Joselyn Martinez was just 9 years old when her dad, Jose Martinez, was gunned down in front of his Bronx restaurant in November 1986. The police immediately identified the shooter as 16-year-old Justo Santos, but Santos managed to slip out of New York and flee to the Dominican Republic. Twenty-six years later, long after the New York police had lost track of the shooter, Joselyn found her father's killer.
Jose, then 41, kicked Santos and two friends out of the Dominican Express restaurant on Dyckman Street in Inwood after they reportedly started sexually harassing his wife, Idalia Martinez. Witnesses told police that, once on the sidewalk, Santos pulled out a pistol and shot Martinez in front of his wife. Idalia hailed a cab and took her bleeding husband to New York-Presbyterian Hospital Columbia, where he died that night.
"I woke up the next morning and was told my father was killed," Joselyn told The New York Daily News on Monday.
"I remember his [Santos'] picture on the wanted posters. He was smiling. It was all over Dyckman Street," she said. "My mom told me to never forget his name. She’d tell me, 'You have to know who did this to your family.' "
"He ruined my life," Idalia told the Post when asked about Santos. "He ruined the life of my daughter."
Joselyn grew up and attended New York University, where she majored in political science and Latin American studies. She kept the wanted posters, so she could remember the face of the person she was looking for.
"I wanted to become a prosecutor in college," she told the Daily News. "But then I decided to do what I really wanted to. How could I prosecute other cases when my father's was unsolved?"
Ten years ago, she decided she'd pick up her father's case herself. She asked the New York police for information about the case and started looking for Santos online.
"Knowing the person my father was, I couldn’t live with myself if [Santos] stayed free," Joselyn told the Daily News. "I need to see him in New York to know this has really happened."
"In 2004, when I started using MySpace, that’s when I got into using social media" to try and find him, she told the Post. In 2008, she typed his name into Background.com and got a hit. After paying about $70 in fees to Background.com and several other search sites, her efforts really paid off.
"They all had it. They had his address. They had his phone number," she told the Daily News. "He must have thought it was all over, that he had gotten away with it."
She collected as much data as she could and then turned it all over to the police, who worked with officers in other states to find Santos. On Friday, Joselyn got the call saying that Santos was finally in custody. Now 43, he'd been working as the manager of a janitorial company in Florida. He'd confessed to the killing and waived extradition, a police source told the New York Daily News; NYPD is bringing him back to New York to face charges.
“She did a good job, my daughter,” her mother told the Post.
“She was dynamite. She did a great job of finding this guy," an unnamed law enforcement source told the Daily News. "She basically solved the case."
But Joselyn says the kudos should go to the police in New York and Miami.
“I can’t take all the credit," she told the Daily News. "The 34th Precinct and the cold case squad did all the work."
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