103 Responses to Michelle Martinko

  1. Stay Strong says:

    In case anyone is interested, Dateline produced an hour long segment on the Michelle Martinko case.

    You should be able to go to NBC.com and identify your cable / streaming service provider and view the show. It’s called “And then there were three”.

  2. Stay Strong, Fight For Justice says:

    I thought some may be interested that On The Case With Paula Zahn on Investigation Discovery (ID) network premiered a segment yesterday on the Michelle Martinko case.

    The ID network is carried by most television providers or directly on the ID Network website (will need to input your television provider). The segment called “”A Test of Patience” should be searchable and viewable at any point here.

    Upcoming segments will be produced and aired by 48 Hours and Dateline in a yet to be announced date and time.

  3. Stay Strong, Keep Fighting For Justice! says:

    GUILTY!!! – of premeditated murder in the first degree. Mandatory life in prison without the possibility of parole. Held without bond until formal sentencing in 6 weeks. He’ll never see the light of day again.

    Jury was out only 3-4 hours.

    • MikeD says:

      I’m happy her family finally has closure. His attack appears to have been random, or at least he had a type. With his mention of Jodi Huisentruit during questioning I think it would be worth it for Jodi’s investigators to look into Jerry Burns a little. Did he own a white van in 1995? Did his work ever take him to Mason City? Manchester where he lived is only a 2 hour drive to Mason City where Jodi was abducted. Jodi did work for KGAN prior to moving to Mason City and that station has Manchester in it’s viewing area. Just something to think about.

      • Stay Strong, Keep Fighting For Justice! says:

        Agreed, definitely worth looking into. I think he mentioned her twice – initial interview and in the transport video but I may not be remembering that correctly.

        I too am very happy for her sister especially, the only of the immediate family left.

  4. Stay Strong, Keep Fighting For Justice! says:

    At the risk of being totally obnoxious posting about this trial; the prosecution rested this morning. The defense offered the customary request to acquit / dismiss the case based on the prosecution did not prove their case. The judge of course denied that request.

    The prosecution has done a masterful job of establishing the type of person Michelle was, the integrity of the chain of evidence custody, the pathology of the fatal wounds, the DNA content/process/integrity/results, and the integrity of the arrest and suspicious comments & behavior of Jerry Burns during questioning/arrest/transport to the jail/jail cell activity.

    1 in 100 billion (22.7 times the world population in 1979, the time of the crime) were the DNA results matching Jerry Burns to blood on Michelle’s dress.

    He’s toast.

    • MikeD says:

      I understand the defense’s strategy, but I don’t like it. They have focused on evidence potentially being damaged during the flood of 2008, even though the the DNA was tested and profiled multiple times prior to the flood. Also they have focused on the idea of secondary DNA transfer as being something that can happen. They leave out the parts that point out that secondary DNA transfer is usually from someone else at the scene or by an investigator. It’s not likely that some random guy from Manchester Iowa, with a clean record, is going to have this DNA available in labs or the evidence storage room in order to contaminate not one, but two separate pieces of evidence. Jerry Burns wasn’t one of the investigators. Side note: It’s even more obvious now why the defense didn’t want Jerry’s search engine history as evidence. For those who don’t know, the computer from Jerry’s office had searches for internet porn showing blonde women sexually assaulted and killed. It’s as if he had an itch to scratch right? That being said, I understand why it wasn’t allowed as evidence because apparently on occasion other employees would use his office computer. There was no 100% proof it was him doing the searches even though it connects the dots really well. Anyway, blood DNA on the gear shift and DNA on the dress that matches Jerry Burns. I hope this jury is smart.

      • Stay Strong, Keep Fighting For Justice! says:

        I presume Prosecutor Maybanks (who coincidentally went to the same high school as me) will cut through the irrelevant noise that the defense has raised in his closing arguments tomorrow.

        I’m optimistic the jury will do the right thing.

  5. Stay Strong, Keep Fighting For Justice! says:

    For those unaware; the trial of Jerry Burns, as the accused in the viscous assault and murder of Michelle Martinko, began with judge, attorneys, and court administration calibration on Mon 2.10.20, jury selection on Tue 2.11.20, and opening remarks and testimony occurring on Wed 2.12.20.

    Testimony began with friends and acquaintances who saw Michelle that night who saw her at a HS school banquet at Sheraton Hotel & Westdale Mall (in close proximity of each other) in Cedar Rapids. Testimony involved establishing Michelle’s high quality character as a person and timeline of her movements that night – especially when she left the mall and later would have met ultimately her demise.

    The second day of testimony established the investigation and evidence collection process & procedures involving accounts from the investigating officers and detectives from the Cedar Rapids Police Department as well as the autopsy results.

    The third day of testimony involved the integrity of the chain of custody and explanation of the DNA processes and findings in this case – including the 1 in 100 billion (there were about 4.4 billion people on the entire planet of earth in 1979, the year of the offense) unique DNA identification of the accused, Jerry Burns.

    Testimony resumes on Mon 2.18.20.

    • MikeD says:

      It’s been interesting to see the defense start to try to push the idea that maybe the evidence had been contaminated with Jerry Burns DNA sometime since 1979, even though there doesn’t seem to have been any mishandling of the evidence. No evidence of mishandling so far, and no evidence of any situation where Jerry Burns’s blood would have been in a position to contaminate specific pieces of evidence like the gear shift.

      • Stay Strong, Keep Fighting For Justice! says:

        Indeed it has. It’s about the defense’s only play – argue contamination of the DNA evidence as the prosecutors have & will further establish that the DNA is definitively Jerry Burns. They scored a couple of minor points but nothing material from what i can tell.

        To your point, the prosecution has done a great job linking the integrity of the chain of custody for the dress and gear shift selector from collection to check in / out of the CRPD secured evidence room to hand off / receipt from the DCI lab for analysis and back to the CRPD.

        I really thought the two DCI analysts in particular – Mike Peterson & Linda Sawer were very effective in explaining the DNA content, processes & findings in layman’s terms that the jury can understand.

        • MikeD says:

          Linda Sawer in particular did amazingly well. One interesting observation I noticed is that on Day 2 the defense made it a point to get Dr Richard Fiester to mention that the vaginal swabs taken during the autopsy had no signs of sperm or seminal fluid. Then on Day 3 Linda Sawer mentioned there was microscopic amounts of sperm and seminal fluid present on Michelle’s panties, but not enough for analysis unfortunately. I’ve always had the theory that it was sexually motivated, but location, time, and the way the situation played out may have spooked the murder. Many men precum / “get wet” in excitement so maybe its possible that he exposed her panties and stopped. If not, I guess its possible she was wearing those panties previously for some sort of sexual encounter and they weren’t 100% clean? I guess it’s really only relevant if there was enough to do DNA analysis on. You said “Testimony resumes on Mon 2.18.20” but Monday is the 17th. Do they resume on Tuesday?

          • Stay Strong, Keep Fighting For Justice! says:

            Sorry I just picked this up. I typed the date incorrectly. The trial resumed on Mon 2.17.20 at 9:00am. Apologies for the confusion.

            Linda Sawer was indeed awesome. I could see where your theory regarding the sperm is possible.

            I’ve always had an interest in this case in particular as I grew up on the SW side of Cedar Rapids near Westdale Mall & the Sheraton Hotel. Been to both places many times – in particular the Westdale Mall.

            Anybody can watch the trial on Law and Crime network stream either live or archived via You Tube incidentally,

  6. Kim says:

    Recent article in the Gazette about how the police obtained the DNA from Jerry Burns to solve this case. Kind of interesting what the search warrant on his browser history also revealed.


  7. DT46 says:

    I’m just glad that with today’s advanced technology the police are able to crack cold cases such as these from so long ago. A century ago, and perhaps even as late as Martinko’s death year of 1979, I don’t know if cops anywhere on Earth could EVER have brought a killer to justice after so many years.

  8. Sarah Rushton says:

    One day short of 39 years later, an arrest has been made. Does anyone know a motive, or if he knew her?

