CEDAR RAPIDS – Bond was set at $5 million for a Manchester man arrested Wednesday in a 39-year-old cold-case murder.
Cedar Rapids police arrested Jerry Lynn Burns, now 64, for first-degree murder in the December 1979 slaying of 18-year-old Michelle Martinko in Cedar Rapids after linking him to blood found at the scene.
The cash-only bond was set during a Thursday morning initial appearance in Linn County District Court in Cedar Rapids. Under the order, Burns would be subject to supervision that could include electronic monitoring and home detention should he post bond.
A district associate judge also set a Dec. 28 preliminary hearing pending the filing of a trial information in the case.
Martinko was found stabbed to death in a car in the Westdale Mall parking lot Dec. 20, 1979. Authorities said they never gave up on the case.
Police say Martinko drove her family’s 1972 Buick Electra to the mall Dec. 19, 1979, to shop for a winter coat after leaving a school banquet at approximately 6:30 p.m. Martinko’s parents reported her missing around 2 a.m. Dec. 20, 1979. Police found the Buick in the northeast section of the Westdale Mall lot shortly after 4 a.m.
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According to court records, investigators determined blood found on Martinko’s clothing and on the gear shift knob of her vehicle wasn’t hers.
Cedar Rapids police investigators continued to work the case over the years. On Oct. 2, 2006, cold case investigators announced they had new evidence, a suspect’s DNA. 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 index system to see if the offender’s DNA matches a profile in an unsolved crime. Investigators never received a match through CODIS.
Investigators said they 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 collected “covertly,” court records state. He was questioned Wednesday 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.
Authorities released no further information, but encouraged 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.”