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Queens man, 74, charged in death of WWI veteran missing since 1976

NEW YORK — A 74-year-old man was arraigned on a murder charge in connection with the death of a World War I veteran who disappeared almost 45 years ago and whose remains were found buried in a backyard in 2019, authorities said.

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said Martin Motta faces 25 years to life in prison if he is convicted in the death of George Seitz, who was 81 when he was last seen in December 1976.

Motta made an appearance in court after being indicted by a Queens grand jury and is due back in court Friday. His attorney, Russell Rothberg, declined to comment.

Prosecutors said dismembered human remains were found in the backyard of a Queens home in March 2019, buried under some concrete.

“After 45 years, the alleged killer of a WWI Veteran is being held accountable and brought to justice. 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,” District Attorney Katz said.

“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. 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,” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said.

Initially, a DNA profile of the remains was unsuccessful in leading to any identification, authorities said, but advanced efforts by a private lab in February 2021 led to a genealogical profile that authorities were able to use to find the victim’s identity.

Authorities said Seitz disappeared Dec. 10, 1976, after leaving his residence, also in Queens.

The New York Police Department and the Queens district attorney’s office conducted an investigation that included witness interviews and record searches in five states, and which led them to Motta, authorities said.

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