Sex offender pleads not guilty in Laura Garza's death

GOSHEN - (AP) - A sex offender pleaded not guilty todayto killing slain Brooklyn dancer Laura Garza, who vanished two years ago after leaving a New York City nightclub with him.

Michael Mele, 25, is charged with murder, manslaughter andevidence tampering in the death of Garza, 25, who had movedfrom McAllen, Texas to New York five months before herdisappearance. He could face 25 years to life in prison if he'sconvicted of murder.

Mele, wearing a jail jumpsuit, his hands cuffed in frontof him and shackled to his waist, pleaded not guilty through hisattorney, John Ingrassia, who declined to comment afterward.

Mele was arraigned in Orange County, northwest of New York City,where authorities say Garza was killed.

Her skeletal remains were found in April in the woods in MountCobb, Pa. Garza had been missing since Dec. 3, 2008, when surveillancecameras showed her leaving the Manhattan nightspot Marquee withMele. They were also seen a couple of hours later a few miles fromMele's home in Wallkill.

Mele, long considered the prime suspect, is already serving timefor violating his parole as a sex offender, but that sentenceformally ends Dec. 24.

Mele's next court appearance was set for March 7, 2011.

Mele charged with murder, manslaughter in Garza caseLoved ones remember Laura Garza on 2nd anniversary of disappearanceMele sentenced in credit card theft

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