Flushing Man Convicted in 1980 Cold Case Murder

A Flushing man last week was found guilty of murder in the strangulation death of an elderly man in his home nearly 35 years ago, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

Ernest Mattison, 52, was convicted last Thursday of second-degree murder after a two-week trial and three hours of jury deliberations.

According to trial testimony, Mattison lived around the corner from the Schiff family. On Sept. 10, 1980, the victim’s wife returned home from the store and found her husband, Cecil Schiff, 73, dead. The bedroom had been ransacked and the jewelry boxes emptied of their contents. Investigators found several fingerprints on the jewelry boxes, Brown said.

According to court records, the Statewide Automated Fingerprint Identification System did not go online until the early 1990s. In 2008, the machine generated several possible matches when compared to fingerprints contained in its database. Of those possible matches, a fingerprint examiner performed a forensic analysis and determined that Mattison’s prints matched those found on three of the jewelry boxes at the crime scene.

“The defendant escaped justice for decades but new technology made it possible to find the killer of a 73-year-old man, who was strangled to death in his home nearly 35 years ago,” Brown said in a statement issued last Thursday. “The defendant may have disappeared, but his fingerprints were found in the apartment and forensic analysis linked him to the crime. He has now been found guilty by a jury and faces being incarcerated for the remainder of his life.”

Mattison is scheduled to be sentenced on April 23. He is facing 25 years to life in prison.


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