  9. Stay Strong, Keep Fighting For Justice! says:

    Many of us will be interested in more details and the connection, if any, between Burns and Martinko.

    As a CR native about the same age as Martinko, this one has always bothered me. Very happy to learn of this occurrence.

  10. Kim says:

    After 39 years, an arrest has been made in Michelle’s case:

    My hat’s off to the investigators who never gave up on finding Michelle’s killer. My prayers to her family and friends, who also never gave up and worked to keep Michelle’s memory and her case alive over the years.

    • Jody Ewing says:

      Kim, I tip my hat as well to the investigators who never gave up on solving Michelle’s case. Det. Doug Larison spent endless hours (years) reviewing evidence, and when Investigator Matt Denlinger picked up the case, he stayed the course and remained as steadfast as Larison.

      There were many others, of course, who shouldered this case over nearly four decades, but in the end, the investigators’ commitment and cooperation between law enforcement agencies combined with advances in DNA technology carried it home. It’s been a great day for Cedar Rapids police and for Iowans.

  11. Chuck says:

    Yeah Michelle finally some JUSTICE rest in peace friend.


    We have a cold case here in VA BEACH VIRGINA IN 1986 OF ROBERTA WALLS, 22 YRS. also stabbed to death they also did a SNAPSHOT DNA and it looks remarkably like THE MARTINKO SNAPSHOT , something ,coincidence or are these snap shots kind of generic molds? Articles in VIRGINIA PILOT 11/29/17-11/30/17.

  13. Kim says:

    KWWL had a story about the tips they’ve received since releasing the images of the suspect in Michelle’s murder:

  14. Chuck says:

    The other killed his mom in Marion in 2007 and also went to school with Michelle and killed himself in jail shortly after. I’m sure you guys have checked all this out. Just hoping you might have missed something.

  15. Chuck says:

    There is at least one student a year behind Michelle that I wondered if he was tested he does not match your picture but is now in prison and was arrested shortly after her death which may have let him slip under the radar. He also went to junior high with her and was arrested for kidnapping and sexual assault. This girl was kidnapped at knife point at a mall in Cedar Rapid,taken to a seclude place and assaulted..Don’t want to say his name on this site though, for his family”s sake in case he is not involved at all.This may be enough info for the detectives to figure out who I am speaking of.

  16. Chuck says:

    Just wondering how many students at Kennedy were tested and cleared then and now.

  17. T. Anderson says:

    Could the killer have been a family member? In the new sketch, the suspect has similar features of Michelle Martinko.

  18. Kim says:

    The CRPD held a news conference today regarding a new composite sketch of a possible suspect that they’ve been able to develop from the DNA found in 2006:
    And an interview with one of Michelle’s friends and Michelle’s sister:

  19. Janet L Schminkey says:

    Shortly after the sketch of the suspect with the dark afro like hair, came out in the gazette, I saw a similar man in a car beside me at a stop light in town. I had to take my husband (at the time) to the Linn Co. jail to serve a couple days for a OWI. It was not till I got to the stop light on Oakland Rd. and 32nd St. NE that I noticed a car had been following me closely. I looked over at the car and saw this man with the dark curly hair and it scared me after seeing the sketch. I was heading back home to Center Point and he followed me the whole way there and on my tail. I was in Center Point and turned off to head home when I decided it wasn’t safe since no one was there so I sped to my parents house a few blocks away and thank God there were 2 cars in the driveway. This guy turned around in a driveway a few houses down and drove back past my parents house very slow. It was a older big 4 door, tan colored car with no license plates. When I calmed down I called the PD dept. but they didn’t ask anything further. Had I stopped at my house, hard telling what this guy would have done because he was so determined.

  20. CHAD LYNCH from NORFOLK VA says:

    RJR sounds like your connected! Keep cracking away you maybe the one who turns this case! Andrea/RJR I will contribute financially also if it will help?

    • Robert J. Riley says:

      Chad -thanks for the kind offer—we did get a reply form CRPd that they have thought of this before-however, there is no way these geneology companies will take a blind sample from a law enforcement agency and run it against their database—it would be nice if they would…..but still plugging away with leads, etc….

  21. Kim says:

    @hikerbikermike: In early articles about the case, police said they weren’t ruling out the possibility that a woman was somehow involved. The number of stab wounds and the location of them definitely indicate the killing was personal in nature.

    @Chad Lynch (answering questions by number): #1&2: The police found the money still in Michelle’s wallet, plus she was still wearing all her jewlery, so it wasn’t a robbery gone wrong. According to the articles, she couldn’t find the store where the coat was being held for her and that’s why she asked some classmates at the mall for money to use the payphone to call home. I don’t know if she eventually did find it and chose not to get the coat or what, as there was never any mention of a receipt or coat being found in the car. That angle has always puzzled me because her parents knew she was going to stop at the mall after the banquet to look at the coat and purchase it if she liked it, so why didn’t they just tell her what store it was at?

    #3: I honestly can’t remember what all stores were in Westdale at that time. We’d only been out there once about a month after the mall opened in October and being a kid, I only paid attention to the stores that interested me. It’s possible there was a knife store in the mall, but I don’t think the weapon was purchased there by the killer, I think the killer carried the knife with him, either as part of his job or just out of habit (like carrying a pocket or buck knife).

    #4: The rear door lock might’ve been broken, I’m not sure on that. Investigators never said if the lock was broken or not, but from the tone of the articles, it seems like they were treating it as a clue in the case.

    #5: As far as the DNA goes, since they don’t have a name to go with it, it would be hard to match it to employment records. If the killer has since died, it’d be even harder.

    #6: I’m not sure if the car was turned back over to Michelle’s parents after they were done processing it or if it’s still sitting in the CRPD impound garage as evidence. There was an article in the Gazette several years ago about the things they still had stored as evidence, but I don’t remember if the Martinko car was mentioned…I’ll have to see if I can track that article down. They also never said where the killer’s blood was found…it might’ve been in the car or it might’ve been on her coat or clothing. They never even said how they thought it was from a cut hand and not from any other injury the killer might’ve gotten in the struggle.

    #7: Yeah, I think the mall security guards or maintenance workers would have some sort of passkeys and access to most areas of the mall.

    #8: IIRC, the mall’s main office was by the JC Penney entrance where Michelle’s car was first parked when she went into the mall that night. There probably would’ve been a break room or even a locker room in that area for employees like the maintenance and security staff to store their coats/belongings and change out of their uniforms if they wanted. It was probably accessible through the interior “employees only” hallway by JC Penney. If the person who told me it was blood they’d found in that hallway was right, it makes sense because he would’ve gone to the locker room to change out of his bloodied clothing and treat his injured hand. That’s why I’m a little more apt to think he stashed the car in one of the loading docks near JC Penney or Montgomery Wards because he was at less risk of being spotted walking from the auto center to the mall to clean up, then turn around and walk back to the auto center to clean the car up and wait for the chance to ditch it.

    #9: If the murder was the result of either a failed romantic relationship or an unrequited one, the killer might’ve been trying to protect his job, especially if Michelle threatened to go to his superiors over the situation. If he was married, she might’ve threatened to tell his wife. Either way, he had something at stake that made him take the time to clean up after himself. That’s what makes me think her killer was an older guy. A younger guy would’ve probably just panicked and either left the car at the kill spot and fled, or else driven it back to the mall and ditched it there without cleaning up. An older guy would’ve had the presence of mind (once the adrenaline wore off) to realize what a mess he was in and what he stood to lose if he didn’t clean up.

    • Robert J. Riley says:

      Hello–I have been meaning to get over here and reply to your comments-Kim, Chad Lynch and Hikerbikermike–awesome that you are talking the case and have an interest..I have high hopes this one will get solved. I administer the Facebook page “Michelle Martinko Cold Case 1979”. Please feel free to join! I was 12 and lived a few blocks away from Michelle, and that murder was part of the fabric of my young life in Cedar Rapids. In Fall of 2013 I decided to try and find out more–I hunted down Michelle’s older sister, her only living relative, and have since developed a friendship. I have interviewed many of her friends, boyfriends,teachers and neighbors. I have coffee about once a month or so with the cold case detectives and pass on any tips I get, which do come in fairly often. There are some interesting things in the case going on!

      A few things that can be said:
      There is no suspect at the moment. They are open to any scenario, any names. The police are constantly taking DNA swabs- about 12 already this year, and crossing names off lists. What this has done is that it has eliminated all the “obvious suspects”-Ex boyfriends, teachers,etc.

      The DNA was discovered in 2006–I won’t quote anyone here, but feel I can say that it came from re-testing her clothes. The technology exists to take mingled blood and separate the victim’s blood and DNA from someone
      elses. It is MALE DNA. That doesn’t mean a female ouldnt have been involve in some way–but the police are pursuing a male as the killer.

      There were no fingerprints, so the assumption has always been he was wearing gloves. I have asked if the scene in the car showed signs of being “cleaned up”- detectives can tell if a scene has been sanitized-with that much blood in the car, it would be obvious to see “wipe marks”, etc.

      The keys were in ignition, doors except back drivers side were locked.
      No sexual assault-stabs mainly to chest, defensive wounds to hand, some cuts to face, which may have been directed to face or incidental in the skirmish and in fending off the knife. It was a knife with a point–not a tool or ice pick which has been offered other places. The paper reported early on that the weapon was unknown from the autopsy, but the paper never followed up on that. Years later another article did mention it was a knife, and police today confirm that.

      The sketch isn’t given much weight these days–it was a composite based off descriptions by 2 women under hypnotism. It could look like him, it could look nothing like him….

      The 1972 Buick Electra was never returned to the Martinko family- their insurance reimbursed them for it. It was destroyed a number of years ago by CRPD, as being seen as having no more evidentiary value.

      The blood from JC Penney was recovered- it doesn’t match the DNA on hand, and was found to be remnants from an unrelated work incident at the mall.
      The Wards mechanic idea was pursued, employees were questioned, nothing has come of that theory..

      Michelle was living a life that has many mysteries to it–parts of her life were unknown even to closest friends– and right now I am working a theory that she may have been being extorted/manipulated into doing to some things that were not of her choice.

      I am currently about to interview a man that darted her for a few years and while being eliminated as a suspect, I fell he knows many things that will shed light on her life and this case.

      i will be updating on facebook when I can– fee free to ask any other questions– if I can, I will answer them according to what I know.

      Robert Riley

      • andrea says:

        From my perspective (as someone who uses distant autosomal matching, plus occasionally Y-STR testing, to identify unknown fathers) it is inexcusable that law enforcement has not at least had a 37-marker Y-STR done of the Y chromosome and then uploaded and run the results through Ysearch. Using Y-STR testing and then running the results through YSearch is likely to give a probable surname of the perp, especially if the perp is Caucasian.

        This technology has been used for several years by adoptees, the children of sperm donors, foundlings, and Amerasians still stuck in Vietnam to identify their fathers.

        In the past year and a half, I have managed to ID the fathers of several Amerasians using whole genome SNP genotyping technology and comparing it with distant matches, finding out where one distant cousin of a match married the distant cousin of another, and eventually being able to ID the father that way (verified, later, with DNA testing of close living relatives). Three months ago I was able to reunite a father with a child he hadn’t seen since 1968 using this technology and investigative method.

        I have also managed to ID the fathers of two adoptees using 37-marker Y-STR testing and running the results through Ysearch.

        Robert, email me at andreabaker2 at hotmail dot com and I can discuss this with you. If you could convince law enforcement to allow the testing to be done, I would be willing to contribute financially.

      • Tracy says:

        “Michelle was living a life that has many mysteries to it–parts of her life were unknown even to closest friends– ”

        She was involved with an older married guy, wasn’t she?

  22. Chad Lynch Norfolk, VA says:

    kim love your passion! some questions 1 did they recover the $200 she had 2 the receipt for coat her parent must of rec! 3 wasnt there a knife shop there then cuttlery world 4 was the car door left unlocked broken? she figured she would lock what she could and look in the windows before getting in car 5 if they have blood sample dna and employment records and warrants got to think crpd cant miss that? 6 wheres the car now? 7 crpd probably think cut hand because blood if he drove the car on rearview mirror car door handle steering wheel maybe int roof Nose bleed blood there? i guess not impossible 7 westdale mall security people have keys and access to all secure spaces? 8 MW mech kills her drives to the shop closes the door cleans up the car fixes his hand opens the door drives out turns out lights parks car not knowing if someone has seen him or some body is already looking for her there mom dad or security and hopefully not leave any evidence back at the shop 9 What was the reason he goes to that much trouble that much time to clean up? This before dna got started mid to late 80s Just some thoughts.

  23. Hikerbikermike says:

    Just came across this case and don’t have all the background like the rest of you. That said, here are my immediate impressions. My first thought this was a woman who killed her because of the statement that she was attacked in the face and chest. Face is so very pesonal….jealousy. So is chest / breasts. I just keep thinking “jealousy”, and the jealousy of a female. If a women didn’t actually kill her, did a woman have someone do this? Again, jealousy the motive. Sticking to the jealousy theme, maybe some socially awkward, demented guy made an attempt to get to know her and believes he was rebuffed. He was enraged at being rebuffed and attacked. The personal nature of the attack to the face just keeps taking me back to a female…..

  24. Kim says:

    Yeah, where they found the car is a fairly straight shot north from the MW auto center (Verdian CU on the map you linked). Westdale was laid out kind of screwy, but the car was found in the lot where the standalone Econofoods store was at (now where the US Bank stands). https://iowacoldcases.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/1979-12-22-crg-michelle-martinko-map-vehicle-location.png It would actually be closer to the JC Penney store than MW. But the location of the MW auto center would give him a fairly good lookout spot because it sat on the edge of the mall lot and was on a bit of a hillside, plus it had pretty big windows that looked out over the lot, if I remember right. He could’ve hidden the car in there and cleaned his fingerprints from it, then watched for the chance to ditch it in the lot.

    It’s pretty common during Christmas and big sales events for stores/malls to ask their employees to park farther away so customers can have those spots. When I worked in a local mall, we parked in the spots designated for our use, which was fairly close to the store. But starting on Black Friday, we were expected to park in the very farthest edges of the mall lot, or park over in the perimeter lot that was across the way from the mall. They had a shuttle bus that would pick us up at our cars and take us to the store. It was a huge pain and I can’t say I ever saw any customers actually using the spots we were forbidden to use during Christmas.

    I don’t think the blood drop came from a bloody nose. He cut his hand: “…police wouldn’t say where they found the blood or how they know the killer cut his hand.” That’s quoted direct from Michelle’s profile above. At first the cops did think the attack happened on the lot but later decided it must’ve happened on one of the side roads near the mall. It would’ve been pretty risky for him to kill her on the lot since the mall was still open (late hours for the holidays), plus he probably would’ve left some blood droplets in the area around her car as he got out of it.

    In the Dec. 28, 1979 Gazette article (https://iowacoldcases.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/1979-12-28-crg-michelle-martinko-new-plea.png), the police say that evidence was recovered in one of the stores in the mall and it was being processed by a private lab, but they didn’t disclose what the evidence was or where it was found. I had heard from a woman who worked at the mall at the time of the murder that it was blood they’d found and it was discovered in an interior hallway near JC Penney that only mall employees had access to. I don’t know if that’s true but I have no reason to believe she was lying about it.

    They never said if they found the guy in the sketch or not. It’s possible he had no connection at all to her killing and was just someone who was in the lot the same time she was.

  25. RJ Riley says:

    Jerry- yes- many, including the family,thought it was him for years- In 2006 he was exonerated thru DNA evidence. The blood evidence from 1979 was tested with modern technology and has been used to eliminate many suspects…so now they just need to find the match….

  26. Jerry Gray says:

    I remember that case. Seems to me it was the boy friend but because of his family’s money they never could get him for it.

