Over three years ago, a 25-year-old Brooklyn woman disappeared and was believed to have been murdered after a night of clubbing; two years after that, the remains of Laura Garza were finally found in Pennsylvania. Now, the prime suspect in the case who has long been suspected of having killed Garza has finally confessed to smothering her to death. But Garza's family isn't satisfied with the sentence given to registered sex offender Michael Mele: "My daughter will be the same age as my sister when he gets out. That's not justice," said the victim’s brother, Ivan. "He should have got life behind bars."
Mele confessed that he left Chelsea nightclub Marquee with Garza on the night of her disappearance in December 2008. He claims that she spotted a picture of a girl in his apartment, which prompted a fight: "Laura was in my apartment, and she saw a picture of a girl and female-related items that were my girlfriend's. She was upset...she wanted to leave. I didn't want to drive back then. She got upset...she started to get a little louder. I put my hand over her mouth and partially her nose, and shortly after that, she stopped yelling, stopped moving, and I realized something bad had happened." He says he panicked, put her body in a laundry basket with a blanket over her, and took Garza to a wooded area of Pennsylvania.
It took prosecutors until this past December to be able to charge him. Police searched his house at the time of Garza's disappearance, and found blood stains and a suspiciously missing chunk of carpeting. Mele, the son of a retired MTA Assistant Deputy Police Chief, was soon revealed as a creep of the highest order: a man who "followed women to their cars and then masturbated in front of them," someone who was described as a terrible boss and a predator by those who knew him. But without the body, police only had circumstantial evidence, and could not bring the case to trial.
In a deal with prosecutors, Mele copped a plea to manslaughter and will be sentenced to 23 years behind bars (and 16 months to four years for evidence tampering). Garza's mother, Elizabeth Esquive, said through a translator that she was distraught with the plea: "She's very upset. She's not happy with the 23 years. They wanted a jury to give him more. She's worried he'll get out before the 23 years."