VANCOUVER, Wash. (KGW) – A Vancouver, Washington woman is getting credit for helping solve a decades-old murder, and it’s all because she wanted to learn more about her ancestry.
Brandy Jennings said it was early last summer that she decided she wanted to learn more about her family, specifically her dad’s side of the family. “My dad died in 2009 and my parents divorced when I was 4-and-a-half and we moved out of state, so I didn’t know my dad that well,” Jennings explained.
Like so many people these days, Jennings uploaded her DNA profile to the genealogy website GEDmatch. She forgot about it until late last week.
“I start getting messages from people in Iowa saying are you related to Jerry Burns,” Jennings said.
65-year-old Jerry Burns of Manchester, Iowa was arrested in December for the 1979 murder of then 18-year-old Michelle Martinko.
Jenning said, “I guess it was a vicious and unnecessary killing the way it happened.” And chances are it would still be unsolved had it not been for Jennings and her desire to learn more about her family.
She says the DNA she submitted to the genealogy website partially matched the suspected killer’s DNA that investigators had uploaded to the site. That partial DNA match gave detectives the evidence they needed to eventually zero in on Jerry Burns, a distant relative of Brandy Jennings.
“I’m glad,” Jennings said. “I’m really glad I did it. I like true crime but, I can’t imagine being the family not knowing for 39 years what happened.”
A decades-old murder in Iowa was solved thanks in large part to a woman in Vancouver, Washington. “He probably thought he’d never get caught, he went 40 years without ever getting caught,” Jennings added.