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 Meyer.

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

the shortcut.

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

uniform Tuesday.

"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

said.

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,

Mellus said.

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

police anyway.

"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.

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