  27. I detest all the unsolved cases we have just in C.R. & outlying areas. Way too many for a small city that we were. It seemed odd that her mom thought she knew who killer was but they couldn't prove it! If she fought him & the amount of blood that was found I just find it appalling that almost 40 yrs later they have nothing!

  28. So sad. There were many unsolved murders back then. When I was a freshman in college in the fall of 1976, there was a murder on campus at Wartburg College. It sadly is still unsolved today.

  29. This is so sad, last year her sister and brother in law did an interview. There wasn’t much to go on. Which is hard to believe considering it took place in Her vehicle, one little spot of blood from the person who did it. It’s very heartbreaking with what her parents experienced and the hell they went through years after

  30. Dot Fisher says:

    They need to get Kelly and Yolanda to come and solve the case. They do a great job

  31. Humble Mee says:

    If you go to Iowa cold cases there’s plenty more unsolved murders, what the hell was the police doing and are they even trying now with all this new technology

  32. I remember this case…it shook my world and shattered my rose colored glasses… God rest her soul.

  33. Brent Busch says:

    Hard to believe this is still unsloved all these years later.

  34. Diana Wilson says:

    Oh, God, such a young life taken home too soon. Please help the culprit get caught so he/she can longer get away with killing.

  35. I could not imagine. 36 years, and no justice. Thoughts, and prayers to her family and friends.

  36. I remember this vividly. To this day, I hope they catch whoever did this.

  37. Diana Wilson says:

    I hope Hesse people come forward.

  38. Me too. I will never forget her name.

  39. Sally Scholl says:

    I remember that like it was yesterday! How sad!

  40. Heidi says:

    It seems to me that Jesse Lynch you know a lot about this to but are only giving few statement’s about things. Like you saying that Dr. Michale Clover knows more than he is letting on; he might even be involved. How and why do you say this stuff?

  41. Sally Scholl says:

    Rumor was…., President and all his Secret Service were in town staying at the Sheraton. She attended a Christmas Party for a short time being held there as well. She was seen using a pay phone and being hit on relentless by a Secret Service guy! But we all know Secret Service do no wrong.

  42. there is a facebook site dedicated to this crime: Michelle Martinko Cold Case 1979—has links to videos, friends comments, archives of Newspaper articles…

  43. Kris Starks says:

    Sounds personal…a crime of passion. Bet they have a good idea who did this.

  44. Kim says:

    Link to KGAN’s story about Michelle Martinko:

    • Jody Ewing says:

      Robert and Kim, thanks so much for the link — I’ve got it added to Michelle’s page. A very poignant interview with Janelle and John. KGAN did a great job with this piece, and I hope someone is inspired to come forward with new information.

  45. Kim says:

    Hope Jody doesn’t mind…I’m bumping this profile page to the top of the recent comments in hopes that the anonymous tipster the police are referring to in the media release might see it and get in contact with them. The additional information they’re hoping tipster can provide might very well solve this case and finally bring closure for Michelle’s family.

  46. Kim says:


    It’s the December 28, 1979 edition of the Cedar Rapids Gazette that mentions police were processing evidence from a store inside Westdale. No further mention of the evidence in any other articles that I can find so far.

    I apologize for any confusion, I should have clarified in my post that it was an acquaintance of mine who’d worked with Michelle at JCPenney that told me Michelle had been stabbed 50+ times. I also thought I’d read that same info in one of the news articles as well, so I’m trying to search the archives to verify, but not having much luck so far. It was also that same acquaintance who told me they’d found evidence inside the mall in an ’employees only’ area near JCPenney.

    From what I’ve read in the Gazette archives, she wasn’t there at Westdale to meet anyone to go on a date, she was there to try on a coat her parents were buying her for Christmas. Before going to the mall, she’d been at a banquet for the Kennedy choir over at the Sheraton Inn, and once the banquet let out, she went to the mall. Some classmates were at the mall as well, waiting for the movie to start over at the nearby theater, and when she ran into them, they invited her to attend the movie with them. She declined and borrowed some change from them to call her parents to see what store the coat was at, and it was at that point her classmates said she was upset because she couldn’t find the store. Whether she made that call home or not, it’s not clear. The detail about all the car doors except one rear door being unlocked is definitely puzzling and I’m not sure what part it plays in the case…were the doors originally unlocked when the killer first got into her vehicle and then because he maybe couldn’t remember if they were locked or unlocked, he decided to lock them when he ditched the car, but skipped the one rear door?

    The map I found in the January 25, 1980 Gazette indicates her car was evidently first parked in the northwest lot on one side of JCPenney’s, facing Wilson Ave. That was probably where she parked the car to go into the mall…it’s not the lot directly in front of Penney’s main entrance, it’s more in front of the mall’s main entrance, if my memory of how Westdale is laid out serves me right. The car was found in the far edge of the northeast lot on the other side of Penney’s, the lot runs along the Edgewood Rd. side and was closer to the standalone strip mall that held the Econofoods store. So both spots are around the JCPenney area, just on different sides.

    • Herb Hunter says:

      But where they found her car was a straight line from the Ward’s standalone mechanic shop (which if I remember right is the Veridian Credit union in this pic:

      If he killed her in the car where it was first parked, then drove it around to hide it in the repair bay, he could then drive it to where it was found after Michelle’s father and the police first searched the lot.

      Maybe he was in there watching. Lights off. Thinking about his next move, wondering if anyone saw him.

      This would also give him control of the car in a concealed area — I mean I don’t think her father or police are going to bother to look in the Ward’s repair shop. And perhaps he sat in there watching as he contemplated what to do next.

      Maybe he wiped the car clean — all the places he thought he’d touched. Perhaps even wiped up the blood from his bloody nose after she struck him — all but the drop they found, him think that was her blood.

      Then after he watched the police search the lot the first time, decided to drive her car next to where his was parked. Is in it common for an employee to park far away from the business in order to allow the customers to park closer?

      The police had a composite of a suspect. . .does it match any mechanics at the Wards at that time? Did they ever find this guy, question and clear him?https://iowacoldcases.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/1980-6-19-CRG-michelle-martinko-suspect-sketch.jpg

      • Kim says:

        Sorry if this double posts, my first post disappeared into the netherworld, it seems.

        Yeah, where the car was found is a nearly straight shot from the MW auto center (where Veridian is at on the map you linked). It was found near the spot where the standalone Econofoods store sat (now a US Bank). IIRC, the auto center had pretty big windows and it was situated on a bit of a hill, so that would’ve given someone a good view of that whole east side of the lot. It also set far enough away from the mall itself that probably no one thought to look for Michelle there. Plus with it being an auto store, she wouldn’t have had any reason to be there since she was allegedly looking for a coat that was on hold in one of the stores. I don’t think the killing took place on the lot itself, although early police theories did say they felt it had happened on the lot. They later revised their theory to state that they thought it had taken place off the lot on one of the side roads near the mall.

        The blood drop didn’t come from his nose, he cut his hand during the stabbing. According to the above profile: “Police believe the blood that was found came from a cut on the killer’s hand. Because the investigation is ongoing, police wouldn’t say where they found the blood or how they know the killer cut his hand. But the detectives are certain the blood will lead them to the person who stabbed Martinko to death.”

        In this article: https://iowacoldcases.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/1979-12-28-crg-michelle-martinko-new-plea.png police say they’d found evidence in a store inside the mall and were processing it (well, an outside company was processing it), but they never said what the evidence was or where it was found. I had heard from a woman who worked in the mall at the time of Michelle’s murder and she told me it was blood they’d found and it was in an interior hallway near JC Penney’s that only store or mall employees had access to. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I have no reason to think she was lying about it.

        It’s pretty common for malls/stores to ask their employees to park in the farthest spots away from the building, especially during big sales events or Christmas. They want customers to have those spots. When I worked at the mall, on Black Friday we had to start parking way off on the far edges of the lot or else park in the perimeter lot that was across the way from the mall. They ran a shuttle bus to pick us up from our cars and take us to the mall. It was a huge pain and I never ever saw any customers actually using those coveted spots during the Christmas rush.

