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Teens Charged in Student’s Slaying

October 27, 2000

NEW BALTIMORE, Mich. (AP) _ Three teen-agers were charged Friday with killing a 16-year-old high school soccer player at his after-school pizzeria job, shooting him in the back of the head as he was forced to kneel in the store freezer.

Justin Mello was shot and killed Saturday and his body was discovered in the freezer by a returning deliveryman. Police said they found a spent shell casing near the body inside the freezer at Mancino’s Pizzas and Grinders.

Charged with murder were Frank M. Kuechen, 19, Jonathan Paul Kaled, 18, and Matthew Joseph Daniels, 16. Kaled and Daniels were both dropouts from Anchor Bay High School, where Mello also was a student.

School Superintendent Leonard Woodside, without providing details, said Kaled and Daniels had been disciplinary problems. Woodside said Daniels dropped out of school in January, and Kaled left Oct. 10.

Officials described Kuechen as a relative newcomer to this town 30 miles northeast of Detroit, with no connection to the high school.

The suspects, arrested Thursday night, also were charged with armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and felony weapons violations. District Judge Paul Cassidy ordered the three jailed without bond and scheduled their preliminary hearing for Nov. 8.

New Baltimore police officer Ken Stevens said the boys hadn’t yet retained attorneys. Numbers for their families were not immediately available.

Outside the courthouse where the suspects were arraigned Friday, utility poles and traffic signs were adorned with red and white ribbons in Mello’s memory.

Since the slaying, the pizza shop has become a makeshift memorial. Mourners who have left flowers, handwritten notes, stuffed animals and lit candles.

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