Minerliz Soriano left her apartment early on the morning of Wednesday, February 24, 1999, so she could catch the bus to school. The 13-year-old, who lived in the Bronx borough of New York City, was a seventh-grade student at Frank D. Whelan Middle School; although her attendance was somewhat spotty, she was an excellent student and maintained a straight-A average. On this day, she attended all of her classes as scheduled. When the school day ended at 2:20 pm, she waved goodbye to her friends and told them she was going to pick up her younger sister, Nadia, from a nearby elementary school.
Minerliz would normally meet Nadia at her school and then walk with her to a bus stop at the intersection of Pelham Parkway and White Plains Road. The sisters would then ride the bus to the Eastchester Road stop and then walk to their apartment from there.
When Nadia got out of class, she expected her older sister to be waiting for her but saw no sign of her. She waited around for a few minutes before deciding that Minerliz wasn’t going to show up. Nadia, who was just 7 years old, then realized that she was going to have to make her own way home. The 30-minute trip home seemed to take longer without her sister, but Nadia managed to make it home without any problems.
The two girls lived with their mom, Minerva Sepeda, and her husband, Ray Roblez. Ray was Nadia’s dad and Minerliz’s stepdad. When Nadia got home without her older sister, her parents were worried right away. Minerliz was very responsible for her age and looked out for her younger sister a lot. She almost never forgot to pick up her sister from school.
Because Minerliz’s family thought something bad must have happened to her, they started looking for her all over the city right away. First, they went to her school. Then, they looked in a few other places they thought she might have gone, but they couldn’t find her. After looking for a few hours, they decided that they needed to call the police.
At 7 o’clock at night, Minerva called the NYPD to report that her daughter was missing. Even though an officer was sent to their apartment to take a report of a missing person, the police didn’t seem to think that Minerliz had been harmed. That Minerva was probably just out with friends and would come home when she was ready, they told Roy and Minerva.
The girl’s family tried to persuade the police that Minerliz wasn’t the type of teen who would go out with her friends and not call home, but the police weren’t convinced and didn’t try to find her.
Minerliz was well known to the other people who lived in the Bronx apartment building where the family had lived for about two years. They didn’t think Minerliz had just disappeared on her own, and they offered to help her family look for her. Her picture was put up in the lobby of the apartment building, and everyone who lived there was told to keep an eye out for her. She seemed to have disappeared without a trace, which was sad.
A homeless man found Minerliz’s body in a dumpster behind the Hollywood Video store on Bartow Avenue on Sunday, ending the search for her in a terrible way. He looked through the trash to see if there were any things that could be used again. One of the black plastic trash bags seemed much heavier than the others. He was shocked to see the badly hurt body of a teenage girl when he tore it open.
The medical examiner said that Minerliz had been strangled to d*eath and that the official cause of de*ath was neck compression. He saw that she looked like she was in a chokehold, which would make it hard for her to fight off her attacker. There were no defensive wounds on her body, which meant she was quickly beaten up. When her body was found, it was fully dressed, and she had not been sexually assaulted.
Joy filled Roy and Minerva’s hearts when they heard that Minerliz had died. Roy said he couldn’t understand why anyone would have wanted to hurt his stepdaughter, while Minerva broke down in tears and looked like she couldn’t calm down. A neighbor asked him about Minerliz. He said that he had raised her since she was born and loved her like his own daughter.
Detectives started talking to Minerliz’s family, neighbors, and friends right away in the hopes that someone could help them figure out why she might have been targeted for mur*der. Everyone they talked to seemed shocked; all of them said Minerliz was a great young woman who didn’t have any known enemies.
Even though Minerliz missed a lot of school, she was very smart and never caused any problems. She did really well in school, helped her friends get along, liked reading and writing poetry, and loved playing volleyball with her friends. Police were told by the teen’s neighbors that they often saw her riding her bike or roller skating near her apartment building. Her personality was friendly and bubbly when she was with her friends, but shy and quiet when she met new people.
Police found out that Minerliz had last been seen leaving school on Wednesday afternoon. She was wearing a red ski jacket and carrying her black Jantzen backpack at the time of her de*ath, but neither of these items was found with her body. This suggests that she may have been ki*lled for theft.
Even though detectives talked to people in the area and Minerliz’s classmates, they couldn’t find anyone who had seen the teen after she had her last day of school. Police asked anyone who thought they might have seen Minerliz that day to call them and help them with their investigation. They were sorry to say that not many people called about the case. It looked like Minerliz’s trail ended as soon as she left middle school.
Friends and family of Minerliz came together at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Bedford-Stuyvesant to say goodbye to the teen who had been k*illed. It’s strange that her mother and stepfather didn’t show up to her funeral. Luis Soriano, Minerliz’s father, said that the two had also not shown up to his daughter’s wake. It was hard for those who were there to figure out why Roy and Minerva weren’t there.
Not just Minerva and Roy’s friends and neighbors thought it was odd that they weren’t around. Police began to look more closely at the family to see if any of them might have had anything to do with k*illing the teenager. Even though they couldn’t find any direct proof for this theory, Minerliz’s neighbors said that things at home weren’t going so well.
People who lived close to the family said that Minerliz seemed to be responsible for a 13-year-old. She would often walk or ride her bike to a small deli that was open 24 hours a day, three blocks away, to buy her parents ready-made meals and other groceries. According to some neighbors, the teen always seemed to be doing chores. She would clean, take out the trash, and do the family’s laundry. A lot of the time, she was also left to watch her younger sister.
Some neighbors told the police that they often saw Minerliz running to the deli late at night. These people didn’t think it was safe for someone so young to be out so late. Even though the people living there were worried, they had never tried to talk to Roy or Minerva about it. Everyone said that Minerliz was very mature for her age, and she never complained about the chores she had to do.
Minerliz’s middle school principal told police that she had seen her crying at school the day before she went missing, but it wasn’t clear what had made her so sad. Though some of her friends later said that Minerliz had been sexually assaulted by her stepfather, detectives were not able to confirm their claims. Roy was never charged with a crime, and Minerliz never made a direct accusation against him. Still, the fact that he and Minerva didn’t show up to Minerliz’s funeral made a lot of people wonder if these claims were true.
Despite their best efforts, detectives admitted that they had been unable to develop any substantial leads in the case. They made several appeals to the public for help in locating Minerliz’s red ski jacket and black backpack; they noted that it was possible these items contained vital clues that could lead to the mu*rderer. Unfortunately, neither item was ever recovered.
A few months after the mur*der, officials announced that they were offering an $11,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the ki*ller. A few new tips were received but none of them brought detectives any closer to identifying the m*urderer. The investigation stalled and eventually went cold.
There has been little progress made on the case over the years, but Minerliz’s father has never lost hope that the person who k*illed his daughter will one day be brought to justice. Along with Minerliz’s friends and other family members, Luis Soriano hopes that new advances in DNA technology might finally help investigators solve the case.
Minerliz Soriano was just 13 years old when she was mur*dered in the Bronx in 1999. She was a sweet and studious girl who got excellent grades and had a bright future ahead of her. Her life was stolen from her before she really had a chance to live, and her killer has never been identified. Her friends and family have been waiting more than two decades to obtain justice for Minerliz. If you have any information about her murd*er, please contact Crime Stoppers at 800–577–8477.