Murder Trial of Pace Student's Accused Killer Opens
By Shayna Jacobs
MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — A Pace University student who was "stumbling drunk" after a night of partying was found by his best friend gagged with a plastic bag and strangled with an electrical cord, prosecutors said during the trial of the student's alleged murderer Thursday.
The student, Kevin Pravia, brought home convicted felon Jeromie Cancel, 24, who confessed he could have robbed Pravia and left, but instead killed him because "I was bored."
"I had his stuff — I could have walked out," Cancel, who had drug and auto theft convictions at the time, proudly told investigators, prosecutors said for the first time to a Manhattan jury.
Cancel is charged with strangling and beating Pravia to death in his bedroom on West 15th Street near Union Square in late August 2008.
While he "slowly strangled Kevin Pravia to death" Cancel was watching "a horrible movie ... 'Hostel'," prosecutors said, although he thought the movie was another horror film — "Saw."
After Cancel's thorough confession, police also matched his DNA to evidence left at the scene, including a cigarette butt he left on Pravia's window sill.
Pravia's tearful mother, Paula Pravia, took the stand Thursday as the first witness to describe how her son, a Peru, Mass. native who had come out as gay at 17, moved to New York for school and was proud of his identity.
"Was Kevin open about his sexual orientation?" Assistant District Attorney Steven Nuzzi asked the emotional mother.
"Very open, very proud — as am I," she said.
She was so upset she couldn't speak when she was shown a photo of her late son smiling.
"That's my baby," the choked-up mother finally said.
Cancel told authorities Pravia brought him to his apartment so he could get him $100 in cash for a cocaine transaction.
But in opening statements Thursday, Nuzzi denied that Pravia was a drug user. Autopsy results showed a high level of alcohol in his blood but no drugs, Nuzzi said.
Cancