Jerry Lynn Burns is facing first-degree murder charges for the Dec 20, 1979 murder of Michelle Martinko. He is held at the Linn County Jail (Iowa).
Burns has his own company Advanced Coating Concepts in Delaware County, Iowa. It is a powder-coating shop but they are also a Hustler turf equipment dealer.
Burns was married to Patricia Marie Dunkel Burns (May 17, 1953 – June 29, 2008) who passed away June 29, 2008. She was just 55 years old. According to this article, Patricia committed suicide. The couple had been married since April 5, 1975. So when Michelle was murdered, Burns had been married for four years.
According to Patricia’s obituary the couple had three children, one son and two daughters. It also said she enjoyed “quilting, collecting teddy bears, gardening and farming with her husband.” Rest in peace, Patricia.
Another interesting detail: cousin Brian Burns has been missing since Dec 19, 2013. You can read up on his case here.
Authorities found Jerry Lynn Burns by using a composite sketch based on DNA. Remember that in October 2006, DNA from the crime scene was send to Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) but no match was found. With the advanced DNA technology of phenotyping the authorities received a sketch of what the suspect most likely looked like. Then the painstaking search in geneology databases began to find matches.
“With genetic genealogy, an unknown killer’s DNA from a crime scene can be identified through his or her family members, who voluntarily submit their DNA to a genealogy database. This allows police to create a much larger family tree than databases like CODIS.” It is reverse engineering to create a suspect pool and then narrow it down based on all the information.
We need to learn more about the “covert” sample they used from Burns to compare to the DNA found at the crime scene. My guess is that during surveilance they saw Burns discard something, they picked it up, tested it for DNA, and found a match. This is a strategy similar to the one they used with Joseph James DeAngelo, Jr a.k.a the Golden State Killer.
Police did not find any weapon or fingerprints to help identify a suspect in Martinko’s murder. But there was blood. Blood on some of Michelle’s clothes and the gear shift was not her own. “A partial male DNA profile was developed from this blood stain and fewer than one in one hundred billion unrelated individuals would have this same profile.” At this point, Burns has not explained how his blood was found inside the Martinko family car.
Burns, who was 25 years old in 1979, does not seem to have an apparent connection to Michelle Martinko. He was not on the police’s suspect lists at the time of the crime either. “It’s really interesting that Jerry Burns’s name never came up in the investigation,” said Doug Larison, a retired Cedar Rapids police detective who investigated the Martinko case for 10 years ending in 2015.
Burns went to West Delaware High School and was a senior there in 1972. In 1979, Martinko was a senior at Kennedy High School.
Next court appearance
Burns denied killing Michelle Martinko when he appeared by video for his arraignment. He will apply for court-appointed counsel. The judge ordered a $5 million cash bond. The preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec 28, 2018.