Charged with her murder is 26-year-old Michael Mele, a registered sex offender who has been serving time for multiple offenses, including sex charges.
Since this story has garnered such extensive media coverage a lot of attention is being paid to the jury selection. Defense attorney, Craig Brown, asked the state appeals court for a venue change.
But that motion was denied last year. So the defense's top priority is to find an impartial jury. And, just one day into selection, that proved to be tough. The majority of the jury pool had already read about the high profile story and the defense felt they had already convicted Mele -- even before hearing the evidence.
Jury screening is expected to continue through the week.
Garza moved from Texas to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. She was partying at Club Marquee in Chelsea on December 3, 2008 and was last seen leaving with Mele. An unidentified witness also puts the couple together at a McDonald's at the Newburgh Mall, and Mele was said to drop that man off. That's where the trail for Laura Garza runs cold, until her body is found a year and a half later in a field near Scranton, PA, about an hour away from Mele's Wallkill home.
For three years Mele has refused to speak with prosecutors. A grand jury handed down an indictment for murder, manslaughter and evidence tampering.
Since being investigated for Garza's murder, Mele has been charged and sentenced for sex crimes for exposing himself and masturbating in front of women and also for credit card theft.
Hundreds of jurors were called for this trial and spent the day being interviewed; most of them were excused or dismissed.
Brian Smith of Port Jervis was one of those excused from serving on the jury. As the judge questioned him about his impartiality, Smith admitted he would not be able to serve. In addition to following coverage of the murder investigation on television and in newspapers, he cited his own philosophy. "To me a person should get what they did to someone else done to them. Laura Garza was murdered. So he should get the death penalty."
STEPHANIE TSOFLIAS CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT