Man charged in 45-year-old cold case murder of WWI veteran

In 1976, 81-year-old World War I veteran George Clarence Seitz left his Jamaica, Queens home to get a haircut, never to return. 

Seitz's disappearance became a missing persons case and remained unsolved for over 40 years, until 2019, when an NYPD detective got a tip about a murder.

The tip led investigators to dig up property in Richmond Hill, Queens, and the discovery of human remains that would turn out to be those of the missing war veteran.

"We think the motive, in this case, was robbery," said Dan Saunders of the Queens District Attorney's Office. "And that he was killed, dismembered and the remains buried shortly thereafter."

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On Wednesday, Martin Motta, 74, who owned a barbershop in Queens during the 1970s, was charged with killing Seitz. Investigators say they believe the pair knew each other, and Seitz was Motta's customer. 

"The deceased was known to carry large sums of cash and apparently did so on that particular day," Saunders said.

Investigators used forensic tools and technology not available in the 1970s to identify the human remains. In addition to DNA, the FBI helped the Queens DA's office by using genealogy to find Seitz's living relatives. Such work is usually reserved for identifying criminals, but this time was used to identify a victim.