The mysterious disappearance of an Iowa news anchor, Jodi Huisentruit, 1995 could have a new lead now that another similar cold case has been solved.
Huisentruit, 27, was reportedly on her way to work early in the morning of June 27, 1995 when she disappeared, never to be heard from again. Her body was never found and the case has remained unsolved for decades. The recent solving of the 1979 murder of Michelle Martinko, 18, who was brutally stabbed in an Iowa parking lot, two hours away from where Huisentruit lived, has left some asking if the two cases are connected. “48 Hours” will explore that possibility in a new episode airing Saturday.
Martinko was assaulted while entering her car on a December night after exiting the mall. A struggle ensued and she was stabbed 30 times. At the time, police thought she might have known her murderer. Police found rubber glove impressions in her car and DNA at the scene, but struggled for years to solve the case, until 2015 when lead Detective Matt Denlinger of the Cedar Rapids Police Department took over. Denlinger’s father had even been one of the lead detectives on the case.
In the 1990s, authorities ran the blood found on Martinko’s dress and it was able to be identified as male DNA, but it didn’t match any DNA in the criminal database. Denlinger eventually saw how DNA led to the arrest of the Golden State Killer and he decided to start contacting genealogy sites. He found a distant relative who was related to the person whose DNA they found on Martinko’s dress, according to “48 Hours.”
Authorities eventually narrowed the DNA to three middle-aged brothers residing in Iowa, who would have been young men at the time Martinko was killed. Jerry Burns' DNA was a match.
"I was speechless," Denlinger told “48 Hours” of the news.
Although Burns denied knowing Martinko, he was charged and convicted of first-degree murder after a nine-day trial. It was his mention of Huisentruit in his interview with police that may have raised a red flag about a connection between the two cases, though.
During the interview, when Denlinger reminded Burns that Michelle had been killed in 1979, Burns said, "It was a big deal. I don't exactly remember what happened, seen something about Jodi Huisentruit recently,” but he did not elaborate.
Authorities also reportedly found search history on his computer regarding murdering blond women, which Huisentruit and Martinko both were. That evidence was determined to be inadmissible at trial, however.
No DNA evidence ties Burns to the Huisentruit case and there is no evidence he knew her. Mason City police have not said whether they are investigating Burns in connection with the case. Denlinger said he “does not know the answer to that” when asked by “48 Hours” if he thought the murders were connected.