A Westchester County man known for giving astronomy lessons on the city’s sidewalks was arraigned Tuesday for the 1999 murder of a 13-year-old Bronx girl.
Joseph Martinez, aka “Jupiter Joe,” was arrested Monday on second-degree murder charges in the killing of Minerliz Soriano after cops linked the 49-year-old to the brutal crime using family DNA — the first time New York City made a bust using the technology, authorities said.
Police cracked the case by linking DNA extracted from a semen stain on the sweater Minerliz was wearing when her body was found wrapped in a trash bag in a Co-op city dumpster, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said. She died from compression to her throat and had been sexually abused, the DA said.
“This beautiful little girl was treated as less than human,” Clark said at a news conference on Tuesday. “It has been 22 years since her life has been taken.”
Soriano’s family attended the announcement and sat in chairs along the side with anguished expressions on their faces.
The NYPD and DA were able to connect the DNA specimen from the crime to male relatives using a New York State database of convicted offenders. Martinez’s father, who is dead, came up as a match, police said. Authorities then got an individual sample from Martinez but didn’t say how they got the specimen.
“Bringing it to New York City was no easy task,” said Emanuel Katranakis, commanding officer of the NYPD Forensic Investigation Unit.
“There are many, many out there that feel that this particular technique is something that the NYPD should never use,” he said. “But I say to all the families of victims and all those out there that we should use it and we are going to use it. Every person has a right to be safe in a sense of using familial DNA searching to stop these violent individuals.”
The arrest shocked those who knew Martinez as “Jupiter Joe,” a person who was known in the community and was regularly seen interacting with children. Martinez would often stand on sidewalks and even subway platforms with a large telescope.
He is profiled in several Youtube videos that show him discussing space and the moon with young children on city streets.
“I have no words…you never really know people you think you kind of know,” said one Facebook user who shared The Post’s article about Martinez’s arrest.
“I cannot believe this,” said another. “I have known this man for 30 years and never once was he rude or mean or aggressive … This can’t be right.”
One user who said he had known Martinez for 30 years said “there has to be more to this.
“The man I know could not do something like this,” he said.
Additional reporting by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon