Is Asbestos Hindering Murder Investigation?

September 27, 2013 Updated Apr 28, 2010 at 6:51 PM EDT

By Ginger Geoffery

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September 27, 2013 Updated Apr 28, 2010 at 6:51 PM EDT

An elderly man was found beaten to death outside his Pershing Avenue home in Buffalo on June 4, 1997 and his killer has gone unpunished for nearly 13 years. The victim's family is frustrated that no one has been brought to justice and they say there's now an unusual roadblock hindering the investigation -- asbestos.

Firta's son and granddaughter say they've been told by detectives that no one can access the evidence in the Firta murder right now because it's stored in a room at Buffalo Police headquarters downtown that is closed off because of asbestos. Buffalo Police spokesperson Michael DeGeorge tells Eyewitness News that there are some on-going asbestos problems at police headquarters, but he could not confirm if any cases are not being worked on because of the problem. DeGeorge adds though that there are some sensitive documents in an area that is closed because of asbestos.

Anthony Firta's granddaughter Jeanne Rosten recalls the shock she received watching television news on June 4, 1997. "I saw it on Channel 7 around 6:00 in the morning that this white man was killed in the backyard," says Rosten as she tears up.

Rosten and Firta's son Howard Winkler think they know who killed him. They suspect a man who Firta hired to do some work on his property, and they're pushing detectives to re-examine the evidence. "The way they go after DNA today they can use old DNA that wouldn't prove enough but now they can look at it again," says Winkler.

Winkler and Rosten believe this case can be solved and they'd like police to find a solution to the asbestos issue if that is in fact what's holding up the case. "When I'm this close that someone's actually going to do something and then get the 'Well we can't get into the evidence', oh come on. Don't give me another bum excuse," says Winkler.