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Man convicted in 1979 killing of an 18-year-old woman sentenced to life in prison

Michelle Martinko

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) -- Jerry Burns was sentenced to life in prison without parole Friday for the murder of Michelle Martinko.

Burns was found guilty of first degree murder in February for the 1979 killing of Martinko in Cedar Rapids.

This hearing was postponed several times due to the ongoing pandemic.

Family and friends of both Burns and Martinko were allowed to be present in the courtroom Friday.

Burns got an opportunity to address the court before the sentencing. He again maintained his innocence and thanked his family for support.

"I would first like to say that someone else stabbed Michelle to death in that car that night," said Burns.

Martinko's brother-in-law, John Stonebaker made a statement via pre-recorded video at the hearing. He referred back to the evidence and said Martinko was her own best witness.

Stonebaker added because Martinko fought for her life and caused the killer to stab himself, he left the DNA that caught him at the scene. The DNA in which was found to be a match to Burns'.

"Still, Mr. Jerry Burns was clever enough to steal 39 years of freedom he didn't deserve and he knows it. And without a hint of shame, he said as much. And in another sense, in the most selfish act a human being is capable of, he stole those 39 years and many more from a sweet smart, talented girl who never got her chance at college, a career, marriage, children and by now, even grandchildren," said Stonebaker.

Stonebaker also wished the Burns family well. As they now have to pick up the pieces, just like the Martinko family did, who he said has lived in anguish for two decades.

He added their family will take solace in knowing Burns' will die in prison, forgotten for the immense pain he's caused so many.

"Our family's spent 39 Christmases under a shadow without answers, a shadow that never left, 39 Christmases," said Stonebaker.

On top of life in prison without parole, Burns was also ordered to pay restitution of $150,000 to Martinko's estate. However, Stonebaker said it doesn't begin to repay what he took from their family.

Burns can file for an appeal. He would need to submit the paperwork within 30-days.


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