cold case

Suspect Arrested in 1999 Cold Case of Bronx Girl Found Strangled, Tossed in Dumpster

The body of Minerliz Soriano was later found by a homeless man, wrapped in plastic inside a dumpster behind what used to be a a Hollywood Video store. No arrests were ever made in the case, until Monday

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NBC New York’s Anjali Hemphill reports.

Investigators said that a cold case murder of a Bronx teen from 22 years ago may have finally been cracked, with an arrest finally made in the grisly slaying after police said DNA evidence led them to the alleged killer.

The body of 13-year-old Minerliz Soriano was found in a dumpster in Coop City back in 1999. The girl had last been seen leaving her school on Wallace Avenue in February of that year, and her family searched the area for days following her disappearance.

Minerliz's body was later found by a homeless man, wrapped in plastic inside a dumpster behind what used to be a a Hollywood Video store. No arrests were ever made in the case that eventually went cold.

In 2019, family of the teen victim spoke on the 20th anniversary of her disappearance, holding onto hope for a scientific breakthrough to solve the case.

"She didn't do anything to nobody, she didn't have enemies," a family member said at the time.

Investigators said that science is exactly what got them the answers Minerliz's family has so desperately been searching for all these years.

Joseph Martinez was arrested on Monday and faces murder charges. The 49-year-old didn't answer any questions as police led him away in handcuffs at the Bronx police station.

Investigators who have worked the case for years came to see Martinez taken away, while Minerliz's father said he had many mixed emotions.

"I feel some kind of happiness, but it's still sad because justice was too late," said Luis Soriano-Duran, who now lives in Texas.

He said he didn't recognize the man who was arrested, but did not appear to have forgiven him for the slaying from more than two decades ago.

"I wish him to go to hell," Soriano-Duran said.

"Everywhere we go, we see a little kid, I remember her. When somebody smiles like she did, it makes me remember her. She always was in our heart and in our mind," he said. "I hope that justice will do its work. This time, do it on time, and right."

Martinez is expected to appear in court on Tuesday, where more details about his arrest are expected to be released.