NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) — The first week of the Joseph Balstadt trial wrapped up Friday in Niagara Falls.
On the fourth day of testimony, jurors heard from two sisters who said they saw Mandy Steingasser get into Belstadt’s car on the morning she disappeared, September 19, 1993.
Belstadt is accused of killing Steingasser in 1993.
Both Coughlin sisters said they knew Belstadt from their old neighborhood in North Tonawanda and one of the sisters also recognized Steingasser from school.
Tanya Coughlin testified that she was outside her apartment on September 19, 1993, shortly after 1 a.m. when a girl walked towards her.
She said her sister Rebecca who was watching from the apartment window later told her she recognized the girl as Steingasser.
Tanya said at the same time Steingasser walked down the sidewalk towards her, a black car coming from the same direction drove by, made a U-turn, and pulled up next to Steingasser at the corner of Fifth method and Oliver Street.
Tanya said she could see the driver and recognized him as Belstadt.
She said Steingasser seemed to know him and walked up to the car. She said they talked for a few minutes then Steingasser got in. The car then drove off in the same direction both were headed.
Rebecca also testified and said she recognized the car when it pulled up but couldn’t place from where.
She said when Tanya came back inside and told her it was Belstadt driving, Rebecca she made the connection that the same car had pulled up to her when she was walking home from a party a different night. She said Belstadt was driving and offered her a ride.
before, Belstadt’s attorney said he claims he dropped Steingasser off at a church at First method and Oliver Street.
Rebecca testified she watched out her front window for five to six more minutes after his car drove off in the opposite direction of that church. She said she didn’t see the car excursion down her street again.
Other witnesses testified about events that occurred before Steingasser was picked up by Belstadt.
This included cross-examination of Steingasser’s best friend at the time, Stacie Blazynski, who started testifying Tuesday and finished Friday.
Blazynski said she hung out with her boyfriend, Steingasser, and another male friend on the evening of September 18 into the early hours of September 19.
She said while walking to a house party in North Tonawanda, they ran into a group of people in a car. Blaynzski said a fight broke out between the boys in the two groups and she and Steingasser walked away. She said the whole group distributed when they heard police sirens.
Blazynski said shortly after, her group walked back to the house where they were hanging out before, but Steingasser didn’t want to be caught by the police because she was out past curfew.
Blazynski said Steingasser walked the other way with a man she didn’t know and that was the last time she saw her friend.
That man was Donald Kohlbrenner who has since died, according to testimony by his wife Kristen on Friday.
Earlier testimony from a former North Tonawanda police officer said he stopped Steingasser and Kohlbrenner. The officer said he later found out Kohlbrenner gave a fake name that night.
The officer testified he let them go after a few minutes of questioning in the street. He said shortly after, he saw them sitting on the church steps at First method and Oliver Street.
This is the same aforementioned church where Belstadt claims he dropped Steingasser off.
Kohlbrenner’s wife testified her husband told her he was in a police car with Steingasser that night. She said she didn’t know the two were seen sitting on the church steps.
She said he gave a fake name to the police because he was on probation for marijuana charges.
The trial resumes Monday morning at 9:15.
Kayla Green is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.
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