Among the items found were pieces of carpet. They held vigils for her a month after her disappearance and again at the one-year mark. They wanted a jury to give him more. In December , Mele was indicted on charges of second-degree murder, first- and second-degree manslaughter and tampering with physical evidence in Garza's killing. DNA tests confirmed the identity. His apartment and the woods, fields, roads and icy lakes around it, as well as septic systems and trash bins, became the grounds for an exhausting search for Garza and for evidence. They've waited three years to see justice for Laura.
Opening arguments and the first witnesses had been scheduled for Monday. The plea came as jurors gathered in a nearby room, ready to hear the case. Police said that two days after Garza's disappearance, Mele had what appeared to be a bite mark on his finger and scratches on his back. Investigators said they drove north 60 miles to his Wallkill home. I put my hand over her mouth and partially her nose, and shortly after that, she stopped yelling, stopped moving, and I realized something bad had happened. But Mele was quickly locked up for violating parole — he acknowledged drinking, he had not attended sex-offender treatment and he had not reported to his probation officer. He refused to answer questions, 'continuing to exercise his right to remain silent,' said Orange District Attorney Frank Phillips. They were last spotted in Newburgh. Police said a watch that Garza was wearing when she disappeared was found on the remains. Mele said the mark on his finger was a knife cut incurred during his work as a restaurant manager; he blamed his cat for the scratches. The gallery was packed with reporters and investigators, some of whom had worked on the case since Garza disappeared. Mele said the mark on his finger was a knife cut incurred during his work as a restaurant manager; he blamed his cat for the scratches. Garza's family was furious her killer will get only 23 years in prison for killing their Garza left and stashing her body Garza never came home, and Mele quickly became the prime suspect in her disappearance. They wanted a jury to give him more. Garza, dreaming of a career in dance, had moved to Brooklyn from McAllen, Texas, on the Mexico border, five months earlier. Only then did Garza's mother give up hope, said cousin Isela Villalobos. DNA tests confirmed the identity. There, Mele said, "she saw a picture of a girl, and female-related things. Supplied Garza's disappearance prompted extensive searches. He was forced to register as a sex offender after pleading guilty to exposing himself and attacking a woman in the Palisades Center mall parking lot two years ago. He pleaded guilty to that charge in September. Michael Mele admits to murdering dancer Laura Garza. Mele was questioned by police shortly after her disappearance and his apartment was searched. Accepting a manslaughter conviction in a plea bargain after three years of non-cooperation, Michael Mele said that after he picked up year-old Laura Garza in December , she became upset in his upstate apartment when she saw a picture of his girlfriend. Her body hasn't been found and he hasn't been charged, but the case caused new problems for Mele. Cordero said the family would address the judge about their concerns when Mele is formally sentenced March 6. Mele said he killed Garza left after she got upset when she found a photo of his girlfriend and some of her things in his apartment Garza's mother, Elizabeth Esquivel, and two brothers attended the hearing Monday.
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