For more than 39 Christmases, Michele Martinko’s killer was not found. John Stonebraker, Michelle’s brother-in-law, said that on December 19, 1979, their family realized that Michelle had been killed.
After decades, Jerry Burns, 66, of Manchester, was charged with first-degree murder. At the hearing, Stonebraker and his wife, Janelle, Martinko’s only sister, lived in Florida and were unable to attend it, and Stonebraker said he couldn’t forget December 20, 1979, the day when he was informed that his daughter was dead.
Stonebraker said, “An investigation provided the answer after all those years of who and why someone killed Martinko. It lies in a ‘deeply selfish, lifelong personal need. A need Mr. Burns kept hidden all his adult life. Until now.”
It was reported that Jerry Burns could not be punished for the damage he had inflicted on Martinko’s family. Stonebraker said that he doesn’t feel good for Burns and wishes his family well.
Stonebraker bluntly said in his statement that Burns would live his remaining life in jail and die in it. Burn never had any emotions during the trial, but after he was sentenced, he said he was not the one who stabbed Michelle and it was someone else.
After saying that, he turned to his family and paid them gratitude because they were with him. Throughout the trial, he maintained his innocence, but within three hours, the jury reached the verdict after they heard the DNA evidence.
During the sentence, his wife and close family members were allowed to attend as, at that time, social distancing had to be maintained. Friday’s hearing was live-streamed because limited seats were allotted in the court during the trial.
Who was Michelle Martinko’s killer?
Leon Spies, defense attorney, said new evidence was found by his private investigator, and it wasn’t found until June. Spies said at the night of the attack in the Westdale Mall, Kathryn Birky, a retired music teacher, was scheduled for a lesson with Michelle.
Birky said in a phone interview with the investigators that she was giving organ lessons to Martinko in 1979 at ‘Carma Lou’s House of Music.’ She added that Martinko was scheduled for a lesson between 8:30 and 9:00 PM.
Birky said Michelle was dressed up when she came for the lesson because she was coming from a musical banquet. She added that Martinko would always come alone for the musical lesson, but on that day, it was like someone was waiting for her outside the mall.
She also said Martinko didn’t bring two organ books and an assignment book that she had when she left the lesson at night.
According to the affidavit given by Birky, she doesn’t remember the day when her lesson was scheduled with Martinko, but the lesson happened once every week.
Spies said on his behalf that the killer would have noted her routine before the killer could plan her murder. He said he couldn’t believe that law enforcement was unable to find this evidence and took forty years to bring justice for Michelle Martinko.
After Mr. Burns was found guilty in the case, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.