Editor's note: "Gone Cold: Exploring Iowa's unsolved murders" is a weekly feature highlighting some of Iowa’s unsolved homicides in the hope that it will lead to new tips and potentially help solve cases. The project is a partnership between The Journal and other members of the Iowa Newspaper Association.
MICHELLE MARIE MARTINKO | AGE: 18 | DIED: DEC. 19, 1979
Hometown: Cedar Rapids
At 4 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 20, 1979, police found 18-year-old Michelle Marie Martinko — her face and chest stabbed repeatedly — in her family’s tan 1972 Buick in Cedar Rapids’ Westdale Mall parking lot. The Kennedy High School senior had driven to the mall after a school choir banquet to shop for a new winter coat.
Wounds on the teen’s hands showed she fought her killer, but the medical examiner’s office said Martinko was found fully clothed and had not been sexually molested. Detectives found no weapon or fingerprints to identify her killer and said Martinko had not been robbed. Based on the number of stab wounds — particularly to the young woman’s face — police considered the homicide personal in nature.
On June 19, 1980, police released a composite sketch, developed based on descriptions provided by two witnesses, of the man they believed stabbed Martinko. The sketch indicated a white male in his late teens or early 20s, weighing between 165 and 175 pounds, and standing about 6 feet tall. During the original investigation, detectives compiled a list of more than 80 potential suspects. More than 60 were tested and eliminated.
Using new technology, the Cedar Rapids Police Department was able to procure the suspect’s DNA in 2006. In December 2013, the Police Department received information from an individual that led investigators to a possible suspect. Investigators followed up on the lead; however, the possible suspect’s DNA did not match the DNA on file as belonging to Martinko’s killer. Nonetheless, the information provided was credible and investigators believe that further legitimate information from this individual would be beneficial to the case. To further enhance the investigation, the individual is being encouraged to contact Detective Doug Larison by the methods listed below.