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Not Guilty Plea In Teen's Death

A convicted killer who authorities say lured teenagers into his apartment with offers of alcohol and drugs pleaded innocent Friday to strangling one of them and burying the body in a basement tomb of concrete.

David Maust told the judge he wants to represent himself. A hearing on his request was scheduled for Dec. 19.

Maust, 49, was a tenant of the rundown apartment house where investigators this week unearthed the bodies of three teenagers who had been reported missing in recent months. Only one count of murder was filed against him while officials continue the investigation.

During the brief arraignment hearing Friday in Crown Point, Maust looked around the courtroom and appeared to smirk as he was escorted out.

Maust, who has been in police custody since Tuesday, has a criminal record that includes a murder conviction for the death of a 15-year-old boy in Illinois and a conviction in Texas for committing bodily injury to a child, police said.

Lake County Coroner David Pastrick identified the remains found this week as those of Michael Dennis, 13; James Raganyi, 16; and Nick James, 19.

Dennis and Raganyi were last seen Sept. 10 at a home near where Maust lived in the northwestern Indiana city.

About three weeks later, on Oct. 2, police arrested Maust on a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, alleging he had given Dennis and a 12-year-old boy marijuana and beer at his home during August. Maust was released on $300 bond the same day and later pleaded innocent to the charge.

Dennis and Raganyi were friends and had visited Maust in his second-floor apartment, where he had given them money, beer and marijuana during the summer, a friend of the boys told detectives.

James was last seen in May but reported missing two weeks ago. He died of blunt trauma to the head, Pastrick said, but strangulation or suffocation were the suspected causes of death for the younger teenagers.

Maust confessed to strangling Raganyi with a rope while drinking with the teen Sept. 10, a police affidavit said.

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter declined to say whether any sexual abuse was involved.

Police Chief John Cory would not say whether Maust had talked about the deaths of Dennis and James, or whether investigators suspect anyone else was involved in the slayings.

The link between Maust and the two younger boys caused detectives to search the house last month, where the fresh 2.5-meter-by-1.5 meter (8-foot-by-5-foot) concrete room was found in the basement.

Holes were first drilled through the 30-centimeter (12-inch) thick concrete last Friday. Further digging on Tuesday revealed two of the bodies, wrapped in plastic and tied with cords and tape, a police affidavit said. The third body was removed Wednesday.

Investigators completed their search Thursday for bodies in the house where Maust had lived for about 15 months, said Sgt. Christopher Matonovich, a city police spokesman.

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