Jerry Lynn Burns: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Jerry Lynn Burns

Cedar Rapids Police Department Jerry Lynn Burns' mugshot.

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

Michelle Martinko Cold CaseYOUR DESCRIPTION HAS REACHED THE LIMIT OF CHARACTERS ALLOWED AND WAS CUT. CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) — It is the cold case murder that‚„s haunted the Cedar Rapids area for 35 years. On the night of December 19th, 1979 someone killed 18-year-old Michelle Martinko inside her car in the parking lot at the new Westdale Mall. It was the height of the Christmas shopping season. This week her sister Janelle and brother-in-law John are making a plea for those who know the truth about what happened to come forward and contact police. Janelle says the pain inflicted on her family over the decades is almost impossible to describe. Early on the morning of the 20th her mother phoned and could barely get out the words, ‚“Michelle‚„s been murdered.‚ The teen, popular in music, dance and drama at Kennedy High School stopped at Westdale to shop for a new coat. Friends saw her there at 8:00pm, but by 10:30 she hadn‚„t come home. Police found her dead in her car, in the middle of the parking lot at 4:00am. Janelle says the savage nature of the attack made it appear very personal, like someone in a jealous rage, ‚“ It was brutal, a violent struggle in that car. The police said that she was stabbed 19 times, in the face, in the chest, with defensive wounds on her hands. ‚“ At the time, even in an era of investigation before DNA testing, police seemed confident the killer would quickly be caught. But inside the car they found no signs of fingerprints, no murder weapon and no motive, money was still in Michelle‚„s purse. John says he‚„s gone over the facts of the case in his head thousands of times, ‚“ The hardest thing is the lack of any reason. If you‚„re killed in a war, if you‚„re killed in an automobile accident you can go back and explain the reason or understand, but here there just is no reason.‚ Janelle says the killer seemed to only have one goal, ‚“ They didn‚„t want here money, they didn‚„t want her sexually, they just wanted to end her life .. and that was just not something we could understand. ‚“ The Martinko family held funeral services for Michelle and then waited as police conducted their investigation and days turned to weeks, then turned to months. The violent crime scared some people so much they didn‚„t go out at night. Rumors ran wild about who might be responsible, a jilted boy, a relative, a teacher, even a jealous girl. Janelle says that theory was only strengthened by cruel phone calls to Michelle‚„s parents, ‚“ Girls would call, at Christmas time .. is Michelle there, can I talk to Michelle? Well no, Michelle is dead. Then they would laugh .. ha ha ha ha. ‚“ Police focused on a boy Michelle once dated. John says all the pieces seemed to fit, ‚“ He was at Westdale Mall that night and ran into her in the hallway and they had words. ‚“ Police would later clear the boy of any involvement. Investigators say in the violent frenzy inside the car, the killer apparently stabbed himself and likely had a large gash. DNA testing in recent years on the blood left behind has cleared more than 70 people that Michelle knew and thousands more in prison databases all across the country. For Janelle and John even after 35 years the emotions are raw and the pain does not completely go away. Michelle‚„s mother and father both passed away never knowing the truth. Janelle says the heartbreak of losing their youngest daughter literally killed them, ‚“ My mother just didn‚„t go out of the house anymore. She didn‚„t want to talk to people and was ter2014-12-26T05:58:04.000Z

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

The Mystery of Michelle Martinko: The Story Behind the Facebook PageIn this video, I interviewed Robert Riley, one of the administrators for the Michelle Martinko Cold Case 1979 Facebook page. Stills of news coverage comes from Fox 28 and KCRG. Photos are courtesy of Robert Riley. Music is courtesy of FesliyanStudios.2017-12-06T03:44:53.000Z

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

RAW: Exclusive Interview with Michelle Martinko%CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) – It's the cold case murder that's haunted Cedar Rapids for 35 years. This week in 1979 someone killed Michelle Martinko at Westdale Mall. Her family shares the story you've never heard and pleads for your help.2014-12-17T04:45:03.000Z

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.”

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