CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa man was on Friday sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole in the 1979 murder of an 18-year-old high school student.
Jerry Burns, 66, of Manchester, was arrested in Dec. 19 2018, 39 years to the day after Michelle Martinko was found dead in her parents’ car outside a shopping mall in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Prosecutors said she was stabbed to death.
Burns was convicted of first-degree murder in February.
Cedar Rapids police used DNA genetic genealogical research to create a group of suspects in the killing that included Burns, according to court records. Investigators said they arrested Burns after DNA taken from a restaurant straw he had used matched the crime scene DNA.
Janelle and John Stonebraker, Martinko’s sister and brother-in-law who live in Florida, told The Cedar Rapids Gazette this week that they are “at peace” after waiting decades for justice.
“We remain so grateful to generations of Cedar Rapids law enforcement that acted like a dog with a bone,” Stonebraker said. “They just would not let it go.”