I spend a lot of time writing at my place outside the City to get away from the hustle and bustle. Today, I awoke to the news that the body of Laura Garza had been found near my home. The case had made national attention.
“DNA evidence has concluded that the remains are definitely those of Laura Garza,” said New York State Police Capt. Wayne Olson.
On the night of December 2, 2008, Laura Garza met Michael Mele at Manhattan’s Club Marquee. Two days later, Garza’s friend reported her missing to the NYPD. Police immediately zeroed in on Mele, and have always considered him a suspect in Laura’s disappearance.
Garza, 25, an aspiring dancer from Texas, moved to Brooklyn in June 2008, and disappeared six months later. She was last seen leaving Club Marquee in Manhattan on the night of December 2, 2008, with Michael Mele, who she presumably met at the club. Mele, to say the least, is a man with a disturbing criminal record. Mele is a registered sex offender with a long criminal history, including masturbating and ejaculating in front of women in a mall parking lot, and exposing himself to employees at a tanning salon. Sadly, no one told Laura.
The one and only suspect in Garza’s death sits in a secluded cell for high-profile inmates at a New York state prison. Last fall, Mele pleaded guilty to failing to register his new address after moving from his parents’ home. When an Orange County Court Judge sentenced Mele to one to three years in state prison, he called Mele’s conduct “depraved and unfathomable.” Fortunately, last month, Mele was denied his first crack at parole and transferred from Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill to Mid-State, just north of Utica. At least he can’t harm another innocent woman.
On April 11, two all-terrain vehicle riders discovered human remains in Olyphant Township, outside of Scranton. By April 13, Pennsylvania investigators determined the remains didn’t belong to a missing person in that state’s database. They notified police in New York, and that led investigators to travel to Pennsylvania and obtain a sample to use for the DNA tests. Scranton, is about a 2 hour drive from NY City.
Police confirmed that DNA drawn from the skeletal remains matches that of missing Brooklyn dancer Laura Garza.
Investigators from New York and Pennsylvania continue to search a remote area off Interstate 84 in Pennsylvania, looking for further forensic clues. Although they believe the homicide occurred in NY, they are asking for witnesses who may have seen a vehicle with Laura Garza and Michael Mele in it.
Investigators don’t know of any clear link between Mele and the Scranton area, however, public records show that Mele’s parents own property in Tobyhanna off Route 80, which connects directly to I-84, the closest interstate highway to the place where the remains were discovered.
The remains will be analyzed by my good friend Dr. Michael Baden, a prominent forensic pathologist and former New York City Chief Medical Examiner. Laura’s remains are reportably mostly intact skeleton. Baden’s investigation will focus on cause and manner of death.
My heart goes out to Laura’s family. I believe justice will be swift in this case.