MICHELLE MARTINKO

October trial set for Manchester man charged in fatal stabbing of Michelle Martinko

Jerry Burns makes his initial appearance via video at Linn County District Court in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018, after his arrest in the 1979 murder of Michelle Martinko. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Jerry Burns makes his initial appearance via video at Linn County District Court in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018, after his arrest in the 1979 murder of Michelle Martinko. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Trial for a Manchester man, accused of fatally stabbing 18-year-old Michelle Martinko in 1979, is set to begin Oct. 14 in Linn County District Court.

Jerry Lynn Burns, 64, is charged with first-degree murder.

Martinko was found stabbed to death in her family’s Buick on Dec. 19, 1979, in the parking lot of Westdale Mall. The Kennedy High School senior left a school choir banquet that night and drove to the mall to buy a new winter coat.

Her body was found early the next day, according to court records.

Detectives didn’t find a weapon or fingerprints to identify a suspect in the killing, and she wasn’t robbed, according to the criminal complaint. Investigators knew only that the teen was stabbed multiple times and had wounds on her hands, which showed she fought her killer.

A DNA profile was developed from blood found on Martinko’s clothing and on the gear shift of the vehicle, but a suspect hadn’t been matched until last year, when investigators covertly collected DNA from Burns.

Cedar Rapids police had used genetic genealogy to narrow down the profile to a pool of suspects that included Burns.

The technique involves comparing the suspect’s DNA markers with DNA profiles uploaded by the public to a website to help research family trees.

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Burns filed a written plea of not guilty last month. He also waived his right to a speedy trial. He remains in jail on a $5 million cash-only bail.

l Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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