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Man Known For Teaching Astronomy On NYC Streets Arrested For Teen’s 1999 Murder
Minerliz Soriano was last seen walking home from school. Days later, her body was found in a dumpster.
A New York man known as “Jupiter Joe” for his habit of teaching astronomy to passersby on New Yokr City streets, has been arrested for the brutal murder of a teenage girl.
Joseph Martinez, 49, was arrested last Monday after familial DNA tied him to the 1999 murder of Minerliz Soriano, 13, according to a press release from Bronx County District Attorney Darcel D. Clark. Soriano was last seen walking home from school on Feb. 24, 1999.
Four days later, her body was found.
“The defendant allegedly killed 13-year-old Minerliz Soriano and then took her bound, body in a garbage bag, and left it in a dumpster in Co-op City near where a mall now stands,” said District Attorney Clark. “This beautiful little girl was treated less than human.”
According to the release, Soriano was sexually assaulted and sustained compression to her neck, resulting in her death.
In April 2019, the NYPD and the District Attorney’s Office submitted a DNA sample obtained from semen found on the victim’s sweatshirt to the New York State convicted offender database, according to the release. A familial match was made to Martinez’s late father, leading authorities to the defendant.
His own DNA linked Martinez to the crime scene.
It is the first time familial DNA has been used to solve a case in New York City.
“The DNA science and technology advanced over the years, and the familial DNA was instrumental in linking the defendant, Joseph Martinez, AKA Jupiter Joe, to the murder,” said Clark. “But while the technology was vital, it really was the humanity, dedication and compassion of the investigators and their relentless drive to get justice in this case.”
Relatives described their feelings in light of Martinez’s arrest, as reported by CBS New York.
“I feel happy because justice is working,” said Soriano’s father, Luis Soriano. “But I feel sad at the same time because it takes too long.”
“I’d like to say to him ‘Why?’” Soriano’s aunt, Amelia Soriano, told CBS. “He threw her in the garbage, in the dumpster like she was garbage. She wasn’t garbage. She was a human being.”
Since Soriano’s murder 22 years ago, Martinez has led a public life as a well-liked member of the community, according to the New York Post. The suspect took to the streets equipped with a telescope and taught astronomy to passersby — including children — as part of “Jupiter Joe’s Sidewalk Astronomy.”
Martinez’s attorney, Troy Smith, said his client entered a plea of not guilty, according to ABC 7.
“The case is pretty unusual in that Mr. Martinez is 49 years old; he has no criminal history,” said Smith. “It’s unusual that a 49-year-old man would have his first criminal contact at this age. He denies these allegations.”
Martinez was charged with two counts of second-degree murder, felony and intentional, according to the District Attorney’s office. He is due to appear in court on March 7, 2022.