Thursday, September 4, 2008

Man Arrested in Ridgewood for Murder of Pace Student

By Conor Greene

The search for the killer of a Pace University student ended on Onderdonk Avenue Tuesday with the arrest of a drifter who admitted to the brutal slaying, according to police.

Jeromie Cancel, 22, allegedly told police he shoved a plastic bag down 19-year-old Kevin Pravia’s mouth and then strangled the honors student with a television cord. After the murder, he remained in the victim’s Chelsea apartment for several hours, watching the horror movie “Saw” before stealing a laptop computer, cell phone and iPod.

The search for Pravia’s killer ended just before 1 p.m. on Tuesday, when Cancel showed up at his father’s apartment. The two had been estranged until June, when Cancel briefly moved with his father, Jesus Soto. However, just weeks later Cancel stole various electronics from his father and left the apartment.

He returned on Tuesday to brag to his father about killing Pravia, who he had met early Saturday morning in Union Square park. “All the time he was gloating, like it didn’t mean nothing to him,” Soto told the Daily News. “He was not remorseful, like he was happy with what he did. He had this big smile on him.”

As he was being led of out of the 10th Precinct stationhouse on Tuesday night, Cancel was asked why he murdered Pravia. “Because I wanted to,” he yelled to reporters. “You got a problem with that?”

Pravia, a sophomore at Pace, was last seen at about 5:30 a.m. Saturday, getting into a cab after leaving a party near the South Street Seaport. Cancel told police that he ran into Pravia about thirty minutes later, when he offered to sell the drunken student drugs. The pair then went to Pravia’s apartment on W. 15th Street, according to police.

Shortly after the men reached the apartment, Cancel decided to rob Pravia after the student fell asleep. He punched the native of Massachusetts in the face and stuffed the plastic bag in his mouth before strangling him. He remained in the apartment until about 11 a.m., watching “Saw” as Pravia lay dead nearby in just his boxer shorts.

Pravia’s body was discovered on Sunday by his roommate Josephine Madonna, who was an old friend from Massachusetts. The pair had reportedly just moved in the apartment two weeks before.

Some of his unpacked belongings were still in the hallway when police entered the building to investigate the homicide. An unidentified neighbor in the building said she ran upstairs when she heard screams coming from the fifth floor and found the victim’s roommate screaming hysterically, “He’s dead. He’s dead.” The woman said she saw Pravia “lying on his bed, not moving.”

According to a police source, Cancel began bragging about the murder after police arrested him on larceny charges. “When we locked him up, he starting saying he was going to be famous,” the source said. “He was very cocky about it all. He basically told the officers he had killed someone,” providing specific details only the killer would know, according to sources.

Pravia moved to the city from Peru, Massachusetts, which is about 10 miles from the New York border near Albany. A Facebook page dedicated to him was quickly put together by family and friends, and the principal of Pravia’s former high school remembered him as a “quiet, polite and respectful young man,” according to The Berkshire Eagle.

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