Cold Cases in the News — 2019 Archives

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Year in Review: Who shot Micalla Rettinger?

December 30, 2019 | by Collin Dorsey,

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) – It’s likely one of the biggest mysteries of 2019: who shot and killed Micalla Rettinger?

Micalla Rettinger

Micalla Rettinger was killed April 28 in Waterloo on U.S. Highway 218. (Photo Courtesy of Rettinger Family and

Rettinger was driving southbound on Highway 218 between Waterloo and Cedar Falls on April 28. A bullet came through the driver’s side window as her vehicle crossed Brinker Lake and the Cedar River. That bullet would kill her and injure her friend, Adam Kimball.

Before she died, she was able to stop the car at the Greenhill exit.

Just days after, Rettinger’s parents would make a tearful plea for the person who fired the shot to come forward. That person has still yet to say anything.

Waterloo Police are still pursuing the investigation. They are working closely with authorities at the state and federal level, including the FBI.

Full Story at

What we know: Key moments in the Michelle Martinko cold case murder investigation

December 30, 2019 | by Trish Mehaffey, The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS — On the 40th anniversary this month of Michelle Martinko’s death, family and friends gathered at her grave to mourn her.

She had gone Dec. 19, 1979, to the newly opened Westdale Mall to buy a winter coat — and vanished. Early the next morning, the body of the popular teen was found in the family’s Buick in a mall parking lot. She had been stabbed to death.

Without viable leads, the case languished. It was 27 years later that technology provided new avenues for investigators who had never given up hope of unraveling a killing that shocked and haunted the community.

Full Story at The Gazette

Top 10 state news stories of 2019

December 29, 2019 | The Kearney Hub

Shanna Golyar

Shanna Golyar (AP Photo)

The Kearney (Neb.) Hub’s recap of 2019’s top 10 news stories includes:

#7: Supreme Court rejects appeal in bizarre case of woman who posed as romantic rival after killing her

When Shanna Golyar asked the state’s high court to reverse her conviction and life sentence for first-degree murder, she pointed out that criminal investigators never found a murder weapon, a single witness or most importantly, a body.

The 43-year-old woman not only killed Cari Farver for kindling a relationship with the man Golyar was obsessed with, she spent four years impersonating the victim in text messages, emails and Facebook postings. A unanimous Supreme Court ruled that overwhelming circumstantial evidence in the case overcame the lack of a body or doubts about premeditation.

Read the rest of the article here.

Trial against Michelle Martinko murder suspect moving to Scott County

December 10, 2019 | by Marissa Schwartz, CBS2/FOX28

LINN COUNTY, Iowa — New court records show the trial against the man accused of killing Cedar Rapids teenager Michelle Martinko nearly 40 years ago, will move to Scott County.

The decision was made by a Linn County judge on Monday.

In November, the attorney for Jerry Burns filed a request to have the trial moved because media coverage of the arrest and court proceedings “has generated not only a presumption of prejudiced but also an atmosphere of actual bias in Linn County, Iowa.”

Full Story at CBS2/FOX28

Police still investigate Hampton cold case 20 years later

November 20, 2019 | by Ally Crutcher,

Roberta "Bobbi" Crawford

Bobbi Crawford

Police and the Iowa DCI are continuing to investigate an Iowa cold case out of Franklin County.

November 17 marked 20 years since Roberta E. “Bobbi” Crawford was murdered.

Authorities say she was murdered inside her home in Hampton, some time between the night of November 16, 1999, and early on November 17, 1999.

Full Story at

Appeals Court upholds Tait Purk conviction for 2nd degree murder

November 15, 2019 | The Tama News-Herald/The Toledo Chronicle

Tait Otis Purk’s conviction and sentence on 2nd degree murder in Tama County District Court was affirmed by the Iowa Court of Appeals last week.

District Court Judge Ian K. Thornhill found Purk guilty of killing his girlfriend Cora Ann Okonski following a bench trial in Toledo on Dec. 8, 2017. Okonski, then age 23, had vanished in Tama on April 16, 2000. She, nor her body, have never been located. Purk was indicted by a Tama County Grand Jury in December, 2016.

The Appeals Court found Purk’s claims of ineffective counsel, improper evidence and the verdict was not supported by sufficient evidence were all insufficient.

Full Story

Iowa to launch rape kit tracking system in 2020, according to Attorney General’s office

November 13, 2019 | by KGAN and

Des Moines, IA. — Iowa will launch a sexual assault evidence kit tracking and reporting system in 2020 according to Attorney General Tom Miller’s office.

According to a release from Miller’s office, the AG’s Crime Victim Assistance Division has tapped STACS DNA to develop the system. STACS DNA is a sample-tracking software company that has implemented rape-kit tracking to several other states.

The Crime Victim Assistance Division received a nearly $800,000 grant from the National Institute of Justice, which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice, to develop and start the system.

Full Story

Investigator says he’s found final video footage of Jodi Huisentruit

November 5, 2019 | by Mike Runge, KIMT3 News

Courtesy KIMT3 News

SOLON, Iowa – Cold case investigator Steve Ridge has revealed that popular Mason City, Iowa morning television anchor Jodi Huisentruit boarded a ski boat with two men she did not previously know the weekend before she vanished in June of 1995.

It has been widely reported that Huisentruit went skiing at Coralville Lake north of Iowa City, Iowa with the primary person of interest in her disappearance, a man twenty-some years here senior, John Vansice, Vansice’s son and two of Jodi’s friends.

Full Story at KIMT

Ex-D&C employee accused in Child Victims Act lawsuit once arrested for touching paperboys

October 21, 2019 | by Steve Orr,

As horror stories about sexually abusive priests began to dot the Democrat and Chronicle front page, two readers contacted the newspaper out of the blue.

They challenged reporters to turn the same scrutiny on their own house. Look into a former newspaper employee named Jack J. Lazeroff, the readers said.

Democrat and Chronicle reporters did begin an investigation and have found evidence that Lazeroff, who worked in the newspaper’s circulation department in the 1980s, might have been a sexual predator — and Democrat and Chronicle paperboys might have been among his prey.

Lazeroff, who died in 2003, was accused in a lawsuit filed earlier this week of sexually abusing a Brighton paperboy who reported to him. The suit names the newspaper and its corporate parent, Gannett Co. Inc.

The accuser, Richard L. Bates, alleged that Lazeroff molested him weekly for the entirety of 1983, when he was 11 and 12 years old. Bates says this stole his innocence and condemned him to live with guilt and anger.

(This story also includes information about missing Iowa newspaper boys Johnny Gosch and Eugene Martin.)

Full Story at The Democrat and Chronicle

Manchester man charged with killing Michelle Martinko appears in court: Jerry Burns, 64, waives right to speedy trial in the cold-case murder

October 21, 2019 | by Trish Mehaffey, The Cedar Rapids Gazette

Michelle Martinko (Courtesy Robert J. Riley)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Manchester man accused of fatally stabbing 18-year-old Michelle Martinko in 1979 waived his right to speedy trial Monday and will ask the court to move his trial out of Linn County.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Fae Hoover ordered that Jerry Burns, 64, charged with first-degree murder, waive his rights in person. His lawyer previously had filed a written waiver.

Burns appeared in a green jail jumpsuit and came into the courtroom in a wheelchair. He spoke only to affirm he was waiving his right to a speedy trial.

