More details revealed after DNA leads to arrest in 1999 cold-case murder in the Bronx

CO-OP CITY, Bronx (WABC) -- New details were revealed during an arraignment for the suspect charged in the 22-year-old murder of a 13-year-old girl in the Bronx.

Joseph Martinez, 49, was arraigned Tuesday following his arrest on Monday.

He is accused of killing 13-year-old Minerliz "Minnie" Soriano in the Bronx in 1999.

Soriano's body was discovered in a dumpster. She was apparently on her way home in Co-Op City at the time of the murder.

Officials allege that Martinez, who now goes by "Jupiter Joe" and teaches astronomy to children, strangled the victim sometime between Feb. 24 and Feb. 28 of that year.

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She died during a sex assault, according to the unsealed grand jury indictment.

"This beautiful little girl was treated less than human, it has been 22 years since her life was cruelly taken but detectives never gave up on finding justice for her and her family," said Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark.

Police say advanced DNA technology helped them make the arrest after a newly available DNA test linked Martinez to the murder.

It's the first time the technology was used in New York City.

The NYPD's commanding officer of the forensics investigation division said detectives found the father of suspect which then led them to Martinez. He says it's like building a family tree, by searching for specific familial DNA.



Officials explained the DNA evidence from Soriano was initially searched with the government database and had negative results in 2000. But when familial DNA was introduced, specialized software was used to find a relative.

"There were several persons of interest in this case, all of whom were excluded by DNA," prosecutors told the judge at Martinez's arraignment, highlighting the importance of DNA in finally solving the cold case.

Martinez's attorney called the case "unusual" and said he denies the allegations. He noted his client is 49 years old and has no criminal record. He has pleaded not guilty.

"The case is pretty unusual in that Mr. Martinez is 49 years old, he has no criminal history," attorney Troy Smith said. "It's unusual that a 49-year-old man would have his first criminal contact at this age. He denies these allegations."

However, prosecutors say they have mounds of evidence against him.

"This case brings together modern science and traditional investigative work along with the determination to give up on justice for an innocent little girl," said Inspector Neteis Gilbert, executive officer of the detective bureau.

Asked if the introduction of the DNA technology would be a game changer for prosecutors -- the DA replied: "We'll have to see."

Soriano would be 35 years old today. Her family told Eyewitness news that time has not closed the wounds and the pain of losing her has not ebbed.

Her family said they never gave up hope that police would find her killer.

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