Defense Tries to Blame Ex-Boyfriend in Steingasser’s Death, But Was He Here?

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Mandy Steingasser, who was murdered when she was 17-years-old.

 

By: Tony Farina

There have been at least four delays in the murder trial of Joseph Belstadt in the strangulation death of Mandy Steingasser in 1993 and now the defense for the only suspect police ever had are suggesting a new suspect should be introduced at trial,  the 17-year-old victim’s former boyfriend.

The only problem with that strategy, according to law enforcement sources, is that the former boyfriend “was not here” when Mandy got into a car with Belstadt after a night of partying on the morning of Sept. 19, 1993, and was never seen alive again.

Law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation into the teen’s brutal strangulation murder say the former boyfriend had left town and police had confirmed he had left, thus ruling him out as a suspect.

“He wasn’t here,” said a law enforcement source, “and that ruled him out as a suspect.”   And that’s just what DA Caroline Wojtaszek told Judge Sara Sheldon last week in court when defense attorney Michele Bergevin brought up the idea of introducing the boyfriend as a possible suspect at trial because DNA from the boyfriend was found in Mandy’s underwear.

 

Niagara County District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek.

 

As one veteran defense attorney told this reporter, the “other guy did it is a familiar defense tactic to try and cast doubt in the jury’s mind, especially in a cold case like this one.”

And this is indeed a cold case.  The father of the beautiful young North Tonawanda teenager who was found strangled in Bond Lake Park in Lewiston several weeks after her disappearance, died in 2015, never living to see anyone charged in his only child’s murder.

Richard Steingasser, like his wife, Lorraine who is still alive, was devastated by his daughter’s unsolved death and really never recovered from her loss, according to friends.  And that’s also the case for Mandy’s mother who continues to deeply mourn her daughter’s death 27 years later.

Years went by and no charges were filed and it wasn’t until DA Wojtaszek revived the case when she was elected the county’s chief prosecutor and with the aid of new technology was able to introduce key forensic evidence linking Belstadt to the dead girl from the vehicle he was driving at the time of her disappearance.

Mandy Steingasser was described by friends as a good-hearted, strikingly beautiful teenager who enjoyed partying, much like other teenagers in her crowd at North Tonawanda High School.  But her night of partying in September of 1993 marked the end for her and weeks later she was found bruised, battered, strangled, and dead in park in Lewiston.

 

Joseph Belstadt, who is accused of murdering Mandy Steingasser.

 

Wojtaszek finally delivered a murder indictment against Belstadt in April of 2018, but here we are nearly two years later and a jury of his peers has yet to hear the evidence against him in the girl’s death, to render a decision on his guilt or innocence.

For Lorraine Steingasser, life has never been the same since she lost her only daughter and five years ago she lost her grieving husband, leaving her alone in her pain.

For Many Steingasser’s many friends who are waiting for the jury to get the case, it has been years of wondering if there will ever be a day in court for her accused killer.

Judge Sheldon said in court last week she will rule shortly on whether she will allow the defense to introduce the ex-boyfriend as a suspect at trial even though the prosecution contends it should not be allowed because he just wasn’t here when the girl disappeared.

At this point, the trial is scheduled to finally begin on March 9 and if there are no more delays, a jury will finally get to hear what the prosecution says happened to Many Steingasser 27 years ago.  We’ll try and keep you posted.

 

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