Sex offender pleads not guilty in Laura Garza's death

(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

sorry to interrupt
your first 20 are free
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Time Warner® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please enjoy 20 complimentary views of articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.
you have reached your 5 view limit
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Time Warner® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please login, create an account or subscribe to continue enjoying News12.
Our sign-up page is undergoing maintenance and is not currently available. However, you will be given direct access to while we complete our upgrade.
When we are back up and running you will be prompted at that time to complete your sign in. Until then, enjoy the local news, weather, traffic and more that's "as local as local news gets."