Investigators show initial interrogation of Jerry Burns during trial testimony

Jerry Burns receives and reviews a warrant from the Cedar Rapids Police Department for a sample...
Jerry Burns receives and reviews a warrant from the Cedar Rapids Police Department for a sample of his DNA on Dec. 19, 2018. On Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, the video of Burns' initial interview with police was played during Burns' first-degree murder trial. Burns has pleaded not guilty. (Pool)(KCRG)
Published: Feb. 18, 2020 at 7:38 PM CST
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For the first time in two weeks, a courtroom heard directly from the man accused of murder nearly four decades after it allegedly occurred.

It is the second week of testimony in the first-degree murder case for 66-year-old Jerry Burns. Burns is accused of killing then 18-year-old Michelle Martinko in December 1979. On Tuesday, prosecutors played the video of his initial interview with police prior to his arrest on December 19, 2018.

In past court appearances, as recently as an evidence suppression hearing in January, we had only heard excerpts read from a transcript of the initial interview with Jerry Burns and investigators. That video was finally played in court Tuesday.

Investigator Matthew Denlinger, with the Cedar Rapids Police Department, returned to the witness stand. He was the officer in the video that can be heard questioning Burns prior to his arrest.

"We're following up on an old case, I don't know if you've heard it in the news at all, it's a homicide that happened at Westdale Mall," Denlinger said at the time.

During the testimony from Investigator Matthew Denlinger, he recalled his interview of Burns, only to be backed up by the video of it. In a portion of the interview, Burns reviewed computer-generated images using his DNA from 2017.

"Boy, it looks a lot different than I look in the mirror," Burns responded.

Minutes later, Burns was handed a warrant to acquire a sample of his DNA. Investigators then said they already knew what the results would show: a connection to Burns, and the scene in Cedar Rapids where Martinko died.

"The reality is we're not here on a whim," Denlinger said in the video. "We're here to confirm what we already know. I already collected some DNA from you that you got rid of before. And so I'm telling you, Jerry, I already know that you're DNA is gonna match the DNA that we have on file... People get rid of stuff all the time, just throw it away. But I think that's kind of irrelevant to what we're talking about here."

Portions of that initial interview with Burns were suppressed from this trial, but what remained left investigators confident in their results.

"What I don't believe is that you don't remember being there that night," Denlinger said. "And I'm starting to feel like your reluctance to explain why you were there."

"If I was there I don't know," Burns replied. "As far as I know, I was not there."

And Burns denying or doubting everything the investigators said.

"How would we get your DNA at the crime scene there, Jerry?" Denlinger asked Burns.

"I don't know, test it and see if it is," Burns replied.

"No, no, no, we did," Denlinger said. "How would it be there Jerry?"

"I don't know," Burns said.

Cedar Rapids Police arrested Burns at the end of the interview on December 19th, 2018 on the 39th anniversary of Martinko's death.

Proceedings are expected to resume Wednesday, February 18, at the Scott County Courthouse starting at 9:00 a.m.