Students at Pace University and the family of a Brooklyn woman who went missing last year are trying to refocus attention on her disappearance while also raising awareness about public safety.
Laura Garza, a 25-year-old aspiring dancer, was living in Brooklyn when she disappeared last December after spending a night out at the Marquee club in Chelsea. Garza was last seen in Orange County, N.Y. after leaving the club with 24-year-old Michael Mele.
Authorities have officially called off the search for Garza, but students and activists at Pace University today announced they had launched a program aimed at raising reward money. "The purpose is to keep Laura Garza's name and image in the public consciousness until she is found," a press release said. The program will also "provide tips and guidelines to help keep students safe in social situations."
Mele has been the prime suspect in Garza's disappearance and is currently back in jail for violating parole. He was designated a level 1 sex offender in March 2008, when found guilty of exposing himself and masturbating in front of women at the Palisades Center parking lot in West Nyack.
Shortly after Garza's disappearance, authorities said Mele had scratches on his neck and bite marks on his hands, but refused to be interviewed by investigators.
Police have combed his apartment for clues about the missing girl's whereabouts. They said it appears to have been cleaned thoroughly with bleach and there was a large strip of carpeting removed from his apartment. However, Garza's body has not been found and Mele has not been charged in her disappearance.
Cops said at the time they suspected believe Mele drove Garza back to his condo in upstate Walkill and killed her, wrapping her body in that length of carpet.
Cops also said Mele frantically tossed evidence, including a woman's shoe, that was discovered in several dumpsters, one of which sits near a Quiznos franchise he operates with his father William Mele, a retired MTA assistant deputy police chief.
Authorities have also sought other women whom the sex offender may have approached. Cops also released photos of the suspect's 2005 Infiniti in the hope it might may lead to Garza's corpse.