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Episode 125: Michelle Martinko Cold Case

On December 20, 1979, 18-year-old Michelle Marie Martinko was found stabbed to death in the family’s 1972 tan Buick in the parking lot of a Cedar Rapids mall. The high school senior had driven to the mall after her school choir banquet to shop for a new winter coat. Police found no weapon or fingerprints to identify; Michelle hadn’t been robbed or raped, and she had no enemies. However, the perpetrator cut himself during the stabbing, leaving blood on Michelle’s clothes and the gear shift knob. This blood was preserved in the police laboratory.        Forty years later, using new technology, Cedar Rapids police created profiles based on the DNA in the blood sample, then used genetic genealogical research to narrow the profile down to a small pool of suspects. One of them was a man named Jerry Burns, whose wife died by suicide in 2008, and whose cousin vanished on Dec. 19, 2013. A Cedar Rapids police officer, following Burns, retrieved a straw he used to drink a can of soda, and used it to retrieve DNA . This, it turned out, matched the DNA in the blood found on Martinko’s dress. Jerry Burns, 65, was arrested in December 2018. On February 24, 2020, he was found guilty of first degree murder.

This episode contains audio from Day 1 of the trial in February 2020. Testifying are four of Michelle Martinko’s school friends, now in their late 50s: Jane Hansen, Jeff White, Martin Miller, and Tracy Price.

Listen to the episode here.