        They never said if they’d found the guy in the sketch or not. It was a hot lead for awhile but it seems in later years, the suspect sketch wasn’t mentioned much. Even when they announced they’d found his DNA, they didn’t rerelease the sketch and say “this guy is a possible suspect in the killing.” I don’t know if they eventually discounted it because it was obtained through hypnosis or if they just figured in the end the guy wasn’t a suspect. It’s possible he had no connection to the killing and was just some guy who happened to be in the same area Michelle was when the two women saw her.

        • Herb Hunter says:

          Kim, thank you for the expanded information, not living in the area and being only a child at the time of Michelle’s murder, your memory of Westdale is helpful. So a few things I might offer based on your above reply:

          1) I think the assumption is correct that Michelle knew her killer. I think, after reading through the archive of this case and your comments, the person who killed her is what I would call an outlier friend — someone she knew, but her family didn’t know about and her close circle of friends maybe only know by his face or first name. So if we assume this composite is based on someone the two witnesses saw with Michelle (in the parking lot?) and this composite was arrived at under hypnosis, the reason hypnosis was used is because nothing out of the ordinary was happening when the two of them were observed together — these witnesses just saw her with some guy. I say this because if there was some sort of altercation between Michelle and this guy, the witnesses would remember him in more detail.

          Of course this composite was most likely the composition of two eye witnesses, so the hair might be right, but the eyes wrong; the chin right, but lips wrong. . .etc, etc . . .

          2) I offered a cape chisel as the means (weapon) because of what I’d read in an article written days after the murder — that the police were unsure if it was a knife. The means often gives us insight into the who and where of the crime. However, as I read more about it, coupled with your comment about it being a curved dagger, as well as the fact the attack seemed to focus on her face, I have a new theory about the means as well as the occupation: I think the security guard theory is the most plausible because of this:

          This is what is known as a push dagger. It is a concealable, self defense weapon — something a security guard might carry for self defense while on the job. The reason I think this was the means? Because when you attack someone with a standard knife you stab them in the neck, chest, or abdomen. However, a push dagger is held between the index and middle finger, and you make a fist around it — and where are you most likely to punch someone with your fist? — in their face.

          And remember, 1979 was way before the internet, and if the theory is that the killer was a local, then there were probably few stores in the area at the time that sold such an item.

          3) I believe Michelle and the killer left in her car for reasons only Michelle and the killer know. IIRC, Westdale was on the edge of the country back then. In fact, I can remember in the 1990s, when I was a teenager, going from Westdale, south on Edgewood toward the airport, that would put you in the country pretty quickly. So for whatever reason, the two of them wanted to be away from prying eyes. Then something happened, he killed her, and probably drove the car back, perhaps hiding it in the MW auto center after it had closed. I also think he may have moved her body from the front seat to the back. If you’re going to drive back into town, you probably aren’t going to do with a dead body in the front seat. Plus, like I theorized, he needed to get his car which was parked near where eventually found the Buick. And once away from prying eyes in the MW auto center, he moved her back to the front seat when first arriving at the auto center, leaving the back door unlocked (which he forgot to re-lock) in his haste as he needed to tend to that wound on his hand.

          4) If blood was found in an employee only area in the mall, it was most likely because there was an employee restroom or sink down that hallway as well as a first aid kit — some place he could wash and dress his cut hand. And if it was after hours, it would be suspicious if he was in the mall restroom washing his hand. Also, if he was a security guard he has every reason to be in that restroom AND a million plausible reasons why he cut his hand and needed to dress it. But perhaps the CRPD sent this blood off for independent testing is because it was the mix of two blood types — Michelle’s known blood type and an unknown blood type. Maybe the two blood types had even reacted to one another in such a way that it made it difficult to identify the second blood type.

          5) Assuming he hid the car before he moved it — to where CRPD finally found it — he had control of the crime scene. Perhaps he wiped the car of all the places he knew he touched. And perhaps he didn’t move the body from front to back to front seat again, but most likely, something was in the back seat that could identify him and that too could explain the unlocked back door he forgot to re-lock.

          6) There was a witness who said she was travelling north on Edgewood who noticed something at the spot Michelle was eventually found. This was at 2am, 12/20/79. She described it as two teenagers partying. She saw the driver’s side door open. Perhaps this is him arranging the body before he finally left in his own vehicle. This also reinforces the fact the area she saw this happening was the employee part of the parking lot since she said the reason she looked was because her daughter worked at the mall, had had car trouble in the past, and she wanted to make sure her daughter was able to drive home. https://iowacoldcases.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/1981-10-3-crg-michelle-martinko-furor-erupts.png

        • Herb Hunter says:

          PS — I forgot to mention, the side of the unlocked back door may give us a clue to whether or not she was driving the car. And if the back passenger door was unlocked, then he was a lefty, since you aren’t going to drag a body around a car in order to drive back into town.

          Think about it. . .

          • Kim says:

            Yeah, at that time, Westdale was on the very edges of the SW side of C.R. If you went south on Edgewood or west on Williams Blvd., you were out in the boonies in no time at all.

            I don’t know that her killer moved her body to the backseat after killing her and then moved it to the front seat just before ditching the car. That seems like a lot of trouble to go through…he risked leaving behind more evidence of his presence in the car with each move he’d make, plus he would’ve been trying to be careful not to make the cut on his hand worse or leave his blood behind on her coat or clothing or in the car. And not to be graphic, but head wounds bleed pretty badly, so with each move he made of her body, that would’ve put more of her blood onto him. If she was behind the steering wheel when he attacked her, he would’ve likely moved her only once and that would be to slide her over to the passenger seat so he could drive the car away. She was probably slumped below the line of sight on the car’s door jamb, plus with it being that late at night, traffic would’ve been light and no one would’ve seen him with the body in the car.

            The interior hallway where they found additional evidence (that I was told was blood) also could’ve led to a locker room used by mall staff like the security guards or maintenance workers. So he could’ve gone down that hallway to change his bloodied uniform.

    • Tracy says:

      “The detail about all the car doors except one rear door being unlocked is definitely puzzling and I’m not sure what part it plays in the case”

      It probably played no role in the case. That’s the type of thing that can quickly morph into a red herring. She probably just forgot to lock it. No reason for it to become a huge clue in the case.

      The people who were at that banquet she attended should have their DNA tested. If she really went to the mall from this banquet, this might be where things start to unravel.

      Witnesses claimed she looked upset. It might have nothing to do with her murder later that evening but when a murder victim is upset leading up to her murder, there’s usually a connection.

      I lean towards a date gone horribly wrong. If not technically a date, then some guy she planned on hanging out with for awhile. She may have used the issue of the coat as a cover for her ‘real’ plans.

  47. RJ says:

    interesting- I’ve been asking some of these same questions. Though it would be nice for it to have been a match, the recent DeBardeleben theory has a few holes…I too think it was a passionate killing, and someone she knew.
    Not much in the public arena to go on as far as facts in the case…the paper did mention the evidence in the mall, but never mentioned again…the moved car is very odd..Barnes said that she was supposed to meet someone for a date that evening-not sure if that is correct, or who said that-her family says she was expected home by 10, was a school night, test the next day…paper says she was asked at mall by some friends to see a movie…it would be interesting to know the story of the supposed “date”, who saw where she parked at 7:00 and when the car was brought back where it was. Why were all the doors locked except one of the back ones? Family told me 19 stab wounds- curious as to the comment of over 50 (not a challenge- just checking).
    As for the police, I would be surprised if there was more than one on the case by that time- like you said-probably thought it was just a girl on a date out late…so I can’t imagine there would have been like a stakeout at the mall or anything-if Albert drove thru and didn’t see the car, then it obviously was put back -can’t imagine he would miss the car, or not drive all thru the mall lot- by 1 am, the lot would have been almost deserted, right?
    Lots of questions…

  48. Kim says:

    I was 9 when this case happened and I remember it pretty well, it was a very shocking and heinous crime. FWIW, I don’t think Michelle was the victim of a serial killer or a victim of a robbery or rape attempt, I think she knew her murderer. Possibly there was some sort of romantic angle involved, either she’d dated her killer and they’d broken up, or he’d asked her out and she rejected him, something along those lines. She was stabbed 50+ times in the face and upper chest and that indicates serious rage and overkill to me by someone very angry with her.

