Michelle Martinko murder case evidence photos

Rob Riley

Inside the haunting case that baffled investigators for generations and the 38 year trail that led them to her killer.

On December 19, 1979, Michelle Martinko, an 18-year-old high school senior, left her choir banquet and headed to Westdale Mall to pick up a coat her mother had put on layaway.  

Martinko Family Car

Cedar Rapids Police Department

Michelle Martinko was found stabbed to death in this car in the Westdale Mall parking lot. 

Evidence Photo

Cedar Rapids Police Department

Michelle Martinko’s body was found in the front seat of the car. She had been stabbed and cut 29 times.  

Clues on the Car Door

Cedar Rapids Police Department

Investigators found rubber glove impressions on the outside of the car in dirt and inside the car in blood. The killer was able to conceal his identity by wearing gloves.  

Critical Clues

Michelle Martinko evidence
Cedar Rapids Police Department

Blood scrapings found on the gearshift of Michelle Martinko’s Buick were later sent out for testing and results showed male DNA was present.  

Critical Clues

Cedar Rapids Police Department

This is the black dress Michelle Martinko was wearing when she was murdered. Investigators also sent her dress to the lab for testing. A spot of blood on the dress had a full male DNA profile and was consistent with the male DNA profile on the gear shift.  

Andy & Michelle

Michelle Martinko & Andy Seidel
Rob Riley

Andy Seidel and Michelle Martinko dated for two years before breaking up. During the investigation, police learned that Andy ran into Michelle that night at the mall. He was considered a suspect in the case but there was a lack of physical evidence against him. After high school, Andy left Cedar Rapids and joined the Navy. He eventually had his DNA tested and he was cleared. 

Revisiting the Crime Scene

Jamie Yuvccas & Det, Matt Denlinger
CBS News

In 2015, Matt Denlinger, pictured with CBS News correspondent Jamie Yuccas at Westdale Mall, took over as lead detective. He reached out to Virginia’s Parabon NanoLabs.

A “Snapshot”

Parabon NanoLabs

Parabon created a portrait of the potential subject based on the DNA sample. 

Building a Family Tree

CBS News

Parabon was able to find a person whose DNA appeared to be related to the DNA of the suspected killer by searching GedMatch, a public national database of people who sent in their own DNA voluntarily. That relative, Brandy Jennings, lived in Vancouver, Washington. Denlinger spent months building Brandy’s family tree.  

A DNA Link

Brandy Jennings
Brandy Jennings

Brandy Jennings a distant relative to the killer. She is an office manager and single mom.

Zeroing In

Don Burns

Detective Denlinger reached out to Parabon once again and by October 2018, they helped him narrow the search down to three brothers in Iowa. Denlinger and his team collected DNA samples from the brothers, pictured in the back row, without them knowing.

An Exact Match

Parabon NanoLabs/Rob Riley

Jerry Burns’ DNA was an exact match to the DNA at the crime scene. Seen here is a side-by-side of the Parabon Snapshot and a young Jerry Burns.

Questioning Jerry Burns

Jerry Burns
Prosecutor Nick Maybanks/Cedar Rapids Police Department

On December 19, 2018, 39 years after Michelle was murdered, Det. Denlinger interviewed Burns at his business. Denlinger recorded him using a camera that was hidden inside a coffee mug. Burns denied any involvement in the murder of Michelle.  

A Curious Comment

Staci Steinman

Jerry Burns randomly mentioned Jodi Huisentruit during the interview. Huisentruit was a news anchor who was kidnapped near her car in a parking lot in 1995. She worked in Mason City, Iowa, which was two hours away from where Burns lived. She has never been found. Mason City Police will not disclose whether they are investigating Burns in the Huisentruit case and his DNA is not connected to any other cases. 

Jerry Burns Arrested

Jerry Burns

The DNA match was enough to arrest Jerry Burns. In February 2020, 40 years after the murder of Michelle Martinko, Jerry Burns went on trial.

Jerry Burns on Trial

Cold Case Arrest

Jerry Burns of Manchester, Iowa, is led into the courtroom during closing arguments for his trial at the Scott County Courthouse in Davenport, Iowa on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. Burns is charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Michelle Martinko in 1979. 

Michelle Fought for her Life

Rob Riley

Janelle Stonebraker, Michelle’s older sister, believes Michelle played a role in helping solve her own murder by fighting so hard and causing the suspect to cut himself and leave his DNA behind.