Lifestyle & Human Interest

Man Charged in Cold-Case Murder of WWI Vet Who Went Missing 45 Years Ago


On Dec. 10, 1976, 81-year-old George Clarence Seitz left his home in Jamaica, Queens, and went to get a haircut. He was never seen again.

Seitz, a WWI veteran, had been headed to a barbershop owned by Martin Motta, where he was a regular. Seitz was also known to carry large sums of money about with him, a factor that may have played a role in his disappearance.

While Seitz was reported missing five days later, it took over 40 years to bring the case to a close.

The first real break in the case came in March 2019, when someone called the NYPD with a tip about a gruesome murder that happened in 1976. Authorities believe the witness may have been threatened, and that is why they kept quiet for so many years.

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According to the New York Daily News, a woman (who might have been the caller, though she has not been identified as such) had been just 11 years old when she says she saw the aftermath of a brutal murder at the barbershop. Her mother was dating Motta at the time, and later in the day the woman said she’d seen Motta with several black trash bags on his property.

Detectives found dismembered remains — the pelvis and partial torso — buried beneath concrete behind a house in Richmond Hill, but that was only the beginning.

“From there, the NYPD took — undertook what amounts to really a Herculean task to identify the remains that were buried for at least 45 years, and almost miraculously, they succeeded in that task,” Queens Executive Assistant District Attorney Dan Saunders said, according to CNN.

After obtaining samples, getting them DNA tested and determining a profile, the chief medical examiner’s office was unable to find any relatives.

Eventually the FBI was able to access their database and find some potential relatives, who were followed up with and tested to positively identify the remains as Seitz’s.

The evidence led police to arrest 74-year-old Martin Motta, the owner of the barbershop. On Wednesday, Motta was indicted by a grand jury and charged with second-degree murder, according to the New York Post.

“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, according to a news release by the Queens District Attorney’s Office.

“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.”

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“We hope the identification of the remains and the indictment in this case will begin to bring peace and closure to his loved ones,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz added.

“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.”

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