Cold Case Arrests and Pending Trials

NOTE: We make every effort to keep this list current, but trials are often continued for a number of reasons. If you’re aware of changes in a trial date, please email us at Thank you in advance.

Arrest made in 21-year-old murder case of Council Bluffs woman

Friday, Oct. 16, 2020 | by Courtney Brummer-Clark, The Daily Nonpareil

Matthew W. Kennedy
Courtesy Teton County (Montana) Sheriff’s Office

An arrest has been made in the 1999 murder of a Council Bluffs woman.

On Friday, Council Bluffs police detectives requested and were granted an arrest warrant for Matt W. Kennedy, accusing him of first-degree murder. Detectives allege that Kennedy was involved in the brutal murder of his stepsister, Kimberly M. Ratliff, the Council Bluffs Police Department said in a press release.

Kimberly Ratliff

Kimberly Ratliff

Matt Kennedy, 52, is a resident of Fairfield, Montana; he was living in Council Bluffs at the time of the murder.

Kennedy was taken into custody and is being held in the Teton County Jail, pending extradition to Iowa. The case remains an active investigation, police said.

Police also said no further information will be released regarding Kennedy’s arrest until he is back in Iowa.

Full story at The Daily Nonpareil

Arrest Made Friday in Kaiden Estling Homicide

Kelli Jo Michael (Courtesy KWWL)

FAYETTE COUNTY, Iowa (KWWL) — Nearly 2 years to the day that a teen was killed while driving his moped south of Fayette, the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office announced an arrest in the case.

Kaiden Estling

Kaiden Estling

The sheriff’s office arrested and charged Kelli Jo Michael, 26, of Des Moines on Friday, June 26, 2020, in the death of Kaiden Estling. Michael is charged with homicide by vehicle-reckless driving, and leaving the scene of an accident – death.

Estling, 14, of Maynard was driving a moped south along Highway 150 on June 28, 2018, when he was hit by a vehicle. It happened about 2-1/2 miles south of Fayette.

Full Story at

James Booher

James Booher

Nearly five years after James Booher went missing, three people have been charged in his death.

Matthew Robbins, 46, of Ely, and William L. Yancey, 43, and Danielle Busch, 29, both of Cedar Rapids, were charged in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, in the robbery and death of the 51-year-old Marion man who went missing May 31, 2014.

Marion police in 2015 considered Booher a homicide victim but no charges were filed in his death until Wednesday. Federal prosecutors wouldn’t say what new evidence led to the charges, and authorities have not announced that they ever found his body.

All three face federal charges of robbery affecting interstate commerce, conspiracy to commit robbery affecting interstate commerce and using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence resulting in murder, according to an indictment.

Three indicted in James Booher murderAll three defendants have pleaded not guilty.

They are accused of robbing Booher of methamphetamine and money by force on May 31, 2014, and also accused of having a firearm during the robbery and fatally shooting Booher.

The indictment doesn’t detail if there was more than one gun involved or if only one of them killed Booher. The firearms charge is a “death constituting murder” charge under federal law, the indictment shows. Full Story at The Gazette

According to a Gazette article dated Tue., June 11, 2019:

U.S. Magistrate Mark Roberts last week designated this case as “complex,” which expands the deadline for pretrial motions, discovery and gives more time for both sides to prepare for trial. The prosecution advised the court of the “voluminous” evidence in this case, including scientific and forensic evidence, according to Roberts’ order … Typically, a trial has to start within 70 days of arraignment, according to federal law, but since this has been deemed a complex case, Roberts set Feb. 24, 2020 as a trial date for Busch and Yancey.

Prosecutors will be seeking the death penalty.

Jerry Lynn Burns

Jerry Lynn Burns

On Wednesday, December 19, 2018, Cedar Rapids police arrested Jerry Lynn Burns, 64, of Manchester, Iowa, and charged him with first-degree murder in the 39-year-old unsolved Michelle Martinko cold case.

Michelle Martinko

Michelle Martinko

At 4 a.m. on Thursday, December 20, 1979, police found 18-year-old Michelle Marie Martinko — her face and chest stabbed repeatedly — in her family’s tan 1972 Buick 4-door in Cedar Rapids’ Westdale Mall parking lot. The Kennedy High School senior had driven to the newly opened mall after a school choir banquet to shop for a new winter coat.

In a statement announcing the arrest, police said Burns was questioned at his job Wednesday in Manchester and denied killing Martinko. He could not offer a “plausible explanation” for why his DNA was found at the crime scene, authorities said.

Burns, who was 25 when Martinko died, made his first court appearance Thursday morning, Dec. 20, 2018, in Linn County.

His first-degree murder trial was scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Oct. 14, 2019, at the Linn County Courthouse. A Gazette story published Sept. 16, 2019, said the trial for Burns will likely be postponed because the defense may need additional technical information and expert witnesses to prepare for the trial.

A Des Moines Register story published Oct. 14, 2019, said a jury won’t gather to determine Burns’ fate until Feb. 10, 2020, if not later.

On Monday, Dec. 9, 2019, a judge agreed to relocate the trial to Scott County, stating in a filing that pretrial publicity made it unlikely Burns could receive a fair trial in Linn County. The trial began Feb. 10, 2020, and on Feb. 24, the Scott County jury of seven women and five men returned a guilty verdict after deliberating just shy of three hours.

Sentencing was originally scheduled for April 17, 2020, but the coronavirus led Iowa’s court system to delay criminal court proceedings; the date was pushed back the first time to June 19. Assistant Linn County Attorney Nicholas Maybanks said it was then delayed a second time until August 7.

For information on recent trials and convictions, see the Iowa Cold Cases Solved page.

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