Blood evidence at forefront of Iowa cold case murder trial

Blood evidence at forefront of Iowa cold case murder trial
FILE - In a Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020 file photo, Jerry Burns enters the courtroom during the continuation of a suppression hearing for evidence in the case of Burns of Manchester at the Linn County Courthouse in Cedar Rapids. Burns is accused of murdering Michelle Martinko in 1979. Judge Fae Hoover Grinde has barred from trial evidence that Burns searched the internet in the past few years for stories about assault, rape and murder. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette via AP, File)

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — A prosecutor told jurors on the opening day of a cold case murder trial that they were going on a journey back in time to learn about an Iowa high school girl who was slain more than 40 years ago.

Testimony began Wednesday in the trial of Jerry Burns, 66, of Manchester, Iowa. He’s accused of fatally stabbing 18-year-old Michelle Martinko on Dec. 19, 1979, in Cedar Rapids. Her body was found the next day inside her family’s car at a Cedar Rapids mall.

In his opening statement, prosecutor Nick Maybanks revealed a few more details about the crime. Martinko had been stabbed several times. Her lungs and aorta were pierced and she lost about a third of her blood, Maybanks said.

Blood found on Martinko’s dress showed her killer had been cut as well, Maybanks said.

Court documents say investigators created DNA profiles from the blood found at the scene. Cedar Rapids police then used DNA genetic genealogical research to create a specific pool of suspects, which included Burns. Investigators have said they arrested Burns after DNA taken a restaurant straw he’d discarded matched the crime scene DNA.

Defense attorney Leon Spies said DNA doesn’t tell the whole story. Evidence will show Burns isn’t guilty of first-degree murder, he told jurors.

Cedar Rapids resident Tracy Price took the stand and said he’d known Martinko since elementary school. He and three friends were going to see a movie, “The Jerk,” that night but first went to the mall about 7 p.m. They ran into Martinko, who told them she was there to pick up a coat she’d bought.

The trial was moved to Scott County District Court in Davenport because of pretrial publicity in Cedar Rapids.

Testimony was expected to continue Thursday.