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Judge will allow jury to hear about Belstadt car crash

The jury in Joseph H. Belstadt's murder trial next month will be allowed to hear evidence that Belstadt crashed his car head-on into a van without braking the day Mandy Steingasser's body was found in 1993.

Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon said Friday that she won't allow prosecutors to talk about Belstadt driving into a ditch the week after the 17-year-old North Tonawanda's girl's disappearance. "I don't know of anybody who drives into a ditch to commit suicide," Sheldon said.

But the car-van wreck is admissible, she said.

"That's a little more problematic," Sheldon said.

Prosecutors will argue the wreck showed consciousness of guilt.

Sheldon also said she will give the defense team another chance to convince her to allow them to try to pin Steingasser's murder on an ex-boyfriend. Sheldon ruled that out last week.

Belstadt, 44, was charged with murder in 2018 after DNA evidence placing Steingasser in Belstadt's car convinced District Attorney Caroline A. Wojtaszek to seek a grand jury indictment.

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