Judge bars internet search evidence from 1979 slaying trial

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — A judge has barred from trial evidence that a man charged with killing a high school girl in Iowa more than 40 years ago searched the internet in the past few years for stories about assault, rape and murder.

Jerry Burns, 66, is scheduled to go on trial Monday in Davenport, where the trial was moved because of pretrial publicity. He pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder in the Dec. 19, 1979, slaying of 18-year-old Michelle Martinko. Her body was found the next day inside her family's car at a Cedar Rapids mall. She had been stabbed in the face and chest.

Court documents say investigators found search and browsing history under his username involving blondes, "assault, rape, strangulation, murder, abuse and rape for a deceased individual and cannibalism.”

The Telegraph Herald reported that Judge Fae Hoover Grinde ruled this week that the timing of the internet activity — conducted at least 38 years after the killing of the blond-haired Martinko — and its “unduly prejudicial” nature would “diminish, if not eliminate, Jerry Burns’ right to due process and a fair trial.”

Police have said investigators matched a blood sample from the crime scene with a sample taken from Burns.

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