Siblings still seek justice in 30-year-old York City cold-case murder
Thirty years ago, George Costella Sr.'s loved ones lost the family man and gifted artist to an act of violence in York City that police have been unable to solve.
The killer has remained free all these years, and two of Costella's siblings — there were 11 of them — fear if detectives can't solve the case soon, there will never be justice for their family.
"What happened to my brother makes me disgusted," said his youngest sister, Marti Barnes, of Colorado. Still, she is able to keep hope alive that the cold case will be solved, she told The York Dispatch.
"I know there’s someone out there who knows something," she said. "What are they waiting for? Just to torture us, I think."
Barnes is now offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of her brother's killer.
"If we don’t soon find out, we’re never going to find out," she said. "We’re all getting older."
Costella, of New Oxford, Adams County, was 54 when he was fatally beaten and robbed near the old York County Prison in the 300 block of Chestnut Street.
Two children on their way to what was then called Alexander D. Goode Elementary School found his body the morning of May 31, 1990, in the shallow water of Poor House Run, next to the old prison.
Victim struggled: Costella struggled with his killer in a grassy area near the run, and investigators found blood, eyeglasses and other evidence there, officials said at the time.
A witness told The York Dispatch in the days after the slaying that neighbors saw what looked like a gold chain clutched in Costella's hand before police arrived.
The coroner at the time, Kathryn Fourhman, said Costella suffered head trauma and internal injuries. His cause of death was determined to be diffuse brain injuries due to blunt-force head trauma, according to current York County Coroner Pam Gay.
Two schoolgirls who lived on Chestnut Street in 1990 told The York Dispatch they saw Costella about 5:30 p.m. the day before his body was found.
The girls said they were swinging on Goode's playground swing set when Costella walked past them with another man, who they described as white, in his 50s, with light brown hair. He was wearing a white turtleneck and was balding, the girls said.
Costella and the other man were walking quietly, side by side, according to the girls, who said the men walked to the east side of the vacant prison, at which point they disappeared from view behind brush and weeds.
Siblings frustrated: Barnes and brother Allen Costella said they are frustrated that the case remains unsolved, and frustrated about their dealings with investigators.
"They have never kept us in the loop," Barnes said. "When we ask questions, they never have any answers and say, 'We'll get back to you on that.' ... We kind of get the silent treatment."
When family members asked investigators about the girls who reported seeing Costella in the area, they were told that "the newspaper never reports what's right," Barnes recalled. She also said police discouraged her family from going to the media about the cold case.
York City Police Capt. William Wentz did meet with the family in the past year or so.
"He was very congenial. He certainly listened," Barnes said, but noted it was clear to her that police weren't actively investigating her brother's death.
York City Police declined to speak about the cold case with The York Dispatch.
Allen Costella said he is discouraged, and that for some time he was angry. The anger's gone now, he said, but the need to know what happened to his brother hasn't diminished.
The Costellas are people of faith, and Allen Costella said if the case can't be solved in this lifetime, perhaps he'll learn what happened in the next.
After Costella was killed, the family received a long anonymous letter with no return address that contained information about the crime, which they turned over to police, according to the brother.
"It didn't make sense at the time," he said, but now he wishes he could see that letter again. He said police agreed to give him a copy, but that hasn't happened.
"It was a mysterious letter," Allen Costella said. "We gave it to the detective, and he said it didn't mean anything."
The siblings also said they were told city detectives had lost the case file for a time but that they eventually found it.
"I know they can't release everything to us, but there were things we requested that we'd like to see again, maybe put our heads together," Barnes said.
Talented artist: Costella was a talented artist who shortly before his death had started a graphics business. He volunteered with Boy Scouts for many years and was involved in his church. He also founded New Oxford's annual arts and crafts fair.
"It just doesn't make sense" that someone killed him, Barnes said. "We all loved him."
Costella was married and a father when Barnes was still in high school — he was more than a dozen years her senior — and he paid for her senior pictures and class ring when their parents couldn't afford to, she said.
"He could draw, he could paint ... he was just an all-around great artist," she said. "I worshiped his talent. And he was so involved in the community."
Killer must pay: "He was a super father — he raised six kids," Allen Costella, 74, recalled. "I'm not much for words. ... All I can say is, he's missed very much and we loved him dearly.
"Whoever did this has to pay the price."
Attempts to reach Costella's widow and children were unsuccessful.
People with information about Costella's homicide can contact either York City Police or CrimeWatch Pennsylvania. Barnes said she will give $1,000 to the person who helps police crack the case.
Reach city police at 717-846-1234, or call the department's anonymous crime tip line, 717-849-2204. To submit tips through CrimeWatch, go to crimewatchpa.com and click on "Submit a tip!" in the upper right corner of the homepage.
Both York City Police and CrimeWatch said they will honor Barnes' request that tipsters may remain anonymous.
— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.