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Bronx sidewalk astronomer charged in 1999 murder of 13-year-old girl

Investigators used familial DNA to link Joseph Martinez, known as Jupiter Joe, to the killing of Minerliz Soriano.

A New York man known for teaching astronomy to kids on Bronx sidewalks was arrested Monday in connection with the 1999 murder of a 13-year-old girl, according to officials.

Investigators used familial DNA to link Joseph Martinez, known as Jupiter Joe, to the killing of Minerliz Soriano, according to a statement from the office of Bronx County District Attorney Darcel D. Clark. He was charged with two counts of second-degree Murder, felony and intentional.

The case is the first in New York City to be solved using familial DNA, prosecutors said.

Investigators said that on Feb. 24, 1999, Soriano walked home from school but never made it back. Her body was found wrapped in a trash bag in a dumpster behind a video store four days later. "The victim had been sexually abused, and her neck was compressed, causing her death," said the statement from Clark's office.

Minerliz Sorianovia NBC 4

A DNA sample from semen on Soriano's sweatshirt led to Martinez's father, who is dead, and then matched to a sample from Martinez.

"This beautiful little girl was treated as 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, and neither did my ADAs," Clark said.

Martinez, who lives in New Rochelle, north of the Bronx, is known on New York City streets as Jupiter Joe of Jupiter Joe's Sidewalk Astronomy. For years, the 49-year-old has been setting up a powerful telescope on busy sidewalks, offering views and mini-lessons to anyone who wants them.

A calendar on his website indicated he had planned to be at a Bronx playground on Thursday night.

It's unclear if Martinez has a lawyer, and he did not respond to a message seeking comment on Wednesday. He was arraigned Tuesday and is due back in court on March 7.