A woman who spent her own money to uncover any information she could find about her father’s 1986 slaying helped police track down a suspect.
Periodically, over the last few years, Joselyn Martinez would try to find information about the man accused of shooting and killing her father outside his restaurant on Nov. 22, 1986, when she was nine years old.
Beginning in 2006, she searched online for information. In 2011, she wrote a letter to “America’s Most Wanted.” Through it all, she spent her own money, dishing out payments of $69.99 to various online search programs that turn up potential addresses and phone numbers for people.
Last Friday, her efforts were vindicated when Miami police arrested Justo Santos on charges he murdered her father, Jose Martinez, outside his Dominican restaurant in the city’s Washington Heights neighborhood 27 years ago.
“It’s amazing,” Martinez, 36, said Tuesday. “I didn’t plan for this. It’s been surreal.”
Police said Santos has made statements implicating himself in the killing. On Tuesday, Santos agreed to let police return him to New York later. Witnesses to the 1986 killing said they had seen Santos, and he was quickly named by detectives as a suspect, but he fled to the Dominican Republic shortly after.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters that Martinez’s case was closed when Santos, 43, served a year in jail in the Dominican Republic for an unrelated crime about two years after the killing. “They should not have closed the case,” Kelly said.
Unlike today, the NYPD did not have professional contacts in the Dominican Republic at that time. Joselyn continued her own search, saving her results in a file dedicated to solving her father’s killing.
“I didn’t suddenly find him. This took years of putting away efforts,” she said. “It just took many years, and I felt like I was doing something. I didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t want people to think I was crazy.”
In February, Martinez met with a cold-case squad to turn over all her information, including a search result with Santos’ name, address and phone number in Miami. The detectives traveled to Miami, where they made the arrest without incident.
“I just feel like I had to do it for my father,” she said, “and it’s up to New York state to decide what happens next.”