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Still No Sign of Brooklyn Beauty

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Thom Sprott

Authorities scoured a swath of upstate New York on Saturday in hopes of finding a woman last seen leaving a trendy Manhattan club with a registered sex offender.
State police said they had searched several locations in Orange County and collected forensic evidence in the suspicious disappearance of Laura Garza, 25, of Brooklyn.
While investigators were treating the case as a possible homicide, "we certainly haven't given up hope she is alive," state police Capt. Wayne Olson said Saturday evening.
Garza vanished after leaving the nightclub Marquee at about 4 a.m. Wednesday with two men. She was last seen around sunrise that day in the Orange County community of Newburgh, about 70 miles north of Manhattan, with one of the men, Michael Mele, 23, state police said.
Mele was added to the state sex offender registry in April after being convicted in Rockland County of forcible touching, according to the Newburgh Town police. He was sentenced to six years' probation.
Mele's father is a retired Metropolitan Transportation Authority assistant deputy police chief, the Daily News reported.
Mele turned himself in to Newburgh Town police Friday on a warrant accusing him of a local law violation in New York City, Olson said; he did not know the details. Mele was apparently later transferred to the Rockland County Sheriff's Department to be booked on a probation violation charge, Olson said.
Rockland jail officers said Mele was in custody Saturday night but had no further information.
Messages left at Mele's home and with his lawyer's answering service were not immediately returned Saturday.
Police combed his apartment complex in Wallkill, near Newburgh, and used a helicopter to scan surrounding areas. They also seized his SUV.
But state police said they had been unable to interview Mele.
"We certainly would be interested in speaking to him, but apparently he and his attorneys aren't very interested in speaking to us," Olson said.
The New York Police Department said it had questioned Mele, however.
NYPD spokesman Paul J. Browne said investigators "suspect foul play and are concerned" for Garza's safety.
The club's security cameras captured Garza and Mele together. Police told the New York Post she was seen leaving the club willingly with Mele and another man from upstate New York.
Marquee spokeswoman Virginia Lam said the Chelsea club was working closely with police.
"Marquee has provided the police with valuable information and footage from our video surveillance system," Lam said in a statement Saturday.
Garza moved from Texas to Brooklyn's Bay Ridge neighborhood about six months ago and was working at a Manhattan shoe store before she vanished. She is originally from Mexico.
The Orange County District Attorney's office also is investigating.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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