Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, breaking news, sweepstakes, and more!
A man will spend the next two decades in prison for what was New York City’s first homicide solved with forensic genealogy.
Martin Motta, 75, was sentenced Monday to 20 years for the murder of 81-year-old George Clarence Seitz, a WWI veteran who disappeared in 1976 while on his way to get a haircut, according to a press release by the Queens District Attorney’s Office. Motta owned a Jamaica, Queens, barbershop that Seitz frequented — including on the day of his disappearance.
He pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in October.Mar
“After 46 years, a veteran of the First World War gets justice,” announced Queens D.A. Melinda Katz.
At sentencing, Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth C. Holder referred to Motta as “Queens’ own Jeffrey Dahmer lite,” according to CBS New York affiliate WCBS-TV. He added that he hoped Motta’s time in prison would be “hard, terrible years.”
Also in the courtroom was Gertrude Jones, Seitz’s maternal niece.
“My mother died never knowing what had happened to her brother,” said Jones. “My hope is each day you spend in prison, you will think of your evil actions, the suffering my uncle must have endured.”
Motta gave no expression at Monday’s hearing, though his son, Daniel Motta, was visibly upset, according to WCBS-TV.
“They got their justice,” the younger Motta told reporters. “I’m OK with it, too.”
The investigation began in March 2019 when a woman who'd lived in a townhouse in the Richmond Hill section of Queens called authorities to report that, as a child more than four decades earlier, she'd seen someone bury a body behind the 115th Street home, according to the New York Times.
Assistant District Attorney Karen Ross told reporters that the tipster — now reported to be Motta’s stepdaughter — claimed she saw Motta feeding body parts to a dog, according to WCBS-TV. Motta reportedly threatened his relatives not to speak up, lest they end up like the unidentified man in the backyard.
The unnamed woman’s tip proved accurate: One day later, investigators unearthed a pelvis and a partial torso, which had been covered by a concrete slab, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
It was determined the male victim, who could not be immediately identified, had been dismembered at the neck, shoulders, and hips.
Attempts to identify the victim included submitting the John Doe’s DNA profile to local, state and federal databases. Those avenues proved fruitless until 2021 when the District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD enlisted the help of Othram.
“Skeletal remains were sent to Othram, and Othram used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing and proprietary human enrichment techniques to build a comprehensive genealogical profile,” which was returned to New York officials, according to Othram.
Following this line of inquiry, investigators tracked down some of the victim’s potential relatives before further testing proved that the Queens John Doe was George Seitz.
Seitz was last seen leaving his Jamaica, Queens home at around 10:00 a.m. on Dec. 10, 1976 for Motta’s barbershop.
Seitz was known to carry large amounts of cash, according to the CBS affiliate. Officials say Motta fatally stabbed Seitz in the head and took $7,000 to $8,000 from him — which would be $35,000-$40,000 in today's money.
Motta allegedly admitted to murdering Seitz, leaving his severed head in the garbage and discarding the man's limbs around Queens, according to Assistant District Attorney Ross.
He pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree manslaughter in October.
“When I became District Attorney, I created the Cold Case Unit for cases such as this where time seems to be the enemy,” Katz said in Monday’s release. “Time allowed forensic genetic genealogy and our investigators to catch up to this defendant.”
Outside the courthouse, Katz told reporters that justice for Motta came at a good time — just before Veteran’s Day.
Crime News is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for Oxygen Insider for all the best true crime content.