You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Curious Vancouver, Wash., woman’s DNA upload leads to arrest in 1979 unsolved murder

Global News logo Global News 2019-03-28 John Hadden
a couple of people posing for the camera: Brandy Jennings had no idea uploading her DNA to a genealogy website would help solve a decades old murder committed hundreds of miles away. © KGW via NBC Brandy Jennings had no idea uploading her DNA to a genealogy website would help solve a decades old murder committed hundreds of miles away.

A woman's ancestral curiosity has been credited for helping solve a cold case more than 39 years old and several states away.

Brandy Jennings, a native of Vancouver, Wash., told NBC that she uploaded her DNA data to the website GEDmatch last summer but forgot about it until last week. She said she was in search of information regarding her paternal side because her father left when she was very young.

“My dad died in 2009 and my parents divorced when I was four-and-a-half and we moved out-of-state so I didn’t know my (biological) dad that well,” she said.

Then, last week, “I started getting messages from people in Iowa saying are you related to Jerry Burns,” Jennings said.

READ MORE: DNA from genealogy website used to find Golden State Killer 

Jennings went on to explain that her DNA was discovered by police in Iowa who had previously uploaded DNA from a blood sample found at the scene of then 18-year-old Michelle Martinko's murder.

As it turned out, a partial match pointed in the direction of 65-year-old Manchester resident Jerry Burns — a distant relative.

Burns was arrested Dec. 19 — 39 years to the day after Martinko was killed.

Martinko's body was found the day after she was murdered inside her family’s car at a Cedar Rapids mall. She had been stabbed in the face and chest.

READ MORE: 14 years ago he was her sperm donor, today the two are a couple 

Records say Burns filed a written "not guilty" plea Jan. 25 in Linn County District Court. The charge: first-degree murder.

His trial has been set for Oct. 14 in Linn County and he's facing an uphill battle. Police say investigators matched a blood sample from the crime scene with a sample taken from Burns.

“I’m really glad I did it,” Jennings explained. “I can’t imagine being the family and not knowing for 39 years what happened.”

READ MORE: Canada’s DNA reveals surprising ancestry 

— With files from the Associated Press

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From Global News

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon