Twenty-eight year years is a long time. It’s a particularly long time for a grieving family waiting for some sense of justice and closure.
Mandy Steingasser’s family finally received a bit of both on Tuesday.
Nearly three decades after the discovery of 17-year-old Steingasser’s remains in a ravine in Bond Lake Park, a Niagara County Court jury of six men and six woman found Joseph Belstadt, 46, guilty of second-degree murder in her death.
The verdict was a long time coming, to say the least.
As the initial investigation of Steingasser’s death stretched into months, and then years, we were told by then District Attorney Matthew Murphy that there wasn’t enough evidence to present the case to a jury. Michael Violante told us the same thing.
As time went on, witnesses and police moved on. John Steingasser, Mandy’s father, died. So did Det. Glen Gardner. Capt. Gabe DiBernardo retired. So did Det. Ross McQuade.
DiBernardo and McQuade, dedicated and driven cops, were witnesses for the prosecution. Over the years, North Tonawanda Police and Niagara County investigators never really let the case rest. They kept talking to witnesses. They kept revisiting the evidence. We applaud them for that.
On Tuesday, Niagara County,” District Attorney Brian Seaman credited what he called the “dogged pursuit” of detectives from the North Tonawanda Police and forensic specialists at the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office laboratory in finally bringing the case to trial.
We join the DA in saluting all those that made sure this case was eventually brought to trial, no matter how long it took. We can’t imagine the time spent by investigators and prosecutors on the case but it was well worth it in the end.
Now we’ve finally come to closure. Closure for Mandy’s family and high school classmates. Closure for the police. And a difficult and different closure for Belstadt, whose family clings to his innocence.
Tuesday’s verdict also has us thinking about other cold cases in Niagara County — how many more families are still waiting for closure and a sense of justice?
For instance there’s Sheryl Rucci who was last seen on Aug. 9, 2005.
At first, police thought she fled rather than testify against her boyfriend who was accused of inappropriate contact with juvenile girls. In time, however, police began to suspect a more sinister fate for Rucci. She left no indication she was planning to go somewhere. Her apartment was undisturbed. Her loved ones have waited for answers.
It’s just one of many such cases. Tuesday’s verdict offers hope for each of them.