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New Yorker Charged with Murder for 1976 Killing of World War I Vet Who Was Found Buried Under Backyard

Clarence Seitz, remains

George Clarence Seitz / Photo courtesy Queens District Attorney

A New York man is facing murder charges after a years-long investigation linked him to the death of a World War I veteran who was killed in 1976.

Martin Motta, 74, has been charged with second degree murder in the death of George Clarence Seitz, the Queens district attorney’s office announced Wednesday in a press release.

Seitz, then 81, was last seen leaving his home in Jamaica, Queens on Dec. 10, 1976, reportedly on his way to get a haircut. He is believed to have gone missing at approximately 10 a.m. that day.

His fate remained a mystery until March 2019, when a woman called police and said she knew about a murder that happened in the late 1970s—and that she knew where the body was buried, according to a report from local NBC affiliate WNBC.

The remains, consisting of a pelvis and partial torso, were found in nearby Richmond Hill, and eventually traced back to Seitz.

“The body had been dismembered at the neck, shoulders, and hips,” the press release said.

George Clarence Seitz remains

Photo courtesy Queens District Attorney

After getting DNA from the remains, investigators searched local, state, and national databases, with no results. But earlier this year, the Queens DA and the New York City Police Department got help from a private firm.

“In February 2021, the laboratory, Othram Laboratories, used advanced DNA testing to produce a comprehensive genealogical profile from the skeletal remains,” the DA’s press release said. “The genealogical profile was given to the FBI, which then generated leads that were turned over to the Queens District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD. Investigators began to contact potential family members of the victim and obtained DNA samples for comparison to the discovered remains.”

A “painstaking investigation” led to “crucial evidence” allegedly linking Motta to Seitz’s death, the DA’s press release said. “The investigation included multiple interviews of witnesses and extensive searches of records through various agencies that spanned five states.”

Motta, who was born in 1947, would have been around 29 years old at the time of Seitz’s death.

“After 45 years, the alleged killer of a WWI Veteran is being held accountable and brought to justice,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said in a press release. “We hope the identification of the remains and the indictment in this case will begin to bring peace and closure to his loved ones. This indictment serves as an example of how police and prosecutors work together to bring individuals alleged to have committed crimes to justice, regardless of how much time passes or how many obstacles are placed in our path.”

The investigative team consisted of detectives from both the Queens DA’s office and NYPD.

“The officers of the NYPD’s Detective Bureau, its Homicide and Cold Case squads, and its highly trained forensic units, never forget and never give up,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said in the statement. “Here again, this case shows that no matter how much time passes, our police officers and partners in the Queens District Attorney’s Office carry out a sustained commitment, across decades, to establishing justice for crime victims and their families in New York City.”

The DA did not provide a motive or reason why Motta would have killed Seitz.

New York Department of Corrections records show that Motta is currently in custody at Rikers Island, in a facility that houses inmates with contagious diseases. The DOC did not immediately respond to Law&Crime’s request for details.

His next court appearance is set for Friday.

[Images courtesy Queens District Attorney]

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