NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- A Queens man pleaded guilty Tuesday to killing an 81-year-old World War I veteran in a stunning cold case that spanned 45 years and five U.S. states before it was smashed open by DNA evidence, the borough’s district attorney announced.
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Martin Motta, 75, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter more than four years after the remains of veteran George Clarence Seitz were found in a backyard in Richmond Hill.
Motta, of Jamaica, is expected to be sentenced in November to 20 years in prison, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said.
His arrest stemmed from the discovery of human remains buried under concrete in the backyard of a home at 87-72 115th St. on March 12, 2019.
A human pelvis and partial torso were found, according to prosecutors, who said the body had been dismembered at the neck, shoulders and hips.
Even though the remains had decayed over the decades, the medical examiner’s office was able to determine a DNA profile that led investigators on a path to identifying the victim.
Investigators first compared the DNA profile to local, state and national databases, but that was a dead end.
In 2020, the Queens District Attorney’s Office and NYPD began working with the FBI and a private lab, Othram Laboratories, to generate new leads.
In February 2021, Othram used advanced DNA testing to produce “a comprehensive genealogical profile from the skeletal remains,” Katz said.
The genealogical profile was sent to the FBI, which generated new leads that were turned over to the district attorney’s office and the NYPD.
Investigators contacted potential family members of the victims and obtained DNA samples to compare with the remains.
Investigators were able to confirm the remains were those of Seitz, who went missing on Dec. 10, 1976, when he was last seen leaving his home in Jamaica, Queens, at 10 a.m.
Seitz was reportedly on his way to get a haircut at the time, and further digging led investigators to identify Seitz as a regular customer of Motta at the barbershop.
Investigators determined Motta fatally stabbed Seitz in the head after he robbed him of $7,000 to $8,000. He then buried his remains in his backyard.
Officials said the investigation spanned five states and included multiple witness interviews and extensive searches of records across various agencies.
“This long-cold case marks the first successful application in New York City of forensic genetic genealogy,” Katz said in a statement on the plea.
“No matter how much time has passed, we will use every tool at our disposal to achieve justice,” she continued. “For the gruesome murder of a World War I veteran, the defendant eluded arrest for more than 46 years. Now he is headed to prison thanks to the collaboration between the NYPD and our Cold Case Unit.”