This is Stephen Schmidt from the Gazette digital news desk and I’m here with your daily update for February 14th, 2020.
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Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. Have a lovely Friday.
The weather will help with that... a little bit. According to the National Weather Service it will still be cold for much of the day in the Cedar Rapids area, but it will also be two other things: sunny and slowly getting warmer. By the time we reach Saturday we will be looking at a high of 40 degrees, a nearly 60 degree swing from the subzero temperatures from early Friday morning.
In Des Moines, majority Senate Republicans approved a resolution Thursday giving Iowa voters a chance to amend the state constitution to say there is no fundamental right to abortion or public funding of the procedure. Republicans say the amendment is a way to right a wrong by what they call “activist” Iowa Supreme Court justices. The move was made after the Iowa Supreme Court in 2018 struck down a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion. The justices established a precedent that also led Republicans to abandon a fetal heartbeat bill they passed a year later.
To amend the Iowa constitution, the joint resolution must pass both the Iowa Senate and the Iowa House in exactly the same form this session and then win support of the 89th Iowa General Assembly, elected this November, before the measure would come before Iowa voters as early as the 2022 general election.
The prosecution continued its case in the Michelle Martinko murder trial Thursday, talking to forensics experts who investigated the crime scene near Westdale Mall 40 years ago. Richard “Dick” White, a former crime scene investigator, testified that he had theorized the person who stabbed Martinko to death in December of 1979 had been using gloves during the crime, and had moved the vehicle afterward. This was significant, because after noticing a glovelike pattern, White gathered blood off the car’s gear shift. This sample was used far later, along with blood gathered from Martinko’s dress, to establish a DNA profile that is believed to be from Martinko’s attacker after he cut himself. Investigators then say they matched this blood to the DNA of Jerry Burns of Manchester, who is accused of the murder.
The trial will resume Friday and is expected to carry on into next week.
A federal investigation at a northwest Cedar Rapids home — where authorities spent roughly 18 hours digging in the backyard on Wednesday — appears connected to the case of James Booher, a Marion man who went missing in 2014 and is presumed dead. The address, 300 Cherry Hill Road NW, is linked to William L. Yancey, one of three people facing charges in connection with the Booher death investigation. Tony Morfitt, public information officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa, confirmed to The Gazette that law enforcement officers were searching the property, but declined to say why.