NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The murder of restaurant owner Jose Martinez in Washington Heights is 1986 was a cold case that went unsolved until the victim’s daughter, using the internet, tracked down the confessed killer.

But now, Judge Robert Stoles has freed the defendant on constitutional grounds, ruling that the authorities let too much time pass before bringing a case against him.

As WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported, Justo Santos had fled to the Dominican Republic, served time there for the crime, and has back in the United States.

Santos was arrested in 2013 to face charges in New York.

Prosecutors said on Nov. 22, 1986, Martinez was working at his restaurant when Santos and two other men stormed in at 9 p.m. They made disrespectful comments to waitresses and harassed customers, to the point where Martinez and his kitchen staff forced them out of the restaurant.

There, the disagreement became physical. Santos allegedly pulled a revolver and fired two or three times at Martinez and the cook for the restaurant.

Martinez was wounded in the chest, and a bullet pierced his heart and lung. He was pronounced dead at New York-Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center, prosecutors said.

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