NEW YORK – A young homeless man apparently used a pillowcase to suffocate a college honors student he had just met, then hung out at the victim's apartment to watch a gory horror film before stealing electronics from the apartment and selling them, police said.
Kevin Pravia, 19, was found Sunday night by his roommate in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood. The Pace University sophomore was last seen being helped into a taxi early Saturday after a party in Manhattan.
Jeromie Cancel, 22, was arrested Tuesday on murder charges. Investigators said that while Cancel was being questioned in an unrelated case, he admitted suffocating Pravia and stealing his cell phone, laptop computer and iPod.
Police said Cancel, who smiled for television cameras as he was being led in handcuffs out of a police station, was homeless. Police didn't know whether he had an attorney. He was scheduled to appear in a Manhattan court on Wednesday.
Cancel's father, Jesus Soto, told WNYW-TV that his son had stolen possessions from him in June, and that he called police when Cancel showed up at his apartment Monday night.
"You don't take someone's life like that," the father said. "He deserves what he gets."
Cancel claimed that Pravia approached him in Manhattan's Union Square park around 6 a.m. Saturday looking for drugs and that the two went to his apartment, a few blocks to the northwest, police said. After the slaying, Cancel stayed behind to watch the violent film "Saw," then left before 11 a.m., police said.
No drugs were found at the scene, police said.
The medical examiner's office said tests were being performed to determine the cause of Pravia's death.
Cancel told investigators that Pravia fell asleep and that he decided to rob him, so he punched the student in the face, stuffed a bag in his mouth, wrapped the television cord around his neck and suffocated him, police said. He said he sold the laptop on the street after leaving the apartment, sold the cell phone in a store and couldn't remember what he did with the iPod, they said.
Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said authorities recovered the phone where it had been sold.
Pravia was from Peru, Mass., about 10 miles from the New York border.
Pace officials offered sympathy to Pravia's family. Grieving friends quickly cobbled a Facebook page dedicated to the student, expressing shock over his death.
Pravia was a 2007 graduate of Wahconah Regional High School in Dalton, Mass., where counselors were available Tuesday for staff and students. Principal James Conro remembered Pravia as a "quiet, polite and respectful young man."
"My heart goes out to the family," Conro told The Berkshire Eagle of Pittsfield, Mass.