    My amateur detective theory is that it was someone who had access to the mall after hours, like a security guard or a store manager, or maybe a mall janitor. One of the rumors I heard was that there was evidence found in an employee’s only area of the mall and a quick search of newspaper archives in the days after her death does reveal that police were processing an area inside the mall because they’d found evidence, but it doesn’t say what the evidence was and it is not mentioned in subsequent articles. I also heard Michelle worked at the JCPenney’s store and if that’s true, she probably would’ve had some contact with mall security in some form, like maybe they’d walked her out to her car at night after she got off work.

    According to the articles I’ve read, when she was seen in the mall by her classmates, they said they didn’t notice anyone following her, but truthfully, who’d notice a security guard lurking the busy crowds in a brand new mall just a few nights before Christmas? Michelle was flustered she couldn’t find the store where she was supposed to try on a coat her parents were buying her and maybe the guard saw she was upset and followed her to her car in hopes of talking to her. If she knew him, she might’ve been comfortable letting him into her car…I don’t think her killer was hiding in the vehicle and ambushed her, nor do I think he accosted her in the lot, I think she knew him and let him into the car willingly. Once inside her car, he probably suggested they leave the lot for better privacy and she agreed. In that era, Westdale was on the fringes of Cedar Rapids and the surrounding area hadn’t been all that developed yet, so a quick two minute drive would’ve put you out in the rural areas pretty fast. I think once away from the mall, whatever discussion she and her killer had turned heated and he killed her, not premeditatively because that hinges on a lot of coincidental aspects, but out of anger and rage. Police said they think the murder happened inside the vehicle, not anywhere else, and she fought hard for her life, evidenced by the defensive wounds on her hands.

    Here’s where it gets interesting. According to the articles, she was last seen in the mall at around 9 p.m., and when she didn’t come home by 1 a.m., her father went looking for her. She was reported missing to police by 2 a.m. and the car and her body was found at 4 a.m.. Presumably her father and the police would’ve searched the mall lot first in their initial attempts to find her because that’s where she was last known to be at, but the car wasn’t evidently on the lot during those searches because it would’ve been found at those points. So where was it during that 7 hour span from when she was last seen to when she was found? It seems improbable that her killer would’ve stayed with the car and body for 7 hours on a rural road in December temperatures because the longer that car was out in the open, the more he was at risk for discovery. Plus, how was he able to move the car off and back onto the lot without someone noticing the activity, not to mention he wouldn’t have known if police had been alerted to Michelle’s disappearance and therefore might’ve had increased presence at the mall. Of course, in that era, because police had no reason to suspect foul play and likely chalked her disappearance up to her being out with friends and forgetting to call home, there probably was not a heavy police presence to start with, especially if they didn’t find the car on their initial drive through the mall lot, but still, the killer didn’t know that. He also risked having someone notice his own car on the lot as well, and while that wouldn’t have been overly unusual, I would’ve thought police might’ve been suspicious if they’d seen his car during their original search of the lot.

    But now a security guard would have access to the various loading docks around the mall, plus he would’ve likely had access to the standalone Montgomery Ward’s auto service center on the mall property, so he could’ve driven the car back after killing her and stashed it in one of the docks or the MW auto center, then waited until the coast was clear and driven it out and abandoned it. He also would’ve likely been aware of the search for her and could’ve kept tabs on police activity going on around the mall, plus no one would’ve questioned a mall security vehicle or the guard’s private vehicle being on the lot after the mall closed, nor would anyone have questioned a guard working late like that. And police have said they know her car was moved from one spot in the lot to another, but they won’t say how they know that, but the map I found in a couple of articles indicates both spots were near the JCPenney area, which was where it was rumored there was evidence recovered from an interior part of the mall only employees had access to.

    I know my theory may be pure bunk and there’s a lot of unanswered variables, like why didn’t a co-worker notice the guard was gone during the time the murder was committed and how did he get back in without someone noticing his bloody clothing, but still, the theory has merits.

    • agood guy says:

      they guy that killed her is dead has been for a long time only if she would have taken the coat she may still be alive today

      • Robert J. RIley says:

        Hey good guy
        Interesting post. May I ask- what makes you think her killer is dead?
        And what do you mean by “if she would have taken the coat”- what does that have to do with her living or not?
        I’m just asking- not challenging- you may know much more about it than I do.

        • Kim says:

          Goodguy’s comment is actually interesting because Michelle supposedly was there at the mall that night to try on a coat her parents were buying her for Christmas. She had almost $200 on her to buy it, so it obviously wasn’t a cheap coat. So was someone upset that they lost the commission on it and killed her for it?

          I’ve been searching through some of the news articles about her death (will send them along to Jody as soon as I can) and some questions arise. Sorry for the length of this, I know it’s pretty long, but hopefully it might shed some light on some of the aspects of this case.

          How is it possible that her parents didn’t outright tell her what store the coat was being held at, did they forget? Wouldn’t it have been a lot easier if they’d said “The coat is at store X”, why make Michelle go on a hunt for it? She obviously planned to go look at the coat after the banquet, she had the money on her to buy it, so it wasn’t a spur of the moment thing where she just decided to try to find the coat after she left the Sheraton. So before she left for the banquet, why didn’t her parents tell her what store the coat was at? How could you forget something like that?

          If the police knew what store the coat was supposed to be held at, why didn’t they release that information to see if anyone would come forward to say whether or not they’d seen her in the store? They released pleas to the public to come forward with anything they might’ve seen in the mall that night or out in the parking lot, yet they were vague about actually naming what stores Michelle was seen at, even though people did come forward and say they’d seen her at various shops, including a jewelry store. Is it possible if they’d named the stores she’d been seen at, someone could’ve come forward with more detailed information about the clerks and any relationship they might’ve had with Michelle? I realize it’s a big task, but did detectives interview everyone who worked the stores that night until closing, even the ones who worked in the food courts and non-clothing stores?

          Supposedly when Michelle ran into the classmates who were waiting for a movie to start, she borrowed change from them to use a payphone to call her parents and find the location of the store where the coat was at. Did the police do a numbers dump of the payphones or of the Martinko residence to see if that call was actually made? Maybe she made the call but the line was busy, so she hung up. Were the payphones ever dusted to see if Michelle’s prints were on any of them?

          In the December 28, 1979 story in the C.R. Gazette, police mention that there was evidence INSIDE the mall that was being processed. They don’t say what the evidence is or where in the mall it was found at, but they DO say that the evidence is being processed by a private laboratory. What was the name of the private lab and why were they involved with processing homicide evidence? Why wasn’t it being processed by the CR crime scene unit or even the DCI? Did this private lab specialize in blood evidence, fingerprints, what? How can initial processing of evidence like that be arbitrarily turned over to a private lab, isn’t that supposed to be something the actual crime scene units would process in the days after the homicide as part of the overall case? Was this evidence found the same day her body was or was it found days later?

          For that matter, was the mall and surrounding lots closed down in order to fully process the area that morning her body was found, or did they just seal off the area around the car and let the rest of the mall open? Nothing in the articles I’ve read says whether or not the mall was closed as they processed the scene. I realize with it being so close to Christmas, they’d hate to shut down the mall and make businesses lose money, but given the scope of the crime and scene, wouldn’t it have been a smart thing to do to at least close the mall that day her body was found and search for evidence? There’s a LOT of places in and around the mall where things could be hidden, especially if someone had access to the mall after hours like I suspect her killer had, so were all those places searched that same day? Did they halt any trash/recycling hauling that was due to take place on the 20th so they could go through the dumpsters in the area to see if anyone had discarded bloody clothing or the knife? Did they search any trucks parked in the loading docks to see if anything was hidden in them? They’ve recently torn down most of Westdale that stood back in this era in order to renovate it into a modern strip mall, so did investigators look over the areas due to be demolished to see if anything was hidden in the walls or other recesses?

