MAYBROOK, N.Y. (AP) -- The two journalists had set out to trace
the final footsteps of a murdered 12-year-old little
leaguer,following a muddy trail into the woods near the ballfield.
As they came upon the site of the stabbing, along a shortcut
popular with neighborhood kids, they discovered a young man hanging
from a tree by a telephone cord. One of the journalists cut the
cord with a knife and eased the moaning youth to the ground.
Juan Miguel Peinado survived. Hours later, he was charged with
murdering the little leaguer.
"How'd you get in the tree? What are you trying to do?" reporter
Leigh Hursey asked Peinado, according to her first-person account
in The Times Herald-Record of Middletown.
"A man did it," Peinado responded, saying a man in black had
sexually assaulted him and strung him up in the tree.
After the journalists cut him down on Tuesday, Peinado shook
graphic artist Stephen Mellus' hand and thanked him at least three
times for saving his life, Hursey wrote. It was all very
suspicious, Mellus said.
"But at that point I was happy we got him down from the tree and
he was alive," Mellus said.
Police also thought it was suspicious. After they questioned
Peinado on Tuesday, he was charged with murder in the slaying of
Danny's mother had reported him missing Saturday afternoon when
he didn't show up for his little league game. His body was found
face-down on the ground that evening by a group of children using
Danny, a blond boy with a broad grin, had been popular in this
small working-class community 55 miles north of New York City.
Scores of people filed by to see him laid out in his Cub Scout
"I love you, Danny. I really do," Danny's father, Charles Meyer,
said at the burial Wednesday as he leaned over the casket.
State police Capt. John Melville said Danny knew the suspect,
but he would not elaborate on the relationship.
Born in Guatemala, Peinado came to Maybrook as a foster child
three years ago, Melville said. Police said Peinado is 20, but his
lawyer, Gary Abramson, said Family Court records indicate his
client is 17.
Acquaintances described him as a quiet, solitary person, small
for his age at only 5 feet tall. His English is so poor, they said,
that he relies on hand gestures.
Peinado had no friends and often got into fights at nearby
Valley Central High School, where he was a junior last year, they
Mellus said when they came upon Peinado, he was hanging from a
tree, clutching his neck and moaning. He seemed to be leaning
against the tree with his feet touching a red bike beneath him,
Peinado told the journalists he had been there for an hour, but
Mellus said the pair failed to spot him when they walked the path
they wanted to map just 20 minutes earlier.
Mellus said his suspicion deepened when the red marks around
Peinado's neck quickly disappeared, and the youth said he didn't
have the time to talk to police. After Peinado was cut down, the
three walked to a nearby house, where the journalists called the
"He was disheveled," said Maybrook police Officer Charlene
Joyce, who drove him to headquarters. "He said there was a man in
black and he was molested. ... I wasn't so sure."
Melville said police connected him with the Meyer murder through
interviews and physical evidence at the scene. He would not comment
further on the evidence or a motive. Police were awaiting test
results to determine whether Danny had been sexually assaulted.
Peinado pleaded innocent Tuesday and was jailed without bail.