Burns’ attorney, Leon Spies, said the waiver was necessary because the defense still was reviewing evidence in the case and needed time to prepare for trial. The trial was reset to Feb. 10.

A request for a change of venue wasn’t filed as of Monday morning, but Spies said last week he planned to ask the court to move the cold-case murder trial.

Full Story at The Gazette

Death of Waterloo woman shot while driving remains a mystery

October 20, 2019 | Associated Press and The Gazette

WATERLOO, Iowa — Iowa investigators are working to determine who fatally shot a woman while she was driving in April.

Micalla Rettinger

Micalla Rettinger was killed April 28 in Waterloo on U.S. Highway 218. Photo Courtesy of Rettinger Family and

The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reports no arrests have been made yet in the April 28 death of Micalla Rettinger. She was a former softball player at the University of Northern Iowa who was driving home from work at a bar with two passengers when the shooting happened.

Rettinger died and one passenger was hurt in the shooting that happened in a remote area between Waterloo and Cedar Falls on Highway 218.

Police Maj. Joe Leibold says the bullet and other evidence were recently sent to a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms lab for additional testing.

Rettinger was from Lenexa, Kansas. She had been living in Waterloo since graduating in 2016 from college.

Full Story at The Gazette

Attorney: Michelle Martinko murder trial delayed; accused killer wants venue change

October 14, 2019 | by Anna Spoerre, The Des Moines Register

The trial for the Manchester man accused in the 1979 killing of eastern Iowa teen Michelle Martinko was supposed to begin today.

Instead, a jury won’t gather to determine the fate of 65-year-old Jerry Burns until Feb. 10, if not later, Burns’ attorney, Leon Spies, confirmed Monday.

The trial date is tentative, as Spies said Burns intends to a request a venue change. If the request is granted and the trial is moved out of Linn County, the trial date could move again.

Full Story at The Des Moines Register

Michelle Martinko’s murder ‘haunted’ the Cedar Rapids community for 40 years. Now, her suspected killer is set to go on trial.

October 2, 2019 | by Jen Moulton,

Dec. 19, 2018. Like every year, local news stations ran anniversary pieces describing the cold case of Michelle Martinko, an 18-year-old woman stabbed to death in Cedar Rapids in 1979. The facts of the case were recounted. A tip line scrolled across the bottom of the screen. The weather report would be next, and Martinko’s story would be retired for another year.

But the Cedar Rapids Police Department had a busy day — perhaps their busiest since they began investigating the homicide nearly four decades ago. They recounted their exploits at a 7 p.m. press conference, and the next morning’s headline emerged right away: At last, a suspect has been arrested in the murder of Michelle Martinko.

This Dec. 19, which marks the 40th anniversary of Martinko’s death, news stations will be telling a much different story.

Full Story at Little Village Magazine

Update: Annette Cahill found guilty of second-degree murder

September 19, 2019 | By Meredith Roemerman, The Muscatine Journal

MUSCATINE — After 16 total hours of deliberations, a jury found the defendant in a local cold case homicide guilty of second-degree murder more than 25 years later.

Corey Wieneke

Corey Lee Wieneke was found beaten to death Oct. 13, 1992 in his West Liberty home. A jury of nine women and three men began deliberations Tuesday afternoon after spending six days hearing testimony and arguments in court, to find Annette Cahill, now 56, guilty of killing him.

Around 4 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, the jury was deadlocked and could not reach a verdict. The jury foreperson confirmed for presiding judge Patrick McElyea that more time would not yield a verdict. McElyea ordered the jury to resume deliberations Thursday morning and around 2 p.m., they had reached a unanimous verdict.

Full Story at The Muscatine Journal

Murder trial delay likely in cold case of Michelle Martinko

September 16, 2019 | By Trish Mehaffey, The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS — The trial for a Manchester man accused of fatally stabbing 18-year-old Michelle Martinko in 1979 likely will be postponed because the defense may need additional technical information and expert witnesses to prepare for the trial.

Leon Spies, defense attorney for Jerry L. Burns, 64, charged with first-degree murder, in his motion Friday for the delay said the prosecution of Burns has been a “lengthy and complex investigation” that has included uncommon investigative and forensic measures, such as the genetic genealogy that cracked this 39-year-old cold case.

Just last month, Spies said he received additional testimony that includes expert witnesses and forensic evidence from the prosecution.

Full Story at The Gazette

Cold Case: 30 years since Jeffery Zolliecoffer’s murder

September 16, 2019 |

jeffery Zolliecoffer

“Jo Jo” Zolliecoffer

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) – It’s been 30 years since the murder of Jeffery “Jo Jo” Zolliecoffer, whose body was found in a Waterloo river with multiple gunshot wounds.

On Sept. 16, 1989, Zolliecoffer’s autopsy declared he died of a gunshot wound to the head. He was 23 years old at the time of death. The last time he had been seen alive was Sept. 7, 1989 leaving a bar. He was declared missing two days later.

Waterloo Police have followed up on many leads over the years but have not made an arrest.

Full Story at

76-year-old mother continues to fight for justice for daughter killed 27 years ago

August 30, 2019 | By Grace Stetson,

Tammy Zywicki

Tammy Zywicki (Courtesy

Tammy Zywicki was a determined and focused student at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. She was active on campus as an accomplished soccer player and a photographer for the student newspaper. The 21-year-old had spent much of the summer of 1992 abroad in Madrid studying for her bachelor’s degree in Spanish. She was excited to return to Grinnell for her senior year in August 1992, according to her mother, JoAnn Zywicki.

“Tammy was a very practical person, very smart about the things she did,” JoAnn Zywicki, told Dateline. “She was always busy. She always had something going on.”

Tammy and her younger brother left the family home in New Jersey together to drive back to their respective schools. On August 23, 1992, Tammy dropped her brother off at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and then began the final leg of her drive to Grinnell, which was five hours away.

That evening, Tammy’s parents JoAnn and Hank Zywicki expected a call from her which did not come. They became worried the next morning when they still had not heard from their daughter.

JoAnn told Dateline that she called Amy Fort, Tammy’s friend and roommate from freshman year, to see if she had heard from Tammy.

Amy told Dateline she told Tammy no, but said she did remember asking, “Is everything OK?”

Full Story at

“Little Chicago”: Sioux City in the 1880s

August 27, 2019 | By Jessica Watson, KCAU TV9,

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – What Sioux City is today is, in many ways, very different than it used to be. In the late 1800s, the streets of Sioux City looked like something straight out of old spaghetti westerns.

Sioux City was growing in the 1880s, and with that growth came a lot of illegal activity. That lead to a famous unsolved murder and a whole lot more.

George Haddock

Rev. George Haddock

“1880s Sioux City is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. It’s a pretty wild place,” said Tom Munson, with the Sioux City Public Museum.

Sioux City, nicknamed “Little Chicago” back then, was a center for growth and crime.

“The state of Iowa passes a prohibition law prohibition of alcohol similar to the prohibition law that was around in the 1920s that which we might be more familiar,” said Munson.

“Little Chicago” however decided to openly defy the new law to continue to gain income from alcohol sales. That is until the Reverand George C. Haddock came to Sioux City in 1885.

“He’s not a very well-liked guy,” said Munson.