          Was there blood found on the cement or in the snow around the car? If so, did the blood go anywhere, like towards the mall or towards a parked vehicle? As many times as she was stabbed, that had to be a pretty bloodsoaked scene, so the killer had to have been pretty bloody himself. If Michelle was in the driver’s seat and he was in the passenger seat when he blitz-attacked her, he would’ve had to have gotten out of the car at some point to move her body over far enough to get behind the wheel and drive it back to the lot. Did police check the surrounding roads to see if there were any tire prints in the snow/gravel or shoulders that indicated a car had stopped there, or if there was any footprints or blood in the road/snow?

          How did he not leave fingerprints, was he wearing gloves? How did he not leave hair or other fiber evidence? She fought hard for her life, surely she would’ve either scratched him or pulled at his hair or torn his clothing, right? Police say she had defensive wounds on her hands, so she wasn’t incapacitated right away from the initial stab wounds, so how was it possible that the killer left no evidence, save for the blood/DNA found a few years ago? In the time the car was missing from the lot, did he have it stashed somewhere and was removing traces of his presence in it? Why in one of the articles did they say they thought the killing took place on the lot due to the frost on the interior of the car? They later revised to say that they thought the car had been driven off the lot and the murder committed elsewhere, then driven back to the lot and dumped with her body inside, but how important is the interior frost? Given the temperature inside the car vs. the temperature outside the car, plus the thickness of the frost, they could’ve determined about how long the car sat outside, right? Was there frost on the hood, was the engine cold to the touch when her body was found? What about the temperature of Michelle’s body, wouldn’t that have given a basic idea of how long she’d been out in the cold?

          Why did they think early on that the killer was possibly a woman? DNA shows now that the killer was a man, but was it possible a woman was still involved? Would that explain the rear door being left unlocked, the female suspect was in the backseat while the killer was in the front seat? Early statements from the police indicated they thought Michelle had gone to the mall to meet someone and go on a date, is it possible that’s actually the true reason she was there and not to look at a coat? Was she meeting someone who had a jealous wife/girlfriend and the woman came along to try to scare Michelle off? If that’s the case, maybe the knife was brought along by the woman to threaten Michelle and things went sour fast. Would the police be able to see if the stab wounds came from one person or from two people, judging by the depth of the wounds, the pressure they were exerted to create, and the angle they were inflicted? It’s possible the woman was just as much Michelle’s killer as the guy was, but only the male left his DNA behind.

          Whatever came of the suspect whose sketch they released that summer after her death? Police had two women put under hypnosis, they claimed to have seen Michelle and the possible killer in the parking lot, so is that suspect still a viable one or has it been disregarded as time has gone on? (will send the sketch along to Jody when I send the articles along)

          I know that a lot of my questions the police probably already have answers to, but they’re not revealing the info until they have a suspect, so this is just largely points I’m putting out there for consideration by anyone who has been following this case. Again, I apologize for the length, but I wanted to get it all down while it was still clicking in my mind.

          • RJ Riley says:

            would you mind emailing me at rriley@solutionsco.net? Also- are you a member of our Facebook page- Michelle Martinko Cold Case 1979 ?Thanks!

          • Kim says:

            RJ, I’m sorry, but I’m not comfortable sharing my email with anyone but Jody and I’m probably one of the few people in the world who isn’t on Facebook. But I’m open to discussing Michelle’s case here on this site if you’d like.

    • Doug W. says:

      Hey anyone consider Andrew Urdiales for this crime? He killed a gal near me in socal Robbin Brandley 1986 just for the heck of it who looked similar – stabbing and was eventually caught in IN. just a thought.

    • Herb Hunter says:

      I like the basis of your theory, but let me expand on it a little. Perhaps it is someone she knows who is a mechanic at the Ward’s. It isn’t unknown for a mechanic to be working late (though I don’t know the details of the various shifts at that store at that time in 1979) but let’s say this person was doing some late night repairs in order to catch up and earn some overtime. He has a chance encounter with Michelle. He knows her and she is familiar with him — maybe knows him from school (graduated a year or so ahead of her) or knows her from around.

      He’s just finished his shift. He sees her in the mall. He goes up and makes small talk with her and then asks her for a ride home. He has a crush on her and this is his way to spend some time with her — possibly romance her into a relationship or ask her out on a date. They get to the car and after placing his tool box in the backseat, he gets in the front seat and makes a move at some point — perhaps while they let the car idle and warm up a bit — he tries kissing her or makes an unwanted advance. She smacks him or punches him in the nose — enough to leave that droplet of his blood in the car.

      He looses it and takes the cape chisel or round nose cape chisel he so happens to have in his front pocket and attacks her with it in a fit of rage (police reports say they weren’t sure if it was a knife, but knew it was long and pointed) and he kills her. Then he panics. But he’s in his coveralls and works at the Ward’s, so he drives the car into the garage and shuts down the lights to make it look like they’re closed for the night. Nothing out of the ordinary for a mechanic driving a car into the repair bay. Usually when police question witnesses, they ask them if they noticed something out of the ordinary. No one would think a mechanic driving a car into the garage is out of the ordinary.

      He leaves the car, packs up and goes home, leaving the car in Wards. He drives home to clean up. Then comes back. Parks the car in the lot where police finds it, and then goes back home.

      So I’m curious if she knew anyone that worked at that Wards…

    • Herb Hunter says:

      Perhaps the killer was a mechanic at the Wards rather than a security guard. This would coincide with the fact the police say the weapon was long and sharp but not necessarily a knife. A screwdriver or cape chisel?

      • Kim says:

        Apologies in advance for the length of this, my armchair detective-itis sometimes gets carried away.

        Herb, you’ve got some interesting theories. It’s possible Michelle’s killer worked in the MW auto center, but I would’ve thought he’d left behind more evidence than just the drop of blood, such as grease or dirt from working on cars. Even if he wore gloves, there’d still be traces of oil or dirt on his shoes/ clothing or toolbox that would’ve transferred to the Martinko car. It’s got a light-colored interior and grease or dirt would definitely show up on it.

        I also don’t think the murder took place on the mall lot itself. I think the killer and Michelle drove away from the mall to a more secluded area and that’s where the murder went down. But I do suspect it was someone who worked at the mall and had keys and access to the loading docks and the MW auto center. A security guard or maintenance man would have that kind of access. The December 28, 1979 Gazette article says they were processing evidence inside the mall, but didn’t say what the evidence was or where it was found. I think the killer went back into the mall to clean up and wait for the chance to get rid of the car. The spot where the car was found is on the edge of the mall lot and that probably would’ve been the area where the JC Penney and MW employees would’ve parked, especially for the Christmas holidays. I know when I worked at the local mall, they always made us park either on the far edges of the lot or over in a perimeter lot during Christmas, then they’d run a shuttle bus from the perimeter lot to the mall to ferry us back and forth. It makes sense the murderer would dump the car near where he parked his own car, that way no one would see him crossing the lot.

        I’ve often wondered…did the police think she let her killer drive the car off the lot or did she drive the car off the lot herself, judging by the position of the front seat? If she drove it off, the seat would most likely be pulled forward as far as possible so she could reach the pedals (big car, lots of leg room), but if he drove it off, he would’ve probably pushed the seat back in order to fit behind the wheel. Was the seat pushed forward or pulled back when the car was found? Since her body was discovered in the passenger front seat, it’s possible she trusted him enough to let him drive the car off the lot. But on the other hand, if her killer was right-handed like most people are, for him to attack her like he did he would’ve almost had to have been in the passenger seat and she was in the driver’s seat. The steering wheel would’ve pinned her in and prevented her from escaping. She also probably had the doors locked and it would’ve been hard to scrabble to grab the pop-up lock button or the door handle while she was fighting with her killer. He could’ve easily gained control of her by pushing her against the driver’s side door with his left hand and stabbing her with his right. In looking at the picture of the car, the sunshade is down on the driver’s side…was it that way when they found it or was it pulled down when they were processing the car?

