A “48 Hours” episode last month raised questions about whether a Manchester, IA, man convicted in February of murdering 18-year-old Michelle Martinko in Cedar Rapids might also be connected to the abduction of news anchor Jodi Huisentruit.
Both victims were young, blonde women who were attacked at their cars.
Michelle was found stabbed stabbed to death in her car December 19,1979 at the Westdale Mall parking lot in Cedar Rapids.
Jodi was abducted 16 years later as she was getting into her car outside her apartment building in Mason City.
Jodi was on her way to anchor the morning news at KIMT-TV. It’s about 2 hours from Cedar Rapids.
Jerry Lynn Burns, 67, briefly mentioned Jodi’s name, unsolicited, when he was interviewed on December 19, 2018 by two Cedar Rapids investigators, the same day he was arrested for Michelle’s murder.
It was also the 39th anniversary of the high school senior’s death.
“I just seen something about Jodi Huisentruit recently,” Burns said during the videotaped questioning.
In fact, Burns was arrested just 4 days after Jodi’s case was featured in the local and national media.
The “48 Hours” episode on Jodi aired on KGAN-TV in Cedar Rapids. That’s where Jodi had her first job as a reporter from 1991-1992, based in their Iowa City bureau.
KGAN also did previews reports about the CBS true-crime show focusing on Jodi:
When the “48 Hours” episode on Michelle Martinko aired, it noted, “Mason City Police will not disclose whether they are investigating Burns in the Huisentruit disappearance and his DNA is not connected to any other cases.”
In a recent interview with Matt Denlinger, the lead detective on the Martinko case, Denlinger told FindJodi he found nothing in his review of Burns’ web searches, that included any references to Jodi.
Detective Denlinger said his gut feeling was Burns was *not* involved in Jodi’s disappearance and that his mention of Jodi was probably just “nervous banter.”
While there are some similarities in the cases, there are also several differences.
For one, Jodi is still missing while Michelle’s body was left in her car.
Denlinger also points out that Michelle was the victim of a random attack, while Jodi appeared to be targeted, given the circumstances of Jodi’s abduction in the parking lot outside her apartment building.
The Cedar Rapids detective also revealed Mason City police did reach out to him, mostly to seek his advice about techniques he used to solve the 1979 case after it had been cold for so many years.
That case was solved by familial DNA tests that led investigators to Burns, someone who previously had not been on their radar.
DNA was obtained from blood on Michelle’s dress and on the gearshift in her car.
The DNA cleared a former boyfriend of Michelle’s who had long been looked at by Cedar Rapids police and who had run into her at the mall the night she was murdered.
Unlike in Michelle’s murder, there was very little forensic evidence obtained from Jodi’s crime scene.
Mason City police have said a palm print was recovered from Jodi’s car, along with a hair at the scene.
They have not said if they were able to obtain DNA from that hair.
Meanwhile, Burns insists he had nothing to do with Michelle’s death.
He is appealing his first degree murder conviction from an Iowa prison where he’s serving a life sentence.
You can listen to our extended interview with Detective Denlinger in our latest podcast, Episode 008.