[UPDATED] Cedar Rapids Police Make Arrest in 1979 Murder of Michelle Martinko
[UPDATE 12/20 9:40 a.m.] The Linn County Attorney's Office requested a $5 million cash bond for Jerry Lynn Burns this morning at Burns' initial court appearance. District Associate Judge Casey Jones agreed, setting the bond at $5 million, cash only. Jones also set Burns' preliminary hearing for Friday, December 28 at 8:30 a.m.
[ORIGINAL STORY] Thirty-nine years ago tonight, 18-year-old Michelle Martinko was murdered in Cedar Rapids. Tonight, Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden and Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman announced they've made an arrest in the case.
According to a media release from the Cedar Rapids Police Department, Martinko had left a school banquet at around 6:30 p.m. on December 19, 1979, and drove to Westdale Mall to shop for a winter coat. After her parents reported her missing at approximately 2 a.m., Martinko was found dead in the parking lot of Westdale Mall just after 4 a.m. on December 20, 1979. She had been stabbed to death in the 1972 Buick Electra her family owned. Martinko was not robbed or sexually assaulted but had wounds that were consistent with a struggle.
During a 7 p.m. press conference tonight, Police Chief Wayne Jerman announced that a DNA sample developed in 2006 was matched to a "covert" sample taken from 64-year-old Jerry Lynn Burns of Manchester, Iowa. Burns was questioned at his job in Manchester this morning and denied involvement in the case. The media release states, he
Could offer no plausible explanation why his DNA would be found at the crime scene.
Burns was arrested and charged with Murder in the First Degree in Martinko's death. He will make his initial court appearance Thursday morning in Linn County District Court. According to Iowa Courts Online, it appears Burns has only traffic offenses on his record.
The media release from Cedar Rapids Police further explained what led to Burns' arrest:
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.
The murder of the Cedar Rapids Kennedy student terrorized the city for years, and until tonight had gone unsolved. Now, the Linn County Attorney's Office and Cedar Rapids Police Department believe they have their man. A trial will follow and tonight, an entire community hopes this is the beginning of closure for a family that's been waiting for it for a very long time.