CR Police ask you to share Cold Case Killer Picture $15,000 Reward

New DNA technology presents the face of a killer in the Michelle Martinko 1979 cold case. Investigators say it's created more than 100 new tips leading up to this 38th anniversary of the murder

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) - On the 38th anniversary of her brutal murder, police investigators say they have more reason to be optimistic about solving the cold case killing of Michelle Martinko than they have in decades. The popular 18-year-old Kennedy High School student was found stabbed to death in her family car in the parking lot of the newly opened Westdale Mall in 1979. The case quickly went cold when logical suspects were cleared and public interest began to fade.

In May of this year, Cedar Rapids investigators unveiled new technology called Snapshot. The DNA analysis from a small amount of the killer’s blood found at the murder scene, produced a composite style sketch of the man responsible. It carved out general facial characteristics of the killer who had blonde hair and blue eyes. The drawings show the man with varying lengths of hair and at different ages. Police Investigator Matt Denlinger says the phone hasn’t stopped ringing since, “ We’ve gotten probably 100 maybe 110 leads since that time. As the anniversary approaches in December, we are getting leads every day, sometimes two or three leads a day.”

Investigator Denlinger says those are leads they didn’t have one year ago and they dramatically improve the odds of solving the case. Ten of those tips have led to officers actually securing DNA swabs from possible suspects, but so far none have matched the blood of the killer. In other parts of the country Snapshot technology is solving cases and leading to arrests. Investigators say in almost all of those instances, the pictures were released and immediately came a flood of phone calls all naming the same person. Denglinger says that has not happened in the Martinko case and that is causing him to think maybe police have been wrong,“ The nature of the crime makes it seem personal. We didn’t get ten people calling in about the same person. So I’m starting to think that maybe this individual is further out as far as the circle of being connected to Michelle or West Dale than we previously thought.”

He says while the tip that solves the crime hasn’t come yet, police are far from a dead end. They are continuing to track down additional leads and are looking into running the DNA sample in some data bases they have not been able to access in the past. It’s also possible that someone returning to Cedar Rapids for the holidays may see news coverage of the anniversary and remember a critical detail or recognize one of the sketches as someone they knew. Investigator Denglinger says just last week, they received a call from someone who was working at the mall the night of Michelle’s murder and wanted to share what she remembered.

Police say they are also trying to dispel rumors which have surrounded the case almost from the beginning, that may in fact be distracting from the effort to find the real killer. Investigator Denglinger says Michelle’s ex-boyfriend has been positively eliminated from any involvement, persistent reports that her body was found in the trunk of her car are wrong, she was in the driver’s seat of the car, rumors that Michelle may have been involved in unusual or illegal activity are totally false and talk that a cop’s son is the killer and the truth was covered up have been thoroughly investigate, “ I know exactly who you are talking about and he’s also been eliminated.” Denlinger says he also hears from callers who say more than one person is responsible for the murder. He says he’s certainly open to that possibility, but right now there’s only evidence of one killer.

Through 38 Christmases, Janelle Martinko StoneBraker has wondered who would have been so cold and be filled with so much rage they could stab her little sister 19 times. Holidays have never been the same for her and her husband John and while she says she knows she may never hear the truth, she hopes this latest technology may motivate someone to come forward with a critical missing piece of the puzzle. Investigator Denglinger says he wishes this could be her final Christmas waiting for an answer, “ They’ve been extremely supportive through all of this and I do think about them and I do think I would love to get a resolution for them and for her friends and for the community as a whole.”

The reward for information leading to an arrest in Michelle Martinko’s death is now more than $15,000. Anyone with even the smallest detail is asked to call Crime Stoppers or you can call Investigator Matt Denglinger directly at the Cedar Rapids Police Department.

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