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

June 19, 1996

MAYBROOK, N.Y. (AP) _ A newspaper reporter and a graphic artist stumbled upon a teen-ager trying to hang himself Tuesday near the spot where a 12-year-old boy had been stabbed to death.

The teen was later charged with killing the boy Saturday.

Reporter Leigh Hursey and chief artist Stephen Mellus of the Times Herald-Record of Middletown were retracing Danny Meyer’s final steps through a patch of woods when they saw Juan Miguel Peinado hanging from a telephone cord tied to a tree limb.

Mellus cut Peinado down and removed the cord from his neck. As Hursey and Mellus walked out of the woods with Peinado, the 5-foot-tall teen-ager told them a man had hung him in the tree after having sex with him.

The journalists took him to a nearby home to call police, who later jailed Peinado on charges of second-degree murder.

``He indicated things to us that he was involved,″ state police Capt. John Melville told the Middletown paper.

Danny’s mother reported him missing Saturday around 1 p.m. after he failed to show up for a Little League game. The boy’s body was found four hours later by a group of children in the woods 55 miles north of New York City.

The boy, also of Maybrook, was found face-down on the ground, his shirt pulled up and his back exposed, state police said.

Hursey and Mellus were trying to map the paths in the woods where Danny’s body was found when they encountered Peinado. After they cut him down, the teen shook Mellus’s hand and thanked him at least three times for saving his life, Hursey wrote in her first-person account for Wednesday’s edition.

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

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