Volume 21, Number 17 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | Sept. 5 - 11, 2008
Arrest in student murder
Police arrested a man this week for the killing of a 19-year-old Pace University student found dead inside his Chelsea apartment over the weekend, although details regarding the killer’s motive are still unclear.
Jeromie Cancel, 22, has been charged with first- and second-degree murder in the apparent suffocation death of Kevin Pravia, of Peru, Mass., who was set to begin his sophomore year at the Lower Manhattan college.
Pravia, who was discovered by his roommate at their shared apartment at 239 W. 15th St. on Sunday night, was found lying in bed face up with an electrical cord wrapped around his neck and a plastic bag in his mouth, according to police.
According to Cancel’s confession to police, he met Pravia in Union Square early Saturday morning before returning to the teenager’s apartment for unknown reasons. Pravia had reportedly been partying near Pace earlier in the night, where friends said he had gotten intoxicated before they helped him into a cab near Gold and John Sts. around 5:30 a.m.
Cancel claimed that he had arranged to buy drugs from Pravia — a story police doubt — then smothered the victim with a pillow after punching him, wrapping the cord around his neck and stuffing the bag in his mouth, according to police.
Cancel told police that he committed the killing Saturday morning after Pravia had fallen asleep, and the teenager was found in his bed wearing only his underwear and a T-shirt.
An N.Y.P.D. spokesperson said there is no evidence to indicate that a sexual encounter occurred and said the incident is not being considered as a hate crime.
Kim Fountain, deputy director of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project, noted that brutal crimes of this nature often suggest a hate motive, and she was surprised to learn police had not pursued that as a possibility. She added that her organization has been monitoring the situation and working with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s office to place fliers throughout the building regarding the incident.
After the killing, Cancel reportedly told police he watched a horror movie inside Pravia’s apartment before stealing his laptop computer, iPod and a cell phone, an item he later sold.
Cancel confessed to the crime on Monday, visiting his estranged father’s Queens home to brag about the killing before his father reported it to police, according to police.
The killer appeared to show no remorse when being led out of the 10th Precinct in handcuffs on Tuesday night, smiling for the cameras and telling reporters he committed the crime “because I wanted to.” He then told reporters, “You got a problem with that?”
Pravia, an honor student in Pace’s Lubin School of Business, hailed from the Berkshires, where he was on the ski team in high school. His roommate, who attended the same high school, is also a student at Pace.
Mourners created a makeshift memorial on the stoop of Pravia’s W. 15th St. apartment this week featuring photos of the student, flowers and handwritten letters from friends.
A security guard on South St. went to investigate someone who threw a chair from a balcony on Pier 17 onto the pier deck at 3:30 a.m. Sun., Aug. 31 and confront a suspect, police said. But another person intervened, hit the guard and both the suspect and the other person fled. However, the suspect returned a few minutes later and attacked the guard from behind, slashing him with a knife, police said. The suspect then slashed the guard on the chest and neck and fled, police said.
Arrest in teen robbery
A 16-year-old boy was riding a bicycle Wednesday evening, Aug. 20 when a man on foot chased him, knocked him off the bike at Madison and Market Sts., put a knife to his face and demanded everything in his pockets, police said. The thief fled on the bike, but the victim identified the suspect from mug shots at the Fifth Precinct.
Police arrested Dominique McLaughlin, 17, of Brooklyn on Aug. 26. He was being held in lieu of $7,500 bail pending an Oct. 30 court appearance, according to a spokesperson for the Manhattan District Attorney.
Claim of Tribeca shooting
Police in Brooklyn went to Community Hospital on Kings Highway at 4 a.m. Sat., Aug 23 about a man who turned up with a gunshot would in the right leg. The victim said he had been shot in front of 19 Leonard St. on Manhattan but refused to provide any further information, police said. Police found no evidence or witnesses to the shooting on Leonard St. between Hudson and Varick Sts.
Rage against traffic agent
A traffic agent on duty at the northeast corner of Warren and West Sts. at 3:15 p.m. Sat., Aug. 23 directed a car that had just run a red light to stop but the driver headed straight for her, police said. The agent had to push off from the hood of the vehicle to get out of the way and the driver sped on, police said.
A patron of Dakota House, 43 Park Pl., was shooting pool around midnight Mon., Aug. 25 when another patron, described as a white man, 5’7”, who frequented the place, hit him over the head with a pool cue and fled, police said.
A burglar walked into the basement entrance of the Flea Theater, 41 White St. at about 2:19 a.m. Tues., Aug. 26 and took two boxes with a total of $200 cash from an unlocked office cabinet, police said. There was no sign of forced entry.
Four rolls with 500 ft. each of copper cable, worth a total value of $200,000, according to police, were discovered missing from a construction site at 126 Water St. The cable rolls were among 12 rolls that had been delivered to the site in February, police said.
Crime of fashion
A security guard at Century 21, the department store at 22 Cortlandt St., stopped a man trying to walk out of the place at 4:26 p.m. Mon., Sept. 1 without paying for a jacket and several pairs of Dolce & Gabbana socks, police said. The suspect, Jerry Gant, 46, was charged with burglary because he was under a “no trespass” order issued on previous arrests at the store, police said.
Larceny from apartment
Police charged Trisha Basdeo, 23, a domestic worker for the resident of an apartment at 141 Fulton St., with grand larceny on Mon., Aug. 25, for stealing a Louis Vuitton bag valued at $1,080 and three gift cards with a total value of $220, from her employer, police said.
A man who parked his motorcycle in front of 110 Church St. at 6:30 a.m. Thurs., Aug. 28 returned for it at 3:34 a.m. the following day but it was gone, police said. A man who parked his 2007 Yamaha moped in front of 525 Broome St. near Thompson St. at 4:30 a.m. Sat., Aug. 30 and returned for it at 5 p.m. but found it had been stolen, police said.
A man who entered an office at 79 Franklin St. at 11:58 a.m. Mon., Aug. 25 made off with a laptop valued at $1,300, police said. A surveillance tape revealed a black man in his mid to late 20s wearing a black T-shirt and blue jeans leaving with the laptop, police said. A surveillance camera at Daiwa Securities, 32 Old Slip, revealed on Mon. Aug. 25 that a former security guard had taken a cell phone, digital camera and $200 in cash from a desk, police said.
—Albert Amateau and Patrick Hedlund