An elderly Jamaica man will spend two decades behind bars for killing a World War I veteran nearly a half-century ago, the Queens district attorney’s office announced Nov. 7.
Martin Motta, 75, was sentenced by Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder Monday to 20 years in prison for the 1976 murder of 81-year-old George Clarence Seitz after her Cold Case Unit solved the 46-year-old homicide case with the NYPD using forensic genetic genealogy for the first time in New York City history.
Motta, of 89th Avenue in Jamaica, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the first degree last month.
On March 12, 2019, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner discovered human remains consisting of a pelvis and a partial torso buried under a concrete slab in the backyard of 87-72 115th St. in Richmond Hill. A DNA profile retrieved from the remains could not identify the deceased man at the time in local, state or national databases. The DA’s office and the NYPD sought the assistance of a private laboratory and the FBI to generate leads to the unknown victim’s identity.
In February 2021, Othram Laboratories produced a comprehensive genealogical profile from the skeletal remains using advanced DNA testing. The genealogical profile was given to the FBI, which then generated leads that were turned over to the DA’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. Investigators were able to confirm that the remains found belonged to Seitz, an 81-year-old veteran of World War I.
Further investigation revealed that the victim was last seen at approximately 10 a.m. on Dec. 10, 1976, leaving his home in Jamaica, reportedly on his way to get a haircut at Motta’s barbershop. After an extensive investigation, information was obtained that identified the victim as a regular customer of the barbershop and linked Motta to Seitz’s demise and to the concealment of his remains.
An extensive investigation by the NYPD and the Queens DA’s office included multiple interviews of witnesses and extensive records searches through five states and various agencies. Crucial evidence revealed the defendant fatally stabbed Mr. Seitz in the head after robbing him of approximately $7,000 to $8,000 then dismembered and buried his body beneath concrete slabs in the Richmond Hill backyard.
“After 46 years, a veteran of the First World War gets justice. The successes of modern technology and forensics made it possible for us to not only identify the bones of the victim but also to help find any witnesses,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said. “When I became district attorney, I created the Cold Case Unit for cases such as this, where time seems to be the enemy. Time allowed forensic genetic genealogy and our investigators to catch up to this defendant.”