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For decades, what happened to George Clarence Seitz, who vanished from Queens on a winter morning in 1976 on his way to get a haircut, was a mystery.
That was until this week when the New York Police Department arrested 74-year-old Martin Motta in Jamaica, Queens in connection with Seitz’s slaying, officials confirmed to Oxygen.com on Friday. Motta was arraigned on second-degree murder charges in the decades-old slaying by Justice Kenneth Holder after his Nov. 3 arrest following a grand jury indictment, prosecutors announced.
On March 12, 2019, the World War I veteran’s skeletal remains were excavated from the backyard of a home in Richmond Hill, Queens after a woman who grew up there called police and reported seeing a corpse being buried in her backyard in the mid-1970s.
The 81-year-old veteran's body had been dismembered at the neck, shoulders, and hips, prosecutors said.
For the past two years, the identity of the individual to whom the skeletal remains belonged was shrouded in mystery. Genetic material recovered from the site led investigators to some of Seitz's possible relatives; this discovery, which came with the assistance of a private laboratory and the FBI, ultimately helped identify the victim in recent weeks.
Authorities now suspect Motta, a barbershop owner, murdered Seitz during a botched robbery on Dec. 10, 1976. Police said Seitz was known to carry sizable quantities of cash.
Motta’s arrest, 45 years after his alleged crime, may be the end to what New York detectives say was a lengthy and exhaustive investigation.
“This was a two-and-a-half-year investigation. We were relentless and we did not stop,” Queens South Homicide Detective Mike Gaine told the press on Thursday.
Prosecutors said that they believe that crucial evidence, including witness interviews and record searches in five U.S. states, has definitively linked Motta to Seitz’s slaying.
“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 statement. “We hope the identification of the remains and the indictment in this case will begin to bring peace and closure to his loved ones."
The New York Times reported that Motta didn’t speak during his arraignment this week. He was expected to appear in court on Friday. Russell Rothberg, Motta’s defense attorney, didn’t immediately respond to Oxygen.com’s requests for comment this week. If convicted, Motta could face up to 25 years to life in prison.
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