Full Story at KCAU

Iowa City police beef up investigation ranks after JoEllen Browning homicide, other complex cases: DCI acting as ‘force multiplier’

August 26, 2019 | By Lee Hermiston, The Gazette

IOWA CITY — Complex and violent crime cases taken on by the Iowa City Police Department’s investigations section this year have led the department to bolster the ranks in that unit and rely more heavily on outside agencies for help.

The section has added a full-time investigator this year, bringing the total to nine. The Street Crimes Action Team, a specialized unit within the investigations section tasked with violent and drug-related crimes in the city, added two detectives and a sergeant.

Iowa City police Lt. Dave Droll, who leads the investigations section, said the need for more investigators was born out of several large cases that overlapped.

“We just had a whole bunch of things that happened during the same time,” Droll said.

The crunch on resources began earlier this year with the investigation into the death of JoEllen Browning. Browning, 65, was found stabbed to death early April 5 in her Iowa City home.

Full Story at The Gazette

The ethical hacker: PCSO’s Tony Kava learns secrets, gives lectures at DEF CON conference

August 25, 2019 | By Brian McCormack, The Daily Nonpareil

Jim Doty, Tony Kava, and Ryan Avis

From right, Sgt. Jim Doty, Digital Forensics and Technology Administrator Anthony Kava and Deputy Ryan Avis of the Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office worked together to solve the 2012 cold case murder of Macedonia resident Cari Farver. (Staff photo/Joe Shearer)

Anthony Kava is kind of a mad scientist. But instead of bubbling beakers and chalkboards full of mind-scrambling equations, he is surrounded by computers.

Kava is employed with the Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office and his deep knowledge of modern technology has earned him a unique position within local law enforcement. Kava is not only the agency’s technology administrator, but he is also an expert on digital forensics and a member of the Iowa Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

But long before Kava was busting bad guys on the world wide web, he was a just kid who was fascinated by computers. In the early ‘90s, internet access wasn’t as commonplace as it is now. At age 12, Kava had to get creative if he wanted to hop online and hone his burgeoning tech skills.

That’s when Kava decided to exploit vulnerabilities within a local internet provider’s billing system. He created fake credit card numbers and used them until the system caught up with the bogus digits. When it did, he simply entered a new, phony credit card number to keep the scam going.

But when his luck ran out, kid Kava faced some potentially serious consequences. Credit card fraud committed across state lines is no laughing matter. Luckily for him, the authorities looking into the case determined that Kava was not a threat to society.

One Omaha detective spoke to him and tried to frighten him with what Kava called a “scared straight” talk. But another person, an employee who worked security for the company Kava hacked for free internet, gave him another kind of talk. Kava referred to it as the “good hacker” talk, and it was just what Kava’s young ears needed hear. He decided from that point on to keep on hacking, but instead of stealing services, Kava wanted to use his knowledge to serve society.

Full Story at The Daily Nonpareil

How investigators used technology to solve the mysterious disappearance, murder of a Macedonia woman

August 5, 2019 | By Brian McCormack, The Daily Nonpareil

Jim Doty, Tony Kava and Ryan Avis

From left, Sgt. Jim Doty, Digital Forensics and Technology Administrator Anthony Kava and Deputy Ryan Avis of the Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office pose for a portrait inside the county headquarters on Friday, Aug. 2, 2019. The three worked together to solve the 2012 cold case murder of Macedonia resident Cari Farver. (Staff photo/Joe Shearer)

It was the disappearance of Macedonia resident Cari Farver that prompted Det. Ryan Avis, Investigator Jim Doty and Special Deputy Anthony Kava of the Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office to join forces in April 2015.

Their goal: to crack the mysterious case of the missing 37-year-old mother that remained unsolved.

In November 2012, Farver abruptly broke up with her new boyfriend and quit her job via text messages. She stopped going home to her family, who immediately grew concerned. It wasn’t like Farver to shirk responsibility. By all accounts, she was happy. She worked in Omaha as a computer programmer and had a strong bond with her son, who was in high school at the time.

But according to text messages, emails and social media updates sent to family from Farver, she needed a break. She was moving to Kansas to take a new job, she said, and didn’t want to see any of them — indefinitely.

Doty, a 12-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, said there was something peculiar about Farver’s sudden need for a break from everyone she cared about.

“Someone just doesn’t disappear like that,” Doty said. “A single mom who had a great relationship with her kid and a great relationship with her mom, had a good job — someone like that doesn’t just disappear.”

Full Story at The Nonpareil

Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers offering $50K reward in case of cousins abducted in Evansdale, murdered

July 30, 2019 |

Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers is offering a new reward of $50,000 for information leading to an arrest in the 2012 abduction and murders of Elizabeth Collins and Lyric Cook of Evansdale.

New $50K Reward for Information

Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers announced on Tuesday, July 30, 2019, a new $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.

The reward was announced Tuesday morning and is separate from other rewards that would be contingent upon a conviction.

Elizabeth, 8, and Lyric, 10, were cousins. They went missing July 13, 2012.

They were seen riding their bicycles about noon at Meyers Lake, a popular fishing and recreation area in Evansdale, a northeastern Iowa community of about 4,500 residents southeast of Waterloo.

Their bicycles and Elizabeth’s purse were found about 4 p.m. on a trail near the lake.

For nearly five months after the disappearance, law enforcement agencies and residents mounted an enormous search for the girls.

Their bodies were found Dec. 5 by a group of hunters at the Seven Bridges Wildlife Park in Bremer County, about 20 miles north of Evansdale.

Full Story at The Gazette

Estling family keeps Kaiden’s memory alive as one year passes in unsolved hit-and-run

July 26, 2019 |

Kaiden Estling

Kaiden Estling

FAYETTE, Iowa – (CBS2/Fox28) — The blue cross on Highway 150 outside Fayette is filled with Kaiden Estling’s favorite things.

A football. Fishing pole. Tiny models of cars he would’ve loved to drive.

“He loved cars,” his mom April says. “Fast cars especially.”

April comes to this cross nearly every week. She’ll listen to music, or just sit and cry.

“Sometimes I hug the cross,” she says. “Pretend like it’s him, I don’t know.”

This has been the ritual for the last year since her 14-year-old son was hit and killed by a driver who then drove off.

Full Story at

Body found in vacant No Frills that of man missing since 2009

July 23, 2019 | The Daily Nonpareil

Council Bluffs police have released the identity of the body found in a vacant Council Bluffs grocery store in January.

Larry Murillo-Moncada

Larry Murillo-Moncada

Last week, the Council Bluffs Police Department received information from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Criminalistics Laboratory regarding the identity of the body found in the vacant No Frills Supermarket Store, 1817 W. Broadway, on Jan. 24.

The identity of the deceased is Larry Ely Murillo-Moncada of Council Bluffs, police announced in a release Monday morning. The State Lab was able to make a positive identification by analyzing DNA collected from Murillo’s biological parents.

On Nov. 28, 2009, Murillo-Moncada’s parents reported him to be missing after he became upset and ran out of their home; he was 25 years old at the time of that report. Murillo was employed at No Frills Supermarket at the time of his disappearance. The autopsy indicated no signs of trauma to Murillo-Moncada, police said.

Full Story at

FB removes convicted murderer Golyar’s fake profile, another remains

July 17, 2019 |

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (KMTV) — The disappearance of Cari Farver in 2012 puzzled investigators, but the murder trial that followed stunned the community. Now, authorities say Facebook profiles she created remain online and they want them removed.


