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Self-proclaimed subway astronomer ‘Jupiter Joe’ is charged in 1999 cold case murder of NYC girl, 13

More than 20 years after the strangled and sexually abused corpse of a 13-year-old Bronx girl was found discarded in a dumpster, detectives have tracked down her killer using cutting-edge DNA technology.

Joseph Martinez, 49, a self-proclaimed ‘subway astronomer’ who goes by ‘Jupiter Joe’ and offered impromptu astronomy lessons on the streets to New Yorkers – often young children – was charged Monday with two counts of second-degree murder and sexual assault in the killing of Minerliz Soriano, known as Minnie

DNA of his long-deceased father, who did time in prison, matched a semen stain found on the victim’s sweatshirt, NYPD said during a press conference.

Minnie, who would now be 35, was walking home from school on Wallace Avenue at 2:20 p.m. on February 24, 1999, when she disappeared. Her family reported her missing the same day, but her body wasn’t found until four days later. 

A homeless man made the grim discovery: the ‘vibrant,’ ‘bookish’ girl’s throttled body had been carelessly shoved into garbage bags in Co-Op city behind a video store, at the current site of the Bay Plaza Mall. 

Although police scoured city bus lines, put up fliers and scoured for any clues in her killing at the time, it took the brand-new familial DNA technique to connect her killing to the unsuspecting street stargazer. 

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Joseph Martinez, 49, was charged with two counts of second degree murder in the killing of Minerliz Soriano, known as Minnie (pictured)

Joseph Martinez, 49, was led out of the 49th Precinct police station Monday and was seen visibly limping as he ignored questions (pictured)

Joseph Martinez, 49, was led out of the 49th Precinct police station Monday and was seen visibly limping as he ignored questions (pictured)

Martinez is pictured in an infomercial for the Celestron Explorer DX telescope in November. He has been charged on two felony counts of second-degree murder for the 1999 slaying of 13-year-old  Minerliz Soriano

Martinez, who has been charged with the murder and sexual assault of 13-year-old Minerliz Soriano in 1999, is pictured dangling an inflatable globe in front of a child on the subway in a 2017 YouTube video about his 'subway astronomy'

Martinez, who has been charged with the murder and sexual assault of 13-year-old Minerliz Soriano in 1999, is pictured dangling an inflatable globe in front of a child on the subway in a 2017 YouTube video about his ‘subway astronomy’

Martinez held his head down, disregarding a hail of questions from reporters, as he was perp-walked from the 49th Precinct police station on Monday, according to News 12. He was seen visibly limping.

A police source told the New York Daily News that Martinez unwittingly came to the precinct when asked by police, unaware why he was called in for questioning.

‘He had that 10-mile stare to nowhere, like, “How did this happen?” He wasn’t outraged. He wasn’t belligerent. He was not combative. He was not in denial. All hallmarks of a guilty person,’ said another police source to the outlet. 

‘His DNA puts him at the scene – and that’s a wrap.’

But ‘Jupiter Joe,’ a previous Bronx resident who had since moved to New Rochelle and has at least one daughter of his own, has denied the charges. A recognizable local figure, often stationed on city street corners wearing a bowler cap and inviting passers-by to gaze into one of his huge telescopes, Martinez has no previous criminal record. 

Martinez pled not guilty on Tuesday, with his attorney Troy Smith calling the case ‘unusual.’

‘It’s unusual that a 49-year-old man would have his first criminal contact at this age. He denies these allegations,’ Smith said. 

Kimberly Ortiz, Soriano’s childhood friend who typically walked home down Wallace Avenue with the Intermediate School 135 student but didn’t accompany her the day she was killed, told DailyMail.com she was ‘happy sad’ and that her ’emotions are everywhere.’

Minerliz Soriano, who was murdered in 1999 when she was 13, is pictured in a school photo

Minerliz Soriano, who was murdered in 1999 when she was 13, is pictured in a school photo

‘Her being dumped like garbage will never be the last memory I have of her and I will make sure that her memory and image is not that girl who was dumped in a dumpster.’

