County Jail. The reward for information leading to an arrest in Martinko’s murder was $15,000. An hour before announcing Burns’ arrest, police in Cedar Rapids tweeted that there had been a “major development” in Martinko’s murder.
2. Burns’ Wife Died in June 2008
An obituary for Burns’ wife, Patricia, says that she died in June 2008 at the age of 55. The couple was married in April 1975 in Manchester, Iowa, four years before Martinko’s murder. The tribute says that Patricia Burns had three children, one son and two daughters. Her obit says that she enjoyed farming and gardening with her husband.
After her death, authorities described Martinko’s murder as “personal in nature.” Police also said that Martinko had defensive wounds, indicating that she had tried to fight her killer. There had been no signs to indicate the killing had been a sexual assault or robbery. Speaking to KCRG, a classmate of Martinko’s, Elizabeth Laymon, spoke about the day after her friend was killed saying, “We went to school that day and it wasn’t announced. We all kind of found out through classes we were in. I’d sit through classes where people were crying and I didn’t know why, until someone finally told me. The media showed up and then it was real.” Martinko was a senior at Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids.
3. Burns Identity Was Pieced Together Thanks to DNA Technology
Police said in a statement that officers identified Burns as a suspect after DNA technology allowed them to create a composite sketch. In October 2006, DNA information that was retrieved from the crime scene was sent to the Combined DNA Index System, CODIS. No match was made through that system. Police said that they then retrieved a “covert” sample from Burns which was matched to blood from the scene of Martinko’s murder. When questioned by police, officers said that Burns had no explanation as to why his DNA would have been at the scene. Burns denied killing Martinko at the time of his initial questioning.
It was in May 2017 when officers announced that a composite sketch could be made from the DNA recovered.
4. Burns Has Traffic Offenses But No Other Criminal Record in Iowa
Online records show that Burns has no criminal record in Iowa other than minor traffic infractions, reports CBS Iowa. A week before Burns’ arrest, the station described Martinko’s killing as one that “still haunts the Corridor.”
In that report, the lead investigator, Matt Denlinger, said, “I believe that someone in this community knows something about this case. There is someone here who either knows more than they are willing to admit or knows something that they don’t realize is important. We need those people to come forward and give us that information so we can bring closure to this case and to Michelle’s family.”
5. Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman Said Officers Never Gave Up Martinko’s Case
In announcing Burns’ arrest, Cedar Rapids 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.”