In 2017, Shanna Golyar was sentenced to life in prison for killing Cari Farver because she was dating her ex-boyfriend and using a web of social media lies to pretend she was still alive.

Digital Forensic Administrator with the Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office, Anthony Kava, worked for years on the case and says two profiles used to stalk people and commit the murder remained on Facebook this week. The profiles were used as evidence in the trial.

Facebook previously removed all the fake “Cari Farver” profiles Golyar created, and Kava has asked for two years for Facebook to remove the last two.

Full Story at KMTV Channel 3 News Now

Saturday ride marks 7 years since Evansdale cousins’ disappearance: Investigation into deaths of Lyric Cook and Elizabeth Collins remains active

July 12, 2019 | by Kat Russell, The Gazette

Elizabeth Collins (left) and Lyric Cook

Elizabeth Collins (left) and Lyric Cook (Courtesy The Gazette)

Saturday marks seven years since two Evansdale cousins, 10-year-old Lyric Cook and 8-year-old Elizabeth Collins, disappeared.

Their bodies were found nearly five months later, and the case remains unsolved.

“We are still very much involved in the investigation,” said Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of field operations for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

“There are still several agencies that are actively working this case — the Evansdale Police Department, the Black Hawk County and Bremer County sheriff’s offices, and the FBI — and we get together regularly to review information and evidence and evaluate new information,” he said. “It’s a group effort, and the investigation still is very much on the front burner.”

As technologies and forensic science evolve, investigators go back to the evidence to see if there are new approaches they can use to glean more information, Mortvedt said. They also watch for similar cases elsewhere across the country, Mortvedt said.

Investigators remain hopeful they will find the person or persons responsible for the children’s deaths, he said.

Full Story at The Gazette

Ride and Drive happening Saturday; honors Evansdale murder victims Lyric and Elizabeth

July 12, 2019 |

EVANSDALE, Iowa (KWWL) – This Saturday, July 13, marks seven years since the disappearance of Lyric Cook-Morrisey and Elizabeth Collins.

Ride and Drive for Lyric and Elizabeth


The two cousins were kidnapped back in 2012. They were last seen riding their bikes at Meyers Lake in Evansdale. Nearly five months later, a group of hunters found their bodies in Bremer County.


Every year, to keep their memory alive, the girls’ families have a memorial ride and drive.

Bikers, drivers and people in the community are invited to join. They will be making five stops in the area.

Organizers said this is more than just a ride, though. They’re honoring Lyric and Elizabeth – two lives gone too soon. They’re also raising awareness – reminding parents to talk with their children. They hope to prevent this tragedy from happening again.

Full Story at

Man linked to James Booher’s slaying pleads not guilty: Prosecutors plan to seek death penalty for 3 defendants

June 11, 2019 | by Trish Mehaffey, The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS — A third defendant pleaded not guilty Tuesday in the 2014 robbery and fatal shooting of a 51-year-old Marion man — a case in which federal prosecutors say they plan to seek the death penalty for all three defendants.

Prosecutors, at arraignments last month for two defendants, Danielle Busch and William L. Yancey, said they are waiting for approval from the U.S. Justice Department to pursue the death penalty if the defendants are found guilty.

Three indicted in James Booher murderMatthew Robbins, 46, of Ely, Busch, 29, and Yancey, 43, both of Cedar Rapids, are charged with 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.

Full story at The Gazette

‘None of these are necessarily unsolved’: To solve open murders, Q-C police urge witnesses to cooperate

June 9, 2019 | by Tara Becker-Gray and Bill Lukitsch, Quad-City Times

On a warm summer evening a little more than one year ago, 16-year-old Jovanita “Jovi” Jones was struck by gunfire during a drive-by shooting in a liquor store parking lot. He died in the hospital the following day.

More than a year later, statements have been collected, evidence gathered and witnesses interviewed. But, like dozens of other open homicide investigations in the Quad-Cities, no arrests have been made in Jones’ case — even though the assigned investigators say they have a pretty good idea of who killed him.

“None of these are necessarily unsolved,” said Lt. Kyle Chisholm, who oversees the detective bureau for the Davenport Police Department. “We may not have charged in these cases, but that doesn’t mean they’re not solved. That doesn’t mean we don’t know who did it.”

Full Story at

‘Everybody’s pulling the oars the same way’: One year after beginning a community effort to address youth violence, local leaders have a shared vision

June 6, 2019 | by Bill Lukitsch, Quad-City Times

Days after 16-year-old Jovontia “Jovi” Jones was fatally wounded during a drive-by shooting in the city’s Hilltop Neighborhood, local leaders began a yearlong concerted effort to find solutions toward curbing youth violence and crime.

Inspired to address what he would come to call “a criminal subculture with no regard for human life,” Mayor Frank Klipsch led months of meetings with hundreds of community stakeholders – from religious leaders to school officials to concerned parents – eventually arriving to a conclusion focused on providing more diversion programs for youthful offenders and better access to social services.

And after one year exploring the community’s vast problems, the mayor says the biggest takeaway is that “everybody’s pulling the oars the same way.”

Full Story at Quad-City Times

8 Hotel Mysteries That Are Still Unsolved: From murders to disappearances, these unsolved mysteries all have hotels in common.

June 4, 2019 | by Emily DiNuzzo, Reader’s Digest

Excerpt from third case listed

Rose Burkert and Roger Atkison

Rose Burkert

Rose Burkert

Roger Atkison

Roger Atkison

In September 1980, Rose Burkert and Roger Atkison stayed at the Amana Holiday Inn near Williamsburg, Iowa. The couple got the last hotel room available thanks to a last-minute cancellation. The next morning, the housekeeper found the couple murdered—and there are some strange facts. There was evidence that the killer put their feet up on the desk, and that they carved a piece of soap. The murderer also left one word written on the bathroom mirror—”this.” Making things even creepier, there was a mortician convention in town with many attendees staying at the Inn. After their death, rumors circled about the possible killer. One is that Roger’s uncle, a serial killer and recent escapee from a Nebraska mental health center, is responsible. Yet, the case remains cold. It’s one of the 19 of the strangest unsolved mysteries of all time.

Full Story at

October trial on track for Manchester man accused of killing Michelle Martinko in 1979

June 3, 2019 | By Trish Mehaffey, The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS — The October trial remains on track for a Manchester man accused of fatally stabbing 18-year-old Michelle Martinko in 1979.

Jerry Lynn Burns

Jerry Lynn Burns

The lawyer for Jerry Burns, 64, and two prosecutors, in a case management hearing Monday, said evidence materials were still being shared and there were no pending motions to discuss.

Burns waived his presence at the hearing and didn’t attend the hearing.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Fae Hoover-Grinde had the short hearing in chambers with First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks and Assistant Linn County Attorney Michael Harris and Burns’ lawyer, Leon Spies, who called into the hearing.

Maybanks said they had consulted with an expert that may testify at trial but that information is being reviewed at this time. He will share that with the defense if they decide it will be used at trial.

The trial remains set for Oct. 14 in Linn County District Court.

Full Story at The Gazette

Investigator who cracked Martinko murder case named Iowa Officer of the Year

May 24, 2014 |

Wayne Jerman and Matt Denlinger

Cedar Rapids Police Investigator Matt Denlinger, right, with Police Chief Wayne Jerman (Courtesy

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – The Cedar Rapids Police investigator who helped lead the effort to solve the murder of Michelle Martinko after 40 years has been named Iowa’s Officer of the Year.

