A judge’s ruling made it risky for Orange County, NY prosecutors to seek a murder charge for the 2008 death of then 25-year-old Laura Vargas, so instead they had to settle for manslaughter in the case against Michael Mele, a registered sex criminal. Mele, who was once arrested for exposing himself and masturbating in front of women in the parking lot of the Pyramid Mall in West Nyack, will face 23 years in prison.
Mele said he had brought Vargas home to his Orange County apartment, where she saw pictures of his girlfriend and became perturbed and asked to leave. Vargas’ request to leave and her agitation incited hostility in Mele, according to the story the killer told the police as part of his plea bargain, and he soon found himself suffocating her. He did not let go until she was dead. Mele then dumped her body over an hour away in Pennsylvania in a wooded area he had never been to before.
Garza’s body was not found for two years. Her family hails from Texas and some of them expressed disappointment that Mele could be walking free in little over two decades as a relatively young man.