Police chief believes DNA 'snapshots' were money well spent

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -- Does it look like him? That's what eastern Iowans have been asking each other since Wednesday night, comparing a DNA composite sketch to Michelle Martinko's alleged killer.

The images produced by Parabon-NanoLabs are called "Snapshots." And based on the genetic information from the killer's DNA first isolated from evidence in 2006 police are looking for a fair-skinned male with blond hair and blue or green eyes.

That morning police arrested 64-year-old Jerry Lynn Burns of Manchester. He faces a first-degree murder charge after investigators say they found his blood at the crime scene.

Authorities believe Burns stabbed 18-year-old Martinko in the chest and face on the night of December 19th, 1979. The attack on the Kennedy High School senior happened in the parking lot of Westdale Mall in Cedar Rapids.

Before police identified Burns as a suspect, they turned blood samples they found at the murder scene over to a Virginia company. The company made composite images based on DNA.

Comparing them to what Jerry Burns looks like has generated mixed opinions. Some say Burns is a dead ringer. Others say not so much.

The cost of the renderings was a little more than $5,000. Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman says he'd definitely spend the money again. He says the composites generated hundreds of tips for the nearly 40-year-old cold case.

“I can say that the tips that were received-- the investigators of the cold case unit worked through those tips,” said Jerman. “If they were deemed to not be part of the case, they moved on to the next tip. All the tips that were received were verified and treated accordingly.”

Jerman said he couldn't say more about how investigators identified Burns. But the chief said those details will likely come out in court.