        What bothers me is that unlocked rear door. It doesn’t make sense that the killer would crawl over the front seat to exit the rear door after ditching the car. It also doesn’t make sense that she would lock three doors, but leave that one unlocked when going into the mall or driving away from the mall. Unless she intentionally left it unlocked so he could get in and wait for her while she was in the mall…while the cops said she was there to look at a coat, it’s possible she told her killer to meet her there and she willingly let him into the car. They drove off the lot to a quiet spot and both got into the backseat to either make out or talk, but she got mad and got back into the front seat, while he stayed in the back to try to cool down. It’s a bench seat, so he could’ve reached around and pinned her in with his left arm. That might be why the only injury to him was the cut on his hand that resulted in the blood drop because she wouldn’t have been able to really grab at his face or hair, she would’ve been grabbing at his arms to loosen his grip and stop him from stabbing her.

        If the door was unlocked because there was an accomplice in the car during the murder, did they help hold Michelle down or did they come along later after the killer called them and they helped him clean up, but forgot to lock the rear door once they were done? In at least one of the articles, they said they thought there was also a female involved, but what made the cops think that? Two killers inside the car during the murder would be likely to leave a lot more trace evidence, so that seems pretty risky to me. Was this maybe a case of a married guy who wanted/had a relationship with Michelle and he confronted her over it and killed her? Then he called his wife and confessed and she came to help him clean up? It seems more likely that the door was left unlocked by accident in their hurry to ditch the car.

        As to the murder weapon…it’s possible it could be a cape chisel, although in looking at them online, I’m not sure. The March 3, 1992 Gazette article says the police think it was a double-bladed dagger style knife with a curved tip. A chisel would leave a slightly different wound and it would have to be sharp enough to penetrate Michelle’s rabbit fur coat, since not all of the stab wounds were to her face. I remember the rabbit fur coats that were popular back then and it would’ve been pretty thick as far as the rabbit skin and lining went, especially if it was well-made. But a chisel could definitely be sharpened enough to inflict those kinds of injuries.

        I don’t know that I buy that her killer was a young man, either. A younger killer would’ve been more likely to panic and not only leave the car and body at the murder site, but also leave obvious evidence behind such as hair, fiber or fingerprints. Whoever killed her was savvy enough to know they had to hide that car away until it was safe to ditch it. I also can’t imagine her killer would’ve gotten lucky enough to leave ONLY the blood behind, so he had to have been smart enough to know to remove the traces of his presence in the vehicle. He also had to be patient enough to wait until he had the chance to get rid of the car, plus he had to be comfortable enough to willingly get in and out of the car twice in order to move it around. So this was most likely someone who lost his head in the heat of anger, but then turned around and used his head to figure out how to cover up his tracks. A younger killer probably isn’t going to be able to figure out the steps needed to cover his tracks, but an older killer would.

        FWIW, I don’t think Michelle’s murder is connected to Brian Schappert’s murder. Michelle’s murder definitely feels like a crime of passion, while Brian’s murder seems more like a crime of opportunity. But I do think you’re right, Herb, that they both knew their killers…Michelle’s was probably a spurned suitor and Brian’s was probably someone who knew that with his promotion, he’d have access to the store safe.

        Again, sorry for the length of this. This case has always bugged me because you’d have thought it would’ve been easily solved, given the compact nature of the crime scene (the car) and the violence of the attack. Michelle wasn’t involved in illegal activities, so it wasn’t a hit, it was committed by someone who knew her and either didn’t want to give her up or had a grudge against her.

  49. Robert J. Riley says:

    I add a thank you to Doug Larison, if DeBardeleben’s DNA has indeed been verified to have been added to CODIS. I certainly believe that if it has, there are a number of cases that have DNA evidence that could be solved by that. In the case of Michelle, it is good to at least be able to “cross out” suspects. Also a great thank you to Jody for keeping this site going and keeping the memory and hope alive for these people who constantly live in our hearts. May 2014 be the year we get some answers for some of these families….

  50. Jody Ewing says:

    Thank you, Detective Larison, for clarifying that the individual Adam referenced has been eliminated through DNA. We’ve always hoped conversations through the comments may one day unearth a small detail someone had forgotten or never mentioned, but it’s so important our readers know when persons of interest have been cleared. I appreciate your taking time to provide the update. You have one of the toughest jobs out there, and we extend our thanks for all you do in behalf of victims and their families.

    All best,
    Jody at ICC

  51. Detective Larison says:

    The person that Adam speaks about is not the killer. He has been eliminated through DNA.

  52. Robert Riley says:

    my son is writing a story and an editorial on this case for the Kennedy High School paper, The Torch. One of his goals is for Kennedy to allow a memorial plaques to be hung in her memory. We have been in close contact with Michelle’s sister, now retired and traveling with her husband. In fact we just talked for about 3 more hours this evening. What we are proposing to do is write an in- depth narrative of this case, along with a biographical sketch of this girl- because, let’s face it- most of us who have remembered this case din’t know her- what was she like, etc? I think many would like to see other pictures, know more of her life. Also, I believe the case is ripe to be solved. Her sister is genuinely surprised that so many think of her sister 34 years later, and she has a lot to say about the case.
    With that said, I wold love to talk – maybe compare some notes and work together on this thing. I won’t be able to visit the family until they return to the country in May, but will definiteley be able to act as a conduit with them.would you consider emailing me?

  53. Adam says:

    This is a call to action:

    I have telephoned the police in Cedar Rapids about a suspect that through crime pattern analysis was very likely the perpetrator of this crime.

    This perpetrator was tried and convicted of many heinous crimes from 1983-87. A federal police agency picked him up for a series of non-violent crimes and discovered a mountain of evidence that he had been committing violent crimes against women for many, many years.

    DNA was in its infancy at the time – and while this perpetrator likely had his DNA taken by a specific (unknown to me) police force it likely was not placed in CODIS due to state laws on mandatory processing of DNA not being in place at the time.

    The Cedar Rapids PD – at first highly skeptical of my suggested suspect – came to believe that I very possibly could be correct about this suspect. That said, due to the realities of police work – the response I received from the CRPD was something to the effect that if I wanted prove that this suspect was the perpetrator of the Martinko murder I would have to go out in the world and figure out which police force in America had this particular suspect’s DNA on file.

    I am not a police officer, nor am I family member. I do not have the power to compel the police to answer my requests nor the standing to get the CRPD to respond in a more pro-active fashion.

    I am seeking a family member or a close personal friend of Michelle Martinko to contact me and I will help them understand how and why I have come to the conclusions that this particular suspect would be well worth the time and effort to vet.

    The suspect is dead now – he died in prison. But he was the father to 3 biological daughter. DNA experts that I have pursued on this specific question of whether a daughter’s DNA would be sufficient have responded that it would be absolute and definite if compared to the DNA on file with the CRPD. Authorities know how to locate and contact said daughters – and I have ample reason to believe that they would cooperate.

    This case is imminently solvable now – I need the help of a family member or a close friend of the victim. If someone comes forward to help in this way they would very likely set forth a domino effect with this suspect’s DNA being placed into CODIS.

    I am signed on to receive follow up emails to this site so any response by said family members or friends will be received by me and I will pursue that. Thank you.

  54. I was 16 and worked at the mall when this happened. She was 2 years ahead of me at Kennedy. I think about her nearly every time I go by JC Penneys

  55. I wasnt even born yet and I think about this case all the time

  56. Rhonda Bradley Holle says:

    Beautiful young lady.

  57. Yep, I do too. I can’t believe it’s been all these years and the case still hasn’t been solved. :(

  58. Chris Eastin says:

    I think of this case alot when I go to the mall for some reason. One of those random things my parents told me about when I was very young and it has stuck with me all these years.

  59. Emily says:

    So awful that this case has gone unsolved for so long. Hope it gets solved soon.

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