Investigator Matt Denlinger won the award at the Iowa Police Chief’s Association banquet in Coralville Thursday.

Denlinger works on cold cases and was part of the team that helped make an arrest in the 1979 murder of Michelle Martinko. The 18-year-old was found stabbed to death in her family’s car outside Westdale mall. Full Story at

Three people indicted in connection with 2014 unsolved murder

May 22, 2019 | by KCRG News Staff

James Booher

James Booher

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – Three people were indicted on multiple federal charges in connection to an unsolved crime from 2014 that resulted in the death of James Booher.

Matthew Barrett Robbins, 46, William Leo Yancey, 43, and Danielle Lynn Busch, 29, were charged with 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. The charges were filed in federal court for the Northern District of Iowa and unsealed on Wednesday.

The indictment alleges that, on or around May 31, 2014, the three persons named conspired to, and then did, rob Booher of methamphetamine that he posessed and the proceeds from the sale of meth. Prosecutors said they did so through means of actual and threatened force.

The filing said that the three did reveal and discharge a firearm while committing the robbery, leading to the death of Booher. This would be considered murder under U.S. law, though nobody has been specifically charged with murder.

Full Story at

One year later: No arrests in Greg Walker murder

May 18, 2019 |

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) – No arrests have been made in the killing of Waterloo man last May, that’s according to the family of Greg Walker. Walker, a father of four was killed during an attempted robbery. Walker was murdered on May 19th, 2018.

Walker was shot in the 600 block of Gable Street in Waterloo, a victim of one of three shootings during that weekend.

Walker’s mother, Ann Davis, says no arrests have been made in regards to his mother.

If anyone has any information that could lead to a rest, you’re asked to call either Waterloo Police at 319-291-4383 or Cedar Valley CrimeStoppers at (855) 300-8477.

After unexplained Highway 218 shooting, father cherishes memories of departed daughter

May 6, 2019 | by Amie Rivers, The Waterloo Courier / The Gazette

WATERLOO — King, the beloved husky of Micalla Rettinger and Adam Kimball, went everywhere with his human parents.

And he was there in the back seat of the Jeep during Rettinger’s final moments in the early hours of April 28 when a bullet entered the driver’s window on Highway 218 in Waterloo, killing Rettinger and injuring Kimball.

So perhaps it was no surprise King also was there when Rettinger was memorialized Friday in Lenexa, Kan.

“The dog was at the funeral Mass. It behaved itself,” said Steve Rettinger, Micalla’s father, in a weekend interview with the Courier. “And the dog went to the cemetery for the graveside and Catholic rites.”

And, unprompted, King offered his own farewell.

“When we all had a chance to kneel down and say goodbye to her, the dog went up with Adam and licked the marble” around the urn, Rettinger said.

Read the Full Story at The Gazette

Scholarship fund is created in memory of Cari Farver, who was killed in 2012 slaying

May 3, 2019 | by Alia Conley, World-Herald staff writer

Cari Farver

Cari Farver

A scholarship fund has been created in memory of Cari Farver, who was killed in 2012 in a slaying that took five years to yield a conviction.

The Pottawattamie County Community Foundation is establishing the fund, which will provide financial help to students who are interested in technology.


“Supporting this fund, and its goal of a permanent endowment, means ensuring Cari Farver, an innocent victim, is never forgotten,” said Anthony Kava, the digital forensics investigator in the Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office who worked on the case. “It means preserving Cari’s legacy of helping others. It’s part of the answer to how we, as a community, can strive to ensure that a victim is remembered, rather than the person who harmed them.”

Full Story

UPDATE: $7K reward offered in fatal shooting of Cedar Falls woman

April 29, 2019 | by Jeff Reinitz,

WATERLOO – Police are seeking the public’s help as they investigate the death of a former University of Northern Iowa softball player who was killed when she was struck by a bullet while driving on U.S. Highway 218 early Sunday morning.

Micalla Rettinger

Micalla Alexis Rettinger, 25, of Cedar Falls, and her passengers were returning from work when the shooting happened.

“There is nothing to indicate the victims in this case were in any way involved in any activity that would have caused them to be targeted in this manner,” said Maj. Joe Leibold with the Waterloo Police Department.

Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers has offered a $7,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.

Full Story at

Sooner or Later Your Cousin’s DNA Is Going to Solve a Murder

April 25, 2019 | by Heather Murphy, The New York Times

The Golden State Killer case was just the start. Hundreds of cold cases are hot again thanks to a new genealogy technique. The price may be everyone’s genetic privacy.

In the year since the arrest of the man believed to be the notorious Golden State Killer, the world of criminal investigation has been radically transformed.

Using an unconventional technique that relies on DNA submitted to online genealogy sites, investigators have solved dozens of violent crimes, in many cases decades after they hit dead ends. Experts believe the technique could be used to revive investigations into a vast number of cases that have gone cold across the country, including at least 100,000 unsolved major violent crimes and 40,000 unidentified bodies.

Many have called it a revolutionary new technology. But credit for this method largely belongs to a number of mostly female, mostly retired family history lovers who tried for years to persuade law enforcement officials that their techniques could be used for more than locating the biological parents of adoptees.

Full Story at The New York Times

New Development Regarding John Vansice, a Longtime Person of Interest in Huisentruit Case

April 17, 2019 |

MASON CITY, Iowa – John Vansice, a longtime person of interest in the Jodi Huisentruit case, has an aggressive health issue that could prevent him from contributing any further in the case.

KIMT learned Wednesday that Vansice has an aggressive form of Alzheimer’s.

Steve Ridge, a consultant and past investigative reporter, spoke to KIMT on Wednesday and said that he went through 11 pages of Vansice’s medical records and found out about the diagnosis.

Ridge is one of the few people who Vansice has opened up to.

Full Story at

Police collected DNA from dozens while investigating 1979 killing of Michelle Martinko

April 15, 2019 | by Luke Nozicka, The Des Moines Register

Before an arrest was made in one of Iowa’s most haunting cold-case killings, investigators collected DNA from more than 125 people as they eliminated suspects.

Search warrants unsealed last week show the efforts of Cedar Rapids investigators to make an arrest in the 1979 fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Michelle Martinko, which included taking buccal swabs from dozens of individuals.

The warrants also better explain how a Virginia-based genetics lab and the DNA of a woman in Vancouver, Washington, helped detectives identify the Manchester man they say killed the high school student decades ago when he was 25: Jerry Lynn Burns.

Full Story at The Des Moines Register

Answers for Ashley: Police hope new tool solves Ashley Okland murder

April 8, 2019 | by Laura Terrell,

West Des Moines police are using a new tool to investigate Ashley Okland’s murder eight years after it occurred.

Ashley Okland

Ashley Okland

The 27-year-old real estate agent was gunned down while holding an open house at a West Des Moines townhome.

“This is one of those cases where I remember where I was when I got the call,” West Des Moines police Sgt. Dan Wade said.

Officers in the West Des Moines Police Department created a new website called Answers for Ashley that they hope leads to her killer.

To date, officers have followed up on more than 900 leads. Now, they hope the website will bring in fresh tips.

