MICHELLE MARTINKO

TV series will spotlight Michelle Martinko murder case on Sunday

Family, investigators, Gazette reporter will be interviewed

Michelle Martinko, Kennedy High School yearbook photo, 1979. She was stabbed to death Dec. 19, 1979. Police found her bo
Michelle Martinko, Kennedy High School yearbook photo, 1979. She was stabbed to death Dec. 19, 1979. Police found her body in her family's Buick in a mall parking lot in Cedar Rapids. Jerry Burns of Manchester, Iowa, was convicted in her killing in February 2020. (Submitted photo)

The investigation into Michelle Martinko’s murder will be featured at 9 p.m. Sunday in the cable TV series “On the Case” with Paula Zahn on the Investigation Discovery channel.

After 39 years, Michelle Martinko’s family finally got answers in 2018 about who killed the 18-year-old in December 1979. On Friday, Jerry Burns of Manchester will be sentenced in her death. The sentencing will be livestreamed on TheGazette.com, and Gazette reporter Trish Mehaffey will cover itlive.

Janelle and John Stonebraker, Martinko’s sister and brother-in-law, are interviewed in the show, along with Mehaffey, who has covered the case since Burns was revealed as a suspect.

The case and Burns’ trial attracted national attention because the cold case was solved after 39 years, due in large part to DNA evidence and genetic genealogy. He was arrested Dec. 19, 2018 — on the anniversary of her death.

Martinko, a Kennedy High School senior, was stabbed to death Dec. 19, 1979. Police found her body in her family’s Buick in a mall parking lot.

WHAT WE KNOW: Key moments in the Michelle Martinko cold case murder investigation

Investigators spent years following several leads that never led to a suspect. But in 2018, Burns was arrested after investigators collected a “covert” DNA sample from him and matched it to blood evidence from the crime scene at the time.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Authorities were able to identify Burns as a possible suspect when the blood found in the car matched the DNA of a distant cousin who had used her DNA to find out about her family’s ancestry.

Cedar Rapids Police Department investigator Matt Denlinger, retired investigator Doug Larison and Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks also will be interviewed on the show.

How to watch

What: “On the Case” with Paula Zahn featuring the Michelle Martinko murder case

When: 9 p.m. Sunday

Where: Investigation Discovery channel, Mediacom channels 205 and 772 (HD), IMON channels 93 and 893 (HD), Dish Network channel 192. It’s also available on other livestreaming services.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.