Familial DNA search leads to arrest of suspect in 20-year-old cold case

A cold case more than 20 years old is finally pushing forward after a breakthrough in technology led to an arrest in the death of Minerliz Soriano late last year.

News 12 Staff

Feb 12, 2022, 3:31 AM

Updated 827 days ago

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A cold case more than 20 years old is finally pushing forward after a breakthrough in technology led to an arrest in the death of Minerliz Soriano late last year.
Police say DNA technology helped lead them to Joseph Martinez, now the main suspect in the case. 
NYPD officers say they never stopped searching for the answer in the decadeslong murder case. 
Minerliz Soriano, 13, was last seen leaving her Allerton School in the Bronx on a February afternoon before her body was discovered four days later in a dumpster behind a Co-op City video store.
According to NYPD officers, she was sexually assaulted, strangled and then placed in garbage bags before being placed in the dumpster where she was later found. 
One of the sergeants who worked on the case suggested that NYPD would be able to solve the case using DNA, which was found on the scene.
Police compared the DNA to 13 convicted sex offenders but didn’t find a match. 
In 2017, New York began allowing a new technology to identify suspects in certain cases, linking them to the DNA of relatives already in a database. 
The Deputy Chief of NYPD’s Forensics Division, Emmanuel Katranakis, believed a familiar DNA search could crack the case.
Twenty years after the murder, an application was submitted to comb through the 700,000 profiles in New York’s DNA database for convicted criminals and then a little more than a year later, a lead was found.
The DNA search led to a man who had since died, and from him, a family tree was created. 
Two of the man's five sons were immediately ruled out as suspects because of their age. 
The NYPD collected DNA samples and eventually matched the DNA to “Jupiter Joe” or Joseph Martinez, a now 49-year-old amateur astronomer who’d lived two floors above the victim and avoided suspicion at the time.
Martinez is the first suspect in New York City to be taken into custody because of familial DNA.
Bronx detectives are still actively investigating Martinez while looking for other cases where familial DNA could bring closure.
Joseph Martinez has plead not guilty to two counts of murder and is due back in court on March 7. 


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