‘It really makes me sick to my stomach that he blended in with society,’ she said Thursday. ‘To be honest I feel like he did this due to guilt.’    

One of the girl’s aunts, Maritza Soriano, said people used to call her slain niece the ‘Cinderella of the building’ where she lived. She wrote poetry, liked to read romance novels, and was a bright presence in her neighborhood, according to the New York Daily News

At the time of the murder, sources told CBS2 that Martinez was living in the same Bronx apartment as the teen. He was questioned in 1999, but was never considered a suspect in Soriano’s murder.

Now, Martinez is the father of at least one daughter – it is unclear whether or not he is married – and wrote on his website that he aims to share his love of space with fellow New Yorkers. 

‘It’s sad that in such a populated borough there are not many independent science related activities for our children to participate in,’ he writes.  

Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said that this was the first case solved using the new technique at a Monday press conference, and it is currently being used to investigate 10 other unsolved cases, Newsday reported. 

‘Detectives, both active and retired, along with our forensic experts and partners in the Bronx District Attorney’s office never gave up in their work to ensure justice for this innocent child,’ Clark said. 

Kimberly Ortiz, Soriano's childhood friend who typically walked home down Wallace Avenue from school with the Intermediate School 135 student but didn't accompany her the day she was killed, told DailyMail.com that she was 'happy sad' and that her 'emotions are everywhere.' She is pictured here beside Soriano's grave

'It really makes me sick to my stomach that he blended in with society,' Kimberly Ortiz, Soriano's childhood friend said. 'To be honest I feel like he did this due to guilt'

Kimberly Ortiz (pictured right and left), Soriano’s childhood friend who typically walked home down Wallace Avenue from school with the Intermediate School 135 student but didn’t accompany her the day she was killed, told DailyMail.com that she was ‘happy sad’ and that her ’emotions are everywhere.’ She is pictured at left beside Soriano’s grave

The teenager, who would now be 35, was walking home from school on Wallace Avenue at 2.20pm on February 24, 1999, when she disappeared

The teenager, who would now be 35, was walking home from school on Wallace Avenue at 2.20pm on February 24, 1999, when she disappeared

Soriano's aunt, Amelia Soriano (pictured), told CBS2 that she would just want to ask the killer 'why?'

Soriano’s aunt, Amelia Soriano (pictured), told CBS2 that she would just want to ask the killer ‘why?’

The slain girl’s father, current Texas resident Luis Soriano, has a message for his daughter’s alleged killer: ‘I hope you go to hell.’

‘It was feeling the same thing every day, asking the same questions: Who did it? Who killed my daughter?’ Luis Soriano told the Daily News. 

‘A couple months ago, I had no hope. But I got the phone call from my aunt [on Monday].’

‘I feel some kind of happiness, but it’s still sad because justice was too late.’ 

Soriano’s aunt, Amelia Soriano, told CBS2 that she would just want to ask the killer ‘why?’

‘He threw her in the garbage, in the dumpster like she was garbage. She wasn’t garbage. She was a human being,’ she told the station.  

Martinez has been profiled on several local news stations and in multiple YouTube videos about his impromptu astronomy lessons. Here, he is pictured showing a child how to use a telescope

Martinez has been profiled on several local news stations and in multiple YouTube videos about his impromptu astronomy lessons. Here, he is pictured showing a child how to use a telescope

DailyMail.com could not reach Smith for comment on the case. His client will next appear in court on March 7, 2022. 

Martinez has been profiled on several local news stations and in multiple YouTube videos about his impromptu astronomy lessons: 

‘I taught myself how to use a telescope. Now, I do it anywhere I can in the city. Sometimes, I even teach lessons along the way,’ he says in a 2017 video about his ‘subway astronomy,’ as footage shows him dangling a globe in front of a wide-eyed baby. 

‘Anyone who’s passing by, coming home from work, heading out for a drink, whatever it is, they can stop by and take a look.’

On his website, Martinez shares a schedule of his upcoming street appearances and solicits donations. It is unclear if this is his primary source of income, or what previous employment he had. 




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