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Chance Encounter With Reporters Leads to Arrest in 12-Year-Old’s Death

June 19, 1996

MAYBROOK, N.Y. (AP) _ Two journalists retracing the final steps of a murdered 12-year-old happened on a young man apparently trying to commit suicide at the scene. The man was charged in the slaying.

Danny Meyer was found stabbed to death in a patch of woods after he disappeared on his way to a Little League game on Saturday.

Juan Miguel Peinado, 19, was charged Tuesday in the killing. He had claimed that an unknown assailant had tried to hang him in the woods, but under police questioning he ``indicated things to us that he was involved″ in Danny’s death, state police Capt. John Melville said.

Reporter Leigh Hursey and graphic artist Stephen Mellus of The Times Herald-Record of Middletown were retracing Danny’s steps and mapping the scene Tuesday morning when they saw Peinado hanging from a telephone cord tied to a tree limb. Hursey described the discovery in a first-person account published in today’s editions.

As they approached, Peinado clutched at his neck and moaned, Hursey reported. Mellus cut Peinado down and removed the cord from his neck with a knife. The 5-foot-tall teen-ager told them a man had hanged him in the tree after having sex with him.

After they cut him down, the teen shook Mellus’ hand and thanked him at least three times for saving his life, Hursey wrote.

``I was suspicious,″ Mellus said. ``But at that point I was happy we got him down from the tree and he was alive.″

He was charged later after being questioned.

Danny’s mother reported him missing Saturday around 1 p.m. after he failed to show up for his baseball game in this town 55 miles north of New York City. A group of children found the body several hours later while using a popular shortcut through the woods near the ballfield.

Peinado’s arrest came as family and friends attended Danny’s wake Tuesday. The boy was buried in his Boy Scout uniform.