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Police Need One Phone Call to Solve Cold Case

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (FOX28/CBS2) Cedar Rapids Police say they could be one phone call away from breaking one of the most well-known cold case murders in Iowa. At 4:00 AM on the morning of December 20th 1979 officers responding to a call that 17-year-old Michelle Martinko never came home after a shopping trip, found her body inside the family Buick in the parking lot of the new Westdale Mall.

She had been stabbed multiple times including several wounds to her face.  The beautiful, outgoing senior at Kennedy High School had gone shopping for a coat and friends saw her in stores up until nearly 8:00 PM.  The mystery of what happened after that sent police on a crime investigation that turned up one theory after another.  Detectives looked at relatives, ex-boyfriends, teachers, friends, wives of family friends and anyone angry or jealous enough to commit such an unthinkable act.  In time it all lead to dead ends and zero arrests.
Cold case stories and a Facebook page dedicated to finding the killer kept the hunt alive for three decades until last December, almost exactly 34 years to the night of the murder, when police received a tip.
Cedar Rapids Public Information Officer Greg Buelow says a caller left an anonymous tip with very credible information that gave police a lead.  It was enough for investigators to run with a piece of evidence few people knew existed. In one of the followups on the case, police found DNA they believe belongs to the killer.  It appears the person who attacked Michelle may have cut themselves and left blood in the car.  Police were hopeful that testing would lead to a DNA match and find the killer.  It did not.

But, Buelow says the information from the tipster is so accurate they need that person to call back, That information is so credible ..  they gave good information and they hopefully can provide some type of a name and more specific information that could lead to a major break in this case.  

From the beginning investigators felt certain the Martinko murder was not a random killing.  Police say she wasnt raped and money was still in her purse. The number of stab wounds indicates anger and a very personal crime. Everything suggests she knew her killer.

Cold case investigations like this can change in a heartbeat.  Divorces, the end of a friendship, a death in the family or someone sentenced to prison can all start people talking for the first time in years if not decades.

Buelow says police just hope the caller will help them one more time for Michelle and her family, If that tipster cold reach out to the investigator and call him directly at 286-5412 or use Crimestoppers, the investigator has guaranteed the person will remain anonymous. Its just important that they talk to them.

In a quiet Cedar Rapids cemetery, wind chimes greet visitors to Michelle Martinkos grave. A few brown oak leaves hide the 1979 on the marker. Its right next to her parents headstones.  Both of them died never knowing who killed their daughter, but there is still an older sister who endured the pain and police say she deserves to know the truth.    

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