Retired police detective “relieved” cold case murder solved

Local News

More than two decades later Niagara County officials make an arrest in a 1993 cold case murder.

North Tonawanda High School student, 17-year-old Mandy Steingasser was last seen on September 19, 1993, with her classmate, Joseph Belstadt, at the corner of 5th Avenue and Oliver Street in the City of North Tonawanda. Several weeks later, her body was found by hikers, partially decomposed, at Bond Lake Park in Lewiston.

Wednesday at a news conference, District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek announced the arrest of 43-year-old Belstadt. Belstadt is charged with murder in the second degree by the Niagara County Grand Jury.

Retired detective Gabriel Di Bernardo worked on the case since the very beginning.

“Poor Mandy was left to die, left to decompose for five weeks at Bond Lake. What happened to her body should’ve never happened to any human being. I’m just relieved finally, I’m just so sorry that it took so long,” said Di Bernardo.

Di Bernardo was close family friends with the Steingasser’s.  He said it was his mission to solve this case, but he eventually retired in 1998.

“I took it personally. Killing Richard’s daughter was like killing my daughter. I made him a promise that I would always get justice for his daughter,” said Di Bernardo.

Di Bernardo told News 4 Belstadt was the leading suspect since day one.

“We just couldn’t quite get enough evidence together and the DA would not present it to the grand jury.”

DA Wojtaszek confirmed at Wednesday’s news conference that forensic evidence is what ultimately led detectives back to Belstadt. Wojtaszek would not comment further on what the new evidence is that cracked the case.

Belstadt was arraigned on murder charges Wednesday and is being held on a $250,000 cash bail. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

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