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      Mele gets 23 years for murder of McAllen native Laura Garza

      Michael Mele // File Photo

      A New York sex offender has been sentenced to 23 years in prison for suffocating an aspiring dancer from Texas and dumping her body 85 miles away.

      Michael Mele of Wallkill pleaded guilty in January to manslaughter in the death of Laura Garza.

      The 25-year-old Garza disappeared in 2008 after Mele picked her up in a Manhattan nightclub.

      In Orange County Court on Tuesday, Garza's brother and mother wept as they told the judge how Garza's death had affected the family.

      Mele said Garza demanded to leave his apartment after learning that he had a girlfriend. As she got louder, he said, he suffocated her.

      Then he stuffed her body into a laundry basket and drove to Pennsylvania to dump her.