Police Blotter (Crime Report)
Women provide police information on suspect in case of missing 25-year-old
A number of women came forward Monday with information about a sex offender who left a nightclub with a woman who vanished shortly afterward, state police said as they searched woods and trash bins near the man's home.
The missing woman, 25-year-old Laura Garza, was a newly transplanted New Yorker who had left a Texas border town with dreams of becoming a dancer. The suspect, 23-year-old Michael Mele, had a record of sex crimes in the northern suburbs.
By Monday evening, Mele was facing apparently unrelated charges. Authorities in Paramus, N.J., issued a warrant accusing him of lewdness in a public place and exposure to a child under 13 years of age, Rockland County sheriff's Detective Lt. William Barbera told reporters, calling the new case "similar" to his previous offenses. Sgt. Harry Baumann of the Clarkstown police said Mele's earlier convictions involved several episodes of public lewdness, including masturbating near women at a shopping mall.
A message left with the Paramus police chief seeking further details wasn't immediately returned. A message left for Mele's lawyer about the New Jersey charges wasn't immediately returned.
The two met last week at the Marquee nightclub in Manhattan. They left together early Wednesday and were last seen a couple of hours later in his fancy SUV, 70 miles north of Manhattan and not far from his Wallkill apartment.
Garza hasn't been seen since.
On Monday, state police were still searching Mele's apartment and his Infiniti, as well as nearby fields, woods, trash bins and a septic system, but there was no sign of Garza, dead or alive, said state police Capt. Wayne Olson.
"We need to find this young woman," Olson said. "We haven't determined that this is a homicide, but certainly we strongly suspect she is a victim of foul play."
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