DAVENPORT — A former crime scene investigator testified Thursday he determined the suspect who killed Michelle Martinko on Dec. 19, 1979, was wearing gloves before the attack because a “zigzag or chevron” glove pattern was found on the door handle of her car.
Richard “Dick” White, 80, a retired Cedar Rapids police identification officer — now commonly known as crime scene investigator — said he came to that conclusion because he first found the chevron print in blood that was inside Martinko’s family Buick, where her body was found. He purchased a glove with a similar pattern and put ink on it to see if it matched the pattern found in the car — which it did.
White, testifying in the murder trial of Jerry Burns, 66, of Manchester, also concluded that because the bloody glove pattern was found on the gear shift, steering wheel and lights, the car had been driven after the attack on the 18-year-old.
In identifying photos of her car, which was found Dec. 20, 1979, in the lot behind J.C. Penney at the Westdale Mall, he pointed out the Buick was parked outside the lines of the parking spot — “like someone hurriedly” pulled the car in.
Burns, charged with first-degree murder in the cold-case killing, has denied killing Martinko and said he didn’t know how his DNA was found on the back of her dress and on the gear shift of her car.
The trial started Monday in Scott County District Court, but testimony just began Wednesday. The trial was moved out of Linn County because of pretrial publicity.
Gazette reporter Trish Mehaffey will continue her live coverage from the courtroom Friday on thegazette.com. The trial is expected to continue through next week.
White also told jurors how Martinko’s body was found in the car.
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When he was called to the scene about 4 a.m. Dec. 20, the left rear door was the only one unlocked. He initially looked for fingerprints on the doors and windows, but didn’t find any.
The teen’s body was found on the floorboard of the front passenger side, White said. Her legs were facing the steering wheel and her knees were under the dash. Her upper torso was leaning back against the seat.
The teen was wearing a rabbit fur coat, black dress, pantyhose and heels — the same outfit witnesses testified she was wearing Dec. 19, 1979, at a Kennedy High School choir banquet and later at the mall.
White said he could see stab wounds to her chest. There was blood all over the front seat, dashboard, windows and passenger side door.
The blood on the steering wheel, gear shift, lights and turn signal switches also had fibers from the rabbit fur coat mixed with it, White said. He used a razor blade to scrape blood from the gear shift and placed it in a sealed envelope, along with the razor blade for evidence. He said that was normal procedure at the time.
That collection of blood from the gear shift and blood later found on Martinko’s dress was eventually tied to a suspected killer. Authorities said a public genealogy database, GEDmatch, led to Burns being identified as a match through DNA profiles.
Defense attorney Leon Spies, during cross examination, questioned the collection of evidence and cast doubt on whether proper procedures were followed to not disturb or contaminate the crime scene. He also questioned how the black dress, which was displayed Thursday in court, was handled to preserve evidence.
White said he followed the procedures deemed proper at the time.
James F. Kidwell, 78, of Atkins, a former identification lieutenant with the Cedar Rapids department in 1979, testified that the dress was sent to the FBI crime lab in Washington, D.C. He said the department took efforts to make sure everything was documented and the dress was returned to the department and put in the secured evidence section.
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Spies, again on cross, also questioned if poor police procedures were used to pack multiple items of the evidence in one package.
Kidwell said if each item is secure, it doesn’t affect it to put it all in one main package.
Retired Dr. Richard Fiester, a Cedar Rapids pathologist, also testified about the autopsy he conducted Dec. 20, 1979, on Martinko.
He said she had 29 “sharp edge” wounds on her body. The fatal stab wound was to the sternum, which penetrated her aorta. She bled to death. She also had six stab wounds to her lungs and slice or slash wounds to the face.
She sustained slice wounds to her arms and hands as she tried to fight her attacker, he testified.
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