Full Story

2nd trial scheduled for woman accused of 1992 slaying

March 26, 2019 | by Meredith Roemerman, Muscatine Journal

MUSCATINE, Iowa (AP) — A Tipton woman accused of killing her former boyfriend in 1992 is scheduled for another trial.

The first trial of 56-year-old Annette Cahill ended in a mistrial March 12 because of a hung jury. Her second trial in Muscatine is scheduled to begin Sept. 9.

Cahill was arrested last year in connection with the killing of 22-year-old Corey Lee Wieneke, whose body was found in his West Liberty home. Full Story

Distant relative learns her DNA led to arrest in Michelle Martinko slaying: Vancouver, Wash., woman says she doesn’t know suspect

March 22, 2019 | by Trish Mehaffey, The Cedar Rapids Gazette

Jim and Brandy Jennings

Brandy Jennings of Vancouver, Wash., is shown with her father, Jim Jennings, in this family photo. After he died in 2009, Jennings in 2018 decided to upload her DNA to a public database to find out more about her father’s side of the family. That DNA eventually led to the arrest of a suspect in the 1979 slaying of Michelle Martinko in Cedar Rapids. (Courtesy Brandy Jennings | The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A Vancouver, Wash., woman, trying to find out more about her father’s side of the family, never expected that her DNA would help catch an Iowa man accused of killing Michelle Martinko 40 years ago.

“I uploaded my DNA to GEDMatch,” a public database used to research family trees, “and forgot about it,” Brandy Jennings, 40, told The Gazette in a phone interview Friday.

Jennings is a second cousin twice removed, through her paternal great-grandparents, to Jerry Lynn Burns, 65, of Manchester, who was charged in December with fatally stabbing the 18-year-old in 1979.

Jennings was mentioned in a search warrant obtained last week by The Gazette, but Jennings only learned about the connection a few days ago after people on a Facebook group devoted to the Martinko case called or messaged her about it.

She remembered talking to her brother, who lives in California, when she decided to upload her DNA to a public database. He had concerns because that’s how the suspected Golden State killer, Joseph DeAngelo, was arrested last year.

Her brother told her he wasn’t sure he would want to be responsible getting a family member arrested.

“I don’t know … I feel OK about it,” Jennings said. “I want someone to have to do time if (he/she) did something like that. I don’t regret it now.”

Full Story at The Gazette

Carter found not guilty of mother’s murder

March 21, 2019 | by Kyle Ocker, The Daily Iowegian/Ottumwa Courier

COUNCIL BLUFFS — Jurors decided prosecutors failed to prove that Jason Carter killed his mother Shirley Carter on June 19, 2015.

The jury from Pottawattamie County, where the trial was moved due to publicity, deliberated just two hours Thursday before finding Jason Carter not guilty of first-degree murder. The verdict brought an end to the nearly three-week trial.

Immediately, Shelly Carter, the wife of Jason Carter, leaned over a railing from the gallery to embrace her husband. The emotions continued as together Jason and Shelly Carter addressed the media in the courtroom.

“I just wanna go home and see my kids,” an emotional Jason Carter. “It’s been a long time coming. I’ve had to endure so much. Nobody can even come close to knowing.”

Full Story at the Ottumwa Courier

Jason Carter’s attorneys accuse prosecutors of withholding exculpatory evidence

March 18, 2019 | by Luke Nozicka, The Des Moines Register

Attorneys for Jason Carter, the Marion County man found civilly responsible for his mother’s death days before he was charged with murder, claim prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence and violated his right to due process.

In asking a judge to dismiss the case, Carter’s defense team argued new information provided to them showed investigators failed to chase down leads and proved agents were prejudicial against their client.

“This is such an egregious …” Carter’s lead attorney, Christine Branstad, started to say Friday in court after jurors were dismissed for the day. “It is just unbelievable the amount of information that is not provided, not followed up on, not disclosed.”

Full Story at the Register

Bill Carter: Life ‘will never be the same’

March 14, 2019 | by Kyle Ocker, The Daily Iowegian

COUNCIL BLUFFS — Prosecutors lobbied questions to Bill Carter for several hours Thursday building up his marriage to Shirley Carter, and his alibi.

Meanwhile, the defense used their cross-examination in an attempt to impeach Bill Carter. They also spent time Thursday attempting, unsuccessfully, to persuade the Judge to allow them to introduce evidence and testimony about alleged domestic abuse between Bill and Shirley Carter.

Jason Carter is accused of killing his mother Shirley Carter on June 19, 2015, at her rural home in Lacona. While he and his father were scrutinized by law enforcement, a civil suit was brought first against Jason Carter by his father Bill Carter.

The trial was moved to Council Bluffs due to publicity after that civil suit and verdict. Bill Carter prevailed in the lawsuit and two days after the jury’s verdict law enforcement filed charges for murder against Jason Carter.

In the days after the death of his wife of 52 years, Bill Carter began to believe his son is who killed her.

That wasn’t always the case, however. Thursday, he recalled feeling angry after the media reported the public was not in any danger. Bill Carter believed that seemed to imply they felt family perpetrated the killing, specifically either himself or Jason Carter.

“That made me mad, angry. I was telling [county attorney Ed Bull], and the sheriff and Mike Motsinger, the head of DCI at that time, I said, ‘I have a good family.’ I said, ‘This didn’t happen within my family.’”

In the midst of his anger, he said, he repeated what Jason Carter had told him: That Shirley Carter was cold and stiff.

But Bill Carter said she wasn’t. At the scene, he touched her body three times. She was cold, but he was able to lift her head up to kiss her on the forehead.

He was just angry and taking it out on the three leading the investigation, he said.

About three years prior to Shirley Carter’s death, a nearby methamphetamine lab was busted and the nearby public was told to lock their doors and keep a lookout, Bill Carter remembered.

“The boys that were running it took off into the timber. And we all got phone calls to look our doors and be on the lookout. And then my wife is laying there dead, and they say, ‘Don’t worry about it.’”

In his story about Bill Carter’s testimony, Daily Iowegian editor Kyle Ocker presents a dynamic read-between-the-lines story that goes behind the Carter couple’s facade and addresses allegations of “significant abuse.”

Read Bill’s telling words at the Daily Iowegian

Jury deadlocked: Mistrial declared in Cahill trial for 1992 murder

March 13, 2019 | By Meredith Roemerman, Muscatine Journal/The Gazette

MUSCATINE — A deadlocked jury led to a mistrial Tuesday in the murder trial for Annette Cahill.

After nearly a full day of deliberations, a Muscatine County jury of five women and seven men could not reach a unanimous conclusion on the possible verdict — guilty of first-degree murder, guilty of a lesser charge of second-degree murder or not guilty.

Cahill, 56, of Tipton was charged with first-degree murder last year in the 1992 bludgeoning death of Corey Lee Wieneke of West Liberty. Wieneke, 22 years old at the time, was found dead by his live-in fiancee at their small, rural farmhouse.

The case became active again in 2017 — 25 years after Wieneke’s death — after a woman approached investigators with new information. The woman, Jessie Becker told investigators that, when she was 9 years old, she overheard Cahill in 1992 allegedly confess to killing Wieneke.

Full Story at The Gazette

Search warrant shows how relative’s DNA led police to Manchester man in Michelle Martinko’s death: Suspect’s computer history turns up searches of strangulation, cannibalism

March 12, 2019 | by Trish Mehaffey, The Cedar Rapids Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS — A straw used to sip soda led authorities to the Manchester man two months later they would charge with fatally stabbing 18-year-old Michelle Martinko in 1979.

