Sentencing bumped to August for Manchester man convicted of killing teen Michelle Martinko

Jerry Burns of Manchester is led into a Scott County courtroom Feb. 24 during his first-degree murder trial. A jury foun
Jerry Burns of Manchester is led into a Scott County courtroom Feb. 24 during his first-degree murder trial. A jury found him guilty in the December 1979 stabbing death of Michelle Martinko in Cedar Rapids. A judge has reset Burns’ sentencing to Aug. 7 in Linn County when coronavirus social-distancing guidelines may be relaxed enough to allow families and friends to be in the courtroom. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A judge has again reset the sentencing for a Manchester man convicted in February of fatally stabbing 18-year-old Michelle Martinko in 1979.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Fae Hoover reset the sentencing of Jerry Burns, 66, to Aug. 7 in Linn County District Court.

Hoover said in her order, filed last week, that she was delaying sentencing because of restrictions limiting the number of people in group gatherings and to “accommodate the rights of Burns, the public and the press.”

Burns was convicted by jury of first-degree-murder and faces life in prison without parole.

The Iowa Supreme Court recently ordered all trials reset to after July, given coronavirus restrictions.

In sentencings a prosecutor, defense lawyer or defendant can request to appear remotely.

Judges have the discretion to delay hearings in cases involving serious crimes or ones involving victims, to allow victims, victims’ families and a defendant’s family to attend hearings in person.

Burns’ trial attracted national attention because the “cold case” was solved after nearly 40 years, due in large part to DNA evidence and genetic genealogy.

His sentencing is expected to draw a crowd to the courtroom.

Burns’ two-week trial was moved to Scott County because of pretrial publicity. A jury deliberated less than three hours Feb. 24 before finding him guilty of killing Martinko on Dec. 19, 1979.


Martinko’s body was found in her parents’ Buick, which was parked near J.C. Penney at Westdale Mall in Cedar Rapids. She went to the mall to get a coat her mother had put on layaway.

The teen was stabbed 29 times, according to testimony. A pathologist said the fatal stab wound was to her heart and that she bled to death.

A public genealogy database, GEDmatch, helped authorities identify Burns as a match to the DNA found on the back of Martinko’s black dress and the car gearshift.

Burns was arrested Dec. 19, 2018 — on the 39th anniversary of her death.

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

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