From The Gazette

By Trish Mehaffey | Mon., March 09, 2020

Meet the man who was on a mission to solve the Michelle Martinko murder: Cedar Rapids Investigator Matthew Denlinger ‘indispensable’ in cold case

Cedar Rapids police Investigator Matthew Denlinger stands Thursday for a photo in the crime lab at the department’s headquarters in southwest Cedar Rapids. He was lead investigator in the Michelle Martinko murder cold case. Four decades after the killing, suspect Jerry Burns of Manchester was convicted last month of first-degree murder. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — He didn’t start out thinking he was going to solve a cold case murder that haunted Cedar Rapids for 38 years, but he always believed it would happen someday because the victim’s family deserved to know.

Michelle Martinko

Michelle Martinko 

Matthew Denlinger was only 5 when Michelle Martinko, an 18-year-old high school senior, was attacked and stabbed to death Dec. 19, 1979, at the recently opened Westdale Mall. Her body was found the next day in her family’s Buick near J.C. Penney.

As he got older, he learned more about the case because his father, Harvey Denlinger, was a Cedar Rapids police detective at the time. The older Denlinger joined the department in 1970 and by 1979 had been promoted to a detective, now called investigator.

Full Story at The Gazette

Denlinger, who read through every report in Michelle Martinko’s file — about 7,800 pages — realized authorities needed a new plan to narrow down possible suspects. That new plan emerged after Denlinger bought his wife a gift, but it wasn’t without hurdles to overcome.

Jerry Lynn Burns

Jerry Lynn Burns

A jury on Monday, Feb. 24, found Jerry Lynn Burns guilty of premeditated first-degree murder, a case that Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman said has “haunted our community for decades,” the Des Moines Register reported Feb. 24.

“We don’t exactly know the whys and some of the details, but we definitely know who did it, and that was terribly important to us,” Janelle Stonebraker, Michelle Martinko’s older sister, said after the verdict was read. “I wish my parents could be here to see this.”

Martinko’s father, Albert Martinko, died in 1995. His wife, Janet, passed away in 1998.

Full coverage of Michelle Martinko’s slaying, DNA evidence and the 2020 murder trial available at The Des Moines Register and The Cedar Rapids Gazette.

The seven women and five men on the Scott County jury reached the guilty verdict in less than three hours.

We Remember: Upcoming Cold Case Anniversaries

We remember upcoming cold case anniversaries and birthdays the victims would have celebrated.

Jay Grahlman Double Homicide
Jay Grahlman

38 YOA
3755 H Ave. NE
Cedar Rapids, IA
April 5, 2003
Jaymie Grahlman Double Homicide
Jaymie Grahlman

3755 H Ave. NE
Cedar Rapids, IA
April 5, 2003
Ronald Zellmer Ronald Leroy Zellmer
31 YOA
Missing From:
Sioux City, IA
Missing Since:
April 6, 1985
Steven Gardner gravestone Steven Gardner
27 YOA
1037 23rd
Des Moines, IA
Case # 1978-11923
April 8, 1978
Willie Ann Rucker Willie Ann Rucker
Age at Report: 27
Missing From:
Waterloo, IA
Case # W79-3223
April 8, 1979
Cecil Gaddy Cecil Travis Gaddy, 19
315 E. Shaw St.
Osceola, IA
Killed Jan. 31, 2004
Would have celebrated 36th birthday April 8
Ashley Okland Ashley Okland
27 YOA
558 Stone Creek Court
West Des Moines
Polk County
April 8, 2011
Linda Mayfield Linda Mayfield
21 YOA
3320 West Broadway
Council Bluffs, IA
Case # D82-0713
April 9, 1982
Becky Lawless Becky Simpson Lawless
59 YOA
Washington St. & West Mullan Ave.
Waterloo, IA
April 9, 2012

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