A Town of Tonawanda man has been arrested and charged with murder in a case dating back to September 1993. Joseph Belstadt is accused of killing Amanda "Mandy" Steingasser, his former classmate, after allegedly offering her a ride home from a party.
North Tonawanda Police and the Niagara County District Attorney's Office announced that Belstadt, who according to past published reports was considered a suspect early in the investigation, was taken into custody Tuesday evening.
"It was around 6:10 p.m. (Tuesday) night at his residence," said North Tonawanda Police Chief Roger Zgolak. "He returned home from work and myself, and the other detectives of the North Tonawanda Police Department, executed the (arrest) warrant. It went without incident, other than the fact that he locked himself in the vehicle for a brief period of time."
Steingasser, who was 17 years old, was last seen alive in the early morning hours of September 19, 1993, on the corner of 5th Avenue and Oliver Street. According to investigators, she had accepted a ride home from Belstadt after partying with friends.
Later that year, on October 25, investigators from Niagara County Sheriff's Office recovered her body at Bond Lake Park in Lewiston.
District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek said little about the case and dodged questions about what role DNA evidence may have played in the arrest. But she announced she will personally lead the prosecution team, which will also include Second Assistant District Attorney Mary Jean Bowman and Assistant District Attorney John Granchelli.
"It is imperative as we move forward to try this case in the courtroom," Wojtaszek said. "This case was a priority from the moment I took office as District Attorney and underscores our commitment to unsolved crimes here in Niagara County. We leave no one behind."
Among those expressing relief, and shedding some tears, was retired detective Gabriel DiBernardo. He worked as chief of detectives for the North Tonawanda Police Department when Steingasser went missing. He retired in 1998 but revealed that, every day after, he was haunted by the lack of an arrest in the case.
"It's the only case we didn't solve in the detective bureau," DiBernardo said. "It's with you every day. I took it personally. You know the old saying when you went to school that you shouldn't take it personally? Well, I did. I took every case personal."
Belstadt was arraigned in Niagara County Court on Wednesday. A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for July 10 and the trial itself, according to Wojtaszek, is tentatively set to begin on September 10.
He faces life in prison if convicted.
DiBernardo said he was a friend of the victim's father, Richard Steingasser, who passed away in 2015. And he recalled a promise to his late friend that justice would finally be served. But he noted it has not been just yet.
"That case will always be with me until it's resolved. We haven't resolved it yet," he said. "We've taken a great step but we're not there yet. An indictment is a great step but I want the conviction. That's what I promised Richard, the father."