Sex Offender Indicted in 2008 Death of Laura Garza

By Jim Scott on December 8, 2010 8:43am | Updated on December 8, 2010 2:46pm

Laura Garza's body was found by ATV riders in Pennsylvania on April 11, 2010.
Laura Garza's body was found by ATV riders in Pennsylvania on April 11, 2010.
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AP Photo/NYPD

By Jim Scott

DNAinfo Senior Editor

MANHATTAN — The upstate man police identified as the prime suspect in the death of Laura Garza two years ago was indicted on murder charges Wednesday, according to published reports.

An Orange County grand jury indicted Michael Mele, 25, on several counts of murder and for allegedly tampering with physical evidence in connection with Garza's death, the Record Online reported.

Garza, an aspiring young dancer from Brooklyn, left the Marquee Club in Chelsea with Mele on Dec. 3, 2008 and was last seen with him in Newburgh, N.Y., later that night before disappearing.

Mele had scratches on his neck and bite marks on his hands days after the 25-year-old Garza's disappearance, but refused to be interviewed by investigators, authorities said at the time.

Police did an extensive search of Mele's Walkill home and in wooded areas along Route 17 in Orange County and Sullivan County in the weeks following Garza's disappearance. The New York State Police called off the search for Garza in March 2009.

However, police got a huge break in the case when the skeletal remains of Garza's body were found by ATV riders on April 11 near Scranton, Penn., just an hour West of Mele's Orange County home.

Mele is currently serving prison time after violating his parole in an unrelated incident. Mele was designated a Level 1 sex offender in March 2008, after he was found guilty of exposing himself and masturbating in front of women in a mall parking lot in West Nyack, N.Y.

Mele, who also has an active arrest warrant in Bergen County, N.J., is scheduled to be released from custody on Christmas Eve, the Record reported.

Registered sex offender Michael Mele. Mele is expected to be formally charged Wednesday in the disappearance and murder of Laura Garza.
Registered sex offender Michael Mele. Mele is expected to be formally charged Wednesday in the disappearance and murder of Laura Garza.
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AP Photo/NYPD

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