Burns to be Sentenced Today in 1979 Cold Case Murder

A Manchester man convicted of murdering a Cedar Rapids teenager forty years ago is scheduled to be sentenced today in Linn County.

A jury found Jerry Burns guilty of First Degree Murder in the death of Michelle Martinko during a trial in February. Martinko was found stabbed to death in her parents’ car at the Westdale Mall parking lot in December 1979. DNA evidence led investigators to arrest Burns in 2018.

Burns faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

Prior to his sentencing, the judge will hear a motion from Burns’ attorney requesting a new trial. His attorney, Leon Spies, claims searches and seizures of Burns’ and his family members’ DNA done in the weeks before Burns’ arrest were unconstitutional. He also says the court should have dismissed statements Burns made to investigators during his arrest. The motion also listed concerns about the jury-building process, instructions given to the jury and testimony from one of the state’s witnesses.

Today’s hearing is set to be held at 1:30 pm. Burns’ sentencing was originally scheduled for April, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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