Jerry Lynn Burns senior photo

Jerry L. Burns as a senior is pictured in a 1972 West Delaware High School yearbook. Burns was arrested Wednesday and charged with first-degree murder in the 1979 death of Michelle Martinko. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

DNA from two distant cousins led to three brothers, and DNA from one of the brothers — Jerry Lynn Burns, 64 — matched the blood stain from Martinko’s dress, according to a search warrant affidavit.

The probability of finding Burns’ DNA profile among unrelated individuals would be less than one out of 100 billion, according to the document.

The case that went cold for 39 years wasn’t jump-started until investigators learned in May 2018 they could use genetic genealogy.

Parabon-NanoLabs in Reston, Va., told investigators about GEDMatch, a public DNA database used to help research family trees. The DNA of the suspect was uploaded to the site and showed shared DNA with a known cousin on the site.

Parabon officials told Cedar Rapids police investigator Matthew Denlinger the match was a cousin once removed from the suspect, and the lab had been able to create a family tree with four sets of the cousin’s great-great grandparents at the top, according to the warrant.

Full Story at The Gazette

Mistrial for Iowa woman charged in ex-boyfriend’s 1992 death

March 12, 2019 | by Meredith Roemerman, Muscatine Journal

MUSCATINE (AP) — A hung jury has led to a mistrial in the murder trial of an Iowa woman accused in the 1992 beating death of her former boyfriend.

A judge declared the mistrial Tuesday afternoon when the jury of five women and seven men declared they could not reach a verdict. The jury began deliberating Monday in the trial of 56-year-old Annette Cahill, of Tipton.

Cahill was arrested last year in connection with the 1992 killing of 22-year-old Corey Lee Wieneke, whose body was found in his West Liberty home.

Parents of murder victim still looking for answers: ‘We miss him so much’

March 8, 2019 | by Mike Bell, The Daily Nonpareil

The parents of a Council Bluffs man who was murdered 12 years ago have not given up hope answers may yet surface and bring a small measure of peace.

Robert Hatcher was found shot to death underneath the Interstate 480 bridge on March 8, 2007. He was 38 years old.

“We miss him so much,” his mother, Marjorie Hatcher, said Wednesday. His death left behind a widow, Christine.

On that day 12 years ago, Robert Hatcher was walking on the pedestrian trail under the bridge, headed home from a job fair. Court records state he may have been there to meet two men about an issue with money — not much else is known.

“We hope someone somewhere may know any detail that could lead to answers,” Marjorie Hatcher said. “Even after all these years.”

Full story at The Daily Nonpareil

1992 murder case being tried this week in Muscatine

March 6, 2019 | by Meredith Roemerman, The Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier

MUSCATINE — More than 25 years ago, a man was found beaten to death in his rural home near West Liberty. The case went cold until 2017. Now a woman in her 50s stands trial for his murder.

“Actions and consequences, that’s what this case is about,” Iowa Assistant Attorney General Coleman McAllister said Tuesday to a Muscatine County jury.

A first-degree murder charge in the Oct. 13, 1992, death of Corey Lee Wieneke was brought last May against Annette D. Cahill, 56, of Tipton. McAllister laid out the state’s case in a roughly 16-minute opening statement. Wieneke and Cahill had a sexual relationship, according to the criminal complaint, and the two allegedly argued about his involvement with another woman the morning he was killed.

Full Story at the

A civil jury found Jason Carter liable in his mother’s death. Now he’ll stand trial for murder.

March 5, 2019 | by Luke Nozicka, The Des Moines Register

Jason Carter, the central Iowa man found civilly responsible for his mother’s death, will stand trial later this week for murder in her killing.

Carter, 46, of Knoxville, was charged with first-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Shirley Carter, days after a civil jury found him responsible for her June 2015 death.

Jury selection began Tuesday in the highly anticipated criminal case, which was moved from Marion County to Pottawattamie County because of pre-trial publicity. Prosecutors expect opening arguments to begin Thursday.

Shirley Carter, 68, died from two gunshot wounds from a medium-caliber rifle in the kitchen of her rural Marion County home. Jason Carter was charged two days after the civil jury in December 2017 ordered him to pay $10 million to his mother’s estate.

Full Story at The Des Moines Register

‘Missing in the Metro’ podcast tackles unsolved crimes in DSM

March 3, 2019 | by Hannah Hilyard,

DES MOINES, Iowa (KCCI) — Two sports radio hosts and a Des Moines police sergeant are teaming up for a new podcast that could help solve some unsolved cases.

The podcast, called “Missing in the Metro,” features KXNO’s Ross Peterson and Heather Burnside, along with her husband, Des Moines police Sgt. Paul Parizek, the department’s public information officer.

“We have cases in Des Moines that need some attention and can maybe get some help from the public,” said Peterson, who helped come up with the idea.

Burnside helped bring the podcast to life.

“I kind of live with true crime, so for me, that’s not as much of an issue,” Burnside said.

Every other week, the crew goes deep into missing persons and unsolved homicide cases in the Des Moines area.

Full Story at

Child’s memory could be critical at 1992 Iowa homicide trial

March 3, 2019 | by Ryan J. Foley, Associated Press

IOWA CITY — An Iowa grandmother will stand trial Monday in the 1992 killing of her former boyfriend in a case built largely on an alleged confession heard by a child.

The trial will test prosecutors’ ability to get a conviction in a case in which they have no physical evidence against Annette Cahill. Instead, the outcome may hinge on whether jurors believe a woman who says she was 9 when she overheard Cahill confess to killing bartender Corey Wieneke weeks after the slaying.

Cahill has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Wieneke, 22, whose body was found in his West Liberty home in October 1992. If convicted, she faces life in prison.

Full Story at

Iowa grandmother faces murder trial in case built largely on testimony by child: The prosecution is expected to argue that the woman, now 56, used to be part of a hard-partying group in her small town.

March 1, 2019 | By Associated Press /

IOWA CITY — An Iowa grandmother will stand trial Monday in the 1992 killing of her former boyfriend in a case built largely on an alleged confession heard by a child.

The trial will test prosecutors’ ability to get a conviction in a case in which they have no physical evidence against Annette Cahill. Instead, the outcome may hinge on whether jurors believe a woman who says she was 9 when she overheard Cahill confess to killing bartender Corey Wieneke weeks after the slaying.

Cahill has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Wieneke, 22, whose body was found in his West Liberty home in October 1992. If convicted, she faces life in prison.

Cahill, 56, is an unusual defendant. She has no criminal history and has continued her longtime job with the Police Law Institute, an Iowa-based company that helps train police officers nationwide, while awaiting trial. She has said that Wieneke was her best friend and that she wasn’t involved in his death, which devastated her. Many of her friends and relatives, who praise her cooking and quilting skills, say she is the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

Full Story at


February 20, 2019 | by Bob James,

December 19, 2018, on the 39th anniversary of the murder of 18-year-old Michelle Martinko of Cedar Rapids, police announced they made an arrest. Jerry Lynn Burns of Manchester has been charged with First Degree Murder in her death. His trial is scheduled for later this year. The murders and/or disappearances of five other teenage girls from Cedar Rapids remain unsolved… part of a lengthy list of Iowa Cold Cases here in Cedar Rapids.

Erin Pospisil

Erin Pospisil

Erin Pospisil

The most recent disappearance occurred on June 3, 2001. 15-year-old Erin Pospisil of Cedar Rapids left her home that day with Curtis Padgett, a friend of her brother’s. Padgett later told authorities after dropping her off at a friend’s house and not getting an answer at the door, she spoke briefly with people in a black Chevy Cavalier. He told police that Pospisil then got into the Cavalier, after telling Padgett she was going to get a ride from them. No witnesses have reported seeing the pickup Padgett was driving, or a black Cavalier, in the neighborhood that night. The search for Erin continues.

Full Story at

Dubuque man convicted of 2nd-degree murder for killing Bellevue resident

February 13, 2019 | by Alicia Yager, The Telegraph Herald

MAQUOKETA, Iowa — Jurors on Wednesday found a Dubuque man guilty of second-degree murder for killing a Bellevue resident.

The 12 jurors returned the verdict against Drew A. Mangler, 24, after about eight and a half hours of deliberation at the Jackson County Courthouse in Maquoketa. They found that he killed James Remakel, 59, on Dec. 19, 2016, at his Bellevue home. His body was found on Christmas Day.

Mangler’s trial started on Feb. 4. The conviction came on a lesser, included charge after Mangler originally was charged with first-degree murder. A conviction on the first-degree charge triggers an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole, while second-degree murder carries a 50-year prison term, with eligibility for parole after 35 years.

Full story at the Telegraph Herald

Trial set for Iowa man accused in 1979 killing of Michelle Martinko

February 1, 2019 | by Tyler J. Davis, The Des Moines Register

An Iowa man accused of killing a teenager 30 years ago will go on trial in October.

The trial for Jerry Lynn Burns, who’s been charged with first-degree murder in the 1979 killing of Michelle Martinko, will begin at 9 a.m. Oct. 14 at Linn County Courthouse, according to online court records.

Burns, 65, is accused of killing the 18-year-old Martinko outside of a Cedar Rapids mall in December 1979. She had been stabbed multiple times in the face and chest.

Burns of Manchester went on to become a father and business owner. He was arrested in December — nearly 39 years to the day following the killing — after his DNA was found in the bloodied car where Martinko’s body was discovered.

Full Story at The Register

Murder trial of Jason Carter, man accused of killing mother, moved to western Iowa

January 31, 2019 | by Luke Nozicka, The Des Moines Register

A central Iowa man found responsible for his mother’s death by a civil jury will go to trial in criminal court in March in western Iowa, court records show.

Jason Carter, 46, of Knoxville, was charged with first-degree murder in the killing of his mother, Shirley, two days after the civil jury in December 2017 found him responsible for her June 2015 death. The jury ordered Carter to pay $10 million to Shirley’s estate.

Earlier this week, the court set Carter’s criminal trial to begin March 4 in Pottawattamie County, transferring it out of Marion County because of pre-trial publicity.

Shirley Carter, 68, died from two gunshot wounds from a medium-caliber rifle at her rural Marion County home. Jason Carter was sued by his father, Bill Carter, and his brother, Billy Dean Carter, after no one was charged in her death.

Full Story at The Des Moines Register

What happens when authorities find a body? Investigators take us through the process of body identification.

January 30, 2019 | by Mike Bell, The Daily Nonpareil

Death is one of life’s few certainties. After all, everyone eventually faces it.

Gloomy as that may be, there is a great deal of work that begins when someone meets their end.

There are remains to be handled, next of kin to be contacted, services to be arranged, an obituary to write and, in most cases, a burial or ceremony to hold.

But there are times when a human being dies and the process halts before it can even begin — when they are found without a name.

The dead cannot speak for themselves, but investigators — either law enforcement or medical examiners — can sift through records for answers.

Fingerprints, DNA, dental records and other scientific methods are the standards for filling in the blanks — but are not always possible.

On Thursday, a deceased man or woman was found inside the former site of No Frills on West Broadway in Council Bluffs. The remains had been there for some time, according to authorities, so the Iowa State Medical Examiner’s Office was called in to perform an autopsy.

Council Bluffs Police Sgt. Ted Roberts said there are several factors investigators take into consideration when they try to uncover a subject’s identity.

Full Story at The Daily Nonpareil

Reward doubled for information on missing Meskwaki woman

January 17, 2019 | by Jeff Reinitz, The Courier

Rita Papakee

Rita Papakee (Courtesy Iowa Department of Public Safety)

MESKWAKI SETTLEMENT — Meskwaki authorities have doubled the reward for information on a missing tribal member who disappeared four years ago.

Rita Janelle Papakee was last seen Jan. 16, 2015, at the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel, and searches in the years that followed have come up empty.

On Wednesday, tribal officials announced they’ve raised the reward for information on her whereabouts from $25,000 to $50,000.

The Meskwaki Nation Police Department and Papakee’s family members are asking for renewed help in finding her.

“It’s tragic. Rita’s disappearance has touched us all, individually and as a community. We are hoping for answers,” said Tribal Chairman Anthony Waseskuk.

Papakee, who was 41 at the time of her disappearance, is a mother of four.

Full Story at

Missing Cedar Rapids girl at heart of Fireball Run preview event Friday

January 5, 2019 | by Bob Saar, The Hawk Eye

Burlington welcomed Mayor Shane McCampbell and his Fireball Run co-driver, Energyficient CEO Chad Palmer, at a soiree Friday evening.

It began at the Art Center as a meet-and-greet and ended at the Capitol Theater with a slideshow featuring McCampbell and Palmer’s 8-day, 2,000 mile trip in 2017.

The pair competed on the online reality show “Fireball Run Season 11: Big Country” to raise awareness about Erin Kay Pospisil of Cedar Rapids, who went missing in 2001 at the age of 15.

Full story at The Hawk Eye

COLD CASE: 7 years since murder of Martavious “Tay Tay” Johnson

January 5, 2019 |

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) — Seven years have passed since the murder of 17-year-old Martavious “Tay Tay” Johnson.

Johnson was reportedly shot in the back on January 5, 2012. The shooting happened on the 500 block of Sumner Street in Waterloo.

His mother told KWWL that her son had been killed over cracking an innocent joke.

“What was the reason what was the purpose. And how can they sleep with themselves knowing what they did-to somebody who was full of life, full of joy, loved hanging around his friends,” Tanya Johnson told KWWL in 2017.

At the five year anniversary of Johnson’s death, police told KWWL they had possible suspects but were waiting on the right piece of information that could lead to an arrest.

Full story at

8 Homicide cases resolved in 2018 in Linn County: More than usual, prosecutor says

January 4, 2019 | The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s not unusual for a county prosecutor to handle more than one pending homicide case within a year, but eight being resolved in 2018 is a much a higher rate than in the last several years, one Linn County prosecutor says.

First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks said these kinds of cases typically take a year or two before making it to trial, so to have all but one end in convictions — and at least two resulting in life sentences — shows how effective the Linn County Attorney’s Office has been when it takes a case to trial.

Maybanks said significant costs, resources and time were saved last year because two cases didn’t go to trial, but no compromises were made. Those defendants — Nicholas Luerkens and Tim Evans — pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, a rare plea in Iowa because it’s an automatic life sentence without parole.

Full story at The Gazette

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