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Man accused of killing Michelle Martinko begins hearing to suppress evidence

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LINN COUNTY, Iowa (KWWL) -- The Manchester man accused of killing high school senior, Michelle Martinko in 1979 was back in court today.

Jerry Lynn Burns appeared in the Linn County Courthouse today for a preliminary hearing as his lawyer looked to get evidence against him suppressed ahead of the trail.

Today's hearing was cut short due to a scheduling conflict. Burn's lawyer declined to cross-examine the first two witnesses called by the state.

Therefore it is unclear exactly what evidence they're looking to suppress or why.

However, today's hearing was a glimpse into the genetic genealogy that helped crack the cold case.

Burns shuffled into court, appearing to be in good spirits as he prepares for this February trial.

The hearing had two objectives to review to here Burn's lawyers request to suppress evidence and determine the admissibility of evidence.

The state called two witnesses both investigators within the Cedar Rapids Police Department.

Cedar Rapids Police Investigator, Matthew Denlinger was called first. The state went through the timeline of when Denlinger was assigned to the case and how he partnered with Parabon Nanolab, a genetic genealogy company to crack the case.

Denlinger told the court he began working with the company in 2015 as a way to help generate more leads.

"DNA could provide more information than just that our suspect was a male. So I was kind of interested in trying to determine how we could get that information from our sample. Could we get information such as race, or hair color, things that could help generate more leads or narrow down our suspect pool," said Denlinger.

The recent advances in the field allowed the company to take that DNA profile generated from a bloodstain found on the back of Martinko's dress and build a family tree from it to find relatives.

Parabon used that DNA profile and uploaded it into a free online database, GEDmatch which eventually led them to a woman in Iowa.

"We found a living relative, Janice Burns of Lisbon, Iowa," said Denlinger, "I made contact to see if she'd help."

Burn's lawyer did not cross-examine Denlinger before the state called their second witness, a CRPD Lieutenant, David Dostal.

He oversaw the investigation and questioning of Burns once Denlinger narrowed down the suspects to three Burns brothers. Ultimately, it was a DNA sample from a drinking straw collected during surveillance that pointed to Jerry.

"Our intent for an interview, as I said before, was to offer Mr. Burns the opportunity to explain why his blood was on the dress, at that point, we were unsure of what he would provide," said Dostal.

Before cross-examination, the hearing was cut short.

Burns still appeared to be in good spirits at the end of the hearing.

Again, the court did not get to hear from Burn's lawyer on what evidence they want to be suppressed or the reasoning behind the motion. He is expected to cross-examine the witnesses next week.

This hearing, when complete, will ultimately decide what the jury gets to hear next month.

Burns' trial is set to start in late February in Scott County.

Previous Reports

Trial of Jerry Burns, accused of 1979 killing Michelle Martinko, moved out of Linn County

39-YEAR BREAKTHROUGH: Manchester man charged with murder of Michelle Martinko

Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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