Judge: Police seized hair, fiber from Belstadt's vehicle

Joseph Belstadt

Niagara County Court Judge Sara Sheldon said in court Tuesday that investigators seized hair and fiber from a vehicle used by Joseph H. Belstadt, who has been charged in the 1993 murder of Mandy Steingasser, 17, of North Tonawanda.

Niagara County District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek has said new forensic evidence, discovered through more sophisticated DNA testing technology that wasn't available to past investigators, allowed her office to charge Belstadt in Steingasser's murder. Wojtaszek has not declined to say what that forensic evidence is. 

Defense attorneys are seeking to suppress that evidence, arguing it exceeded the authority of investigators' search warrant.

Sheldon said police seized the vehicle in 1993 and "kept pulling stuff out of it."

"By what authority were they doing that?" Sheldon asked.

Sheldon added she may hold a hearing on the admissibility of that evidence.

At the next scheduled hearing Aug. 19, Sheldon said she plans to resolve ongoing issues related to jailhouse informants, statements Belstadt made to investigators and whether marital privilege will extend to Belstadt's ex-wife, Kerry Grimmer. 

Married couples are typically shielded from being forced to testify against one another. But the law is less clear on that privilege when the couple gets a divorce and one of them is later charged with a crime.

Faced with a deluge of pre-trial motions, Sheldon ordered the trial be postponed from Sept. 16 to Jan. 13.