A Manchester Man was sentenced to life in prison without parole Friday in the 1979 murder of Cedar Rapids high schooler Michelle Martinko.
Martinko was 18 when she was found stabbed to death in the parking lot of the Westdale Mall. New DNA technology help lead identify Jerry Burns as a suspect in the cold case after decades. Burns was found guilty of first-degree murder in Martinko’s stabbing in February of this year.
Martinko’s brother-in-law, John Stonebraker spoke in a video message played in court before the sentencing — and said the family has made peace with that fact that under state law, Burns cannot be put to death. “He receives a grander mercy from the faceless State of Iowa that Michelle did not. But he will die a little bit every day, and in his long nights to come. And there is some justice in that,” Stonebraker said.
Stonebraker said the life sentence given Burns will help heal his family. “We are cleansed by his absence. And the remaining members of Michelle’s family and loved ones are healed by the knowledge that he will never walk free again,” Stonebraker said.
Burns made a brief statement at the sentencing hearing, maintaining his own innocence. He has 30 days to file an appeal.
(By Kate Payne, Iowa Public Radio)