DNA evidence leads police to the charges Iowa man with 1979 murder of 18-year-old woman

connectVideoDNA evidence leads police to the suspect in the 39-year-old murder

Thirty-nine years to the day that a woman was killed and left in her family car in the parking lot of an Iowa mall, officials announced Wednesday a suspect was arrested in her murder after DNA at the crime scene was examined.

The Cedar Rapids Police Department says Jerry Lynn Burns, 64, was arrested at his job in Manchester after “persistent and determined” the studies that are included in a scientific analysis of DNA for the killing of Michelle Martinko.

“The family never gave up hope that this matter would be resolved,” Cedar Rapids police chief Wayne Jerman said. “Today’s announcement makes clear that this Section of the Police and our investigators never gave up on this case.”


Martinko was 18 when she was found dead in the parking lot of the Cedar Rapid’s Westdale Mall shortly after 4 a.m. on Dec. 20, 1979. The teenager had driven to the mall to shop for a new winter coat from the previous day following a school banquet.

Jerry Lynn Burns was arrested in 1979 killing of Michelle Martinko.

After her parents reported her missing around 2 a.m., the police discovered the teenager’s body in her vehicle about four hours later. The medical examiner’s office said the teen was stabbed at least 8 times and had wounds on her hands showed she fought her killer, according to The Des Moines Register.

Researchers had been working on resolving the matter for decades, and on Oct. 2, 2006, researchers announced new evidence, the suspect, the DNA, was developed in the case.

“The clothing worn by Martinko was later analyzed by the DCI Crime Laboratory and blood was found who did not belong to Martinko,” according to a criminal complaint filed Thursday by the Linn County Attorney’s Office. “A partial male DNA profile is developed on the basis of this bloodstain, and less than one in one hundred billion unrelated individuals would have the same profile.”

The DNA is uploaded into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a national database that houses DNA profiles developed from crime scenes. After not being able to receive a match, the researchers have sought the services of Parabon NanoLabs, a company that specializes in DNA phenotyping.

Cooperation with genetic genealogy has helped law enforcement across the country solving a number of years old cold case murders and rapes.


Parabon recently told Fox News, is intended for crime scene DNA and GEDmatch to identify suspects and persons of interests in 24 cold cases and a cold case, and turned the names over to law enforcement agencies that paid for the research.

The company produced a composite sketch of a connected person of interest, based on the DNA-attribute portraits, and permitted Cedar Rapids Police to release the picture on May 16, 2017.

DNA helps to solve a two-decade-old cold case

After the release of the image, the police said that they are the continuation of information to Jerry Lynn Burns was eventually identified as a suspect from DNA evidence.

“I am very appreciative of the work of our researchers and their perseverance with this case, including the use of the latest technology that can help in the research, regardless of how long ago the violent act occurred,” Kerman said.

Burns, who told the police that he could offer “no credible explanation for why his DNA would be found on the crime scene,” a first appearance on Thursday in Linn County District Court, where he was charged with first-degree murder.

Fox News’ Robert Gearty contributed to this report.

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