Manchester Man Arrested in Cedar Rapids Teenager’s 1979 Murder

A Manchester man has been arrested for the murder of a Cedar Rapids teen 39 years ago.

Cedar Rapids Police took 64-year old Jerry Lynn Burns into custody this morning in Manchester. Burns has been charged with first degree murder. He is being held in the Linn County Jail and will appear in district court on Thursday morning.

Michelle Martinko was 18 years old when she was found stabbed to death in the parking lot of Westdale Mall just after 4:00 a.m. on December 20, 1979.

An investigation by the Cedar Rapids Police Department identified Burns as a suspect in the case.

According to a press release from Cedar Rapids Police, it was on December 19, 1979, Michelle Martinko drove her family’s 1972 Buick Electra to Westdale Mall to shop for a winter coat after leaving a school banquet at approximately 6:30 p.m. that evening.  Martinko’s parents reported her missing around 2:00 a.m. on December 20, 1979.  Police found the Buick in the northeast section of the Westdale Mall parking lot shortly after 4:00 a.m.

Cedar Rapids police investigators have continued to work the case over the past 39 years.  On October 2, 2006, cold case investigators announced new evidence, the suspect’s DNA, was developed in the case.  The DNA was uploaded in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a national database that houses DNA profiles developed from crime scenes.  When profiles of convicted offenders are uploaded to the database, CODIS searches its current index system to see if the offender’s DNA matches a profile in an unsolved crime.  Investigators never received a match through CODIS.

Investigators sought the services of Parabon NanoLabs, a company that specializes in DNA phenotyping, the process of predicting physical appearance and ancestry from unidentified DNA evidence.  They produced trait portraits for the associated person of interest.  Predictions were made for ancestry, eye color, hair color, skin color, freckling, and face shape.  The Cedar Rapids Police Department released the composites at a press conference on May 16, 2017.

Since that time, investigators continued to pursue information and Jerry Lynn Burns was identified as a suspect from DNA evidence.  He was questioned today at his place of employment in Manchester and denied committing the offense, but could offer no plausible explanation why his DNA would be found at the crime scene.

The Police Department and Linn County Attorney’s Office will continue to treat this case as an active and ongoing investigation until there is adjudication in court.  Because the case is now in litigation, the Police Department and Linn County Attorney’s Office are unable to provide additional information at this time.  However, they continue to ask for assistance from the public and would encourage anyone with information about the case to contact the Cedar Rapids Police Department.

Police Chief Wayne Jerman said, “Last year, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Michelle Martinko’s sister, Janelle, along with her husband, John Stonebraker.  They were so grateful to the Police Department for continuing to work on this case.  The family never gave up hope that this case would be solved.  Today’s announcement makes it clear that this Police Department and our investigators never gave up on this case either.  I am very appreciative of the work of our investigators and their persistence with this case, including the use of the latest technology that can aid in the investigation regardless of how long ago the violent act occurred.”