(WIVB) – Opening statements were made Monday morning in the trial of Joseph Belstadt, who is accused of killing Mandy Steingasser 28 years ago.

According to the prosecution, this case comes down to crucial forensic evidence – or if you ask the defense, lack thereof.

A jury listened Monday as both sides laid out their cases, on the same day 28 years later that Steingasser’s body was found.

Since she went missing on Sept. 19, 1993, family, friends and police have been trying to figure out what happened to Steingasser.

Police say she was last seen at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Oliver Street in North Tonawanda where she got into Joseph Belstadt’s car.

Belstadt is now charged with her murder.

“She was found dumped down a steep ravine – her pants were ripped and unzipped partially, pulled down exposing her underwear,” John Granchelli, assistant district attorney said. “Her bra was tied around her neck.”

Police and prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence to charge Belstadt back then, but they reopened the case in 2017.

They explained today that hairs and fibers from Belstadt’s car and Steingasser’s clothing were retested, which gave them enough to charge him.

The defense says the only thing the evidence proves is that Steingasser was in Belstadt’s car.

“Looking at everything that was found on the remains of Mandy Steingasser, the people won’t be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Joe even touched her, let alone killed her,” Belstadt’s attorney, Michelle Bergevin, said.

The trial is expected to last anywhere from four to six weeks.

If convicted of murder, Belstadt could face life in prison.

Kayla Green is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.

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