Cedar Rapids Police Use DNA to Create Image of Suspect in 1979 Cold Case

May 17, 2017

Cedar Rapids police are using new DNA technology to try to solve the 1979 murder of Michelle Martinko.

The department sent 37-year-old DNA evidence to a company that uses DNA to predict the ancestry and appearance of the suspect.

At a Tuesday news conference, police presented three images resulting from the DNA analysis. They show a white male of northern and western European descent with blond hair, blue-green eyes and fair skin. The technology cannot predict age and weight, so different versions show what the suspect might look like at age 25 and age 50. 

Police Captain Brent Long says investigators had pursued every piece of evidence available up until new phenotyping software presented an opportunity to enhance DNA evidence.

"The enhancement of that DNA profile has now given us a different picture of the person that may have committed this crime," Long says.

Martinko was 18 when she was found dead in her family’s car in the parking lot of Westdale Mall.

Cedar Rapids police hope the composite images help generate more leads in the case and renew the public’s interest in helping to solve it.

Investigator Matt Denlinger says the images will also help to keep narrowing the list of suspects.

"We don’t eliminate anyone from this necessarily. We eliminate them through DNA," Denlinger says. "So if these images look similar to a suspect, we will go interview the suspect, talk to them, attempt to collect DNA from them, and through that DNA, they’ll be eliminated." 

He says the images have already helped police eliminate some suspects in the case.