The convicted sex offender accused of killing an aspiring dancer in 2008 after picking her up at a Manhattan nightclub admitted Monday to suffocating the woman at his upstate home and then dumping her body in remote Pennsylvania.
Michael Mele, 26, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and evidence tampering in the death of 25-year-old Laura Garza, according to published reports. He received 23 years in prison.
Mele's plea came just before his murder trial was set to begin.
During his appearance in Orange County Court, Mele said he picked up Garza at a Manhattan club then drove her to his apartment in Wallkill. When they got there, Garza discovered Mele had a girlfriend, and demanded he drive her home, Mele recalled. He refused.
"Laura was in my apartment, and she saw a picture of a girl and female-related items that were my girlfriend's," Mele said, according to published reports.
"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," Mele said.
He added: "It happened very quickly."
Garza had moved to Brooklyn from Texas five months before she disappeared, and she was trying to make a career as a dancer. Her skeletal remains were found in 2010.