'A complete shock': Family of suspect in Martinko murder releases statement

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -- The family of the man suspected of murdering Michelle Martinko 39 years ago said the arrest came "as a complete shock."

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Jerry Lynn Burns, 64, of Manchester, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder on Wednesday, nearly 40 years after the brutal murder of 18-year-old Michelle Martinko in the parking lot of Westdale Mall on December 19, 1979.

“The charge against Jerry comes as a complete shock to us and we are doing our best to carry on with our lives,” the family said in the statement on Saturday. “During this difficult time and as the justice system runs its course we ask that our privacy be respected.”

Authorities believe Burns stabbed the Kennedy High School senior in the chest and face inside a car parked at Westdale Mall in Cedar Rapids.

Police said they were able to connect Burns to the case with DNA evidence.

Court documents said blood on clothing worn by Martinko and a blood stain on the gear shift of the car, where the teen’s body was discovered, were analyzed and found to belong to someone else.

Investigators used the blood samples to develop a partial male DNA profile. They then used genealogical data as well as a covertly collected DNA sample from Burns to positively identify him, authorities said.

Law enforcement said Burns hasn’t been able to explain why his DNA would be at the crime scene, nor does he remember committing the crime.

“The family of Jerry Burns would like to thank our friends and the Manchester community for the support we have received since Jerry’s arrest,” read the family’s statement. “We would also like to extend our sympathy to the Martinko family.”

Burns is being held at the Linn County jail on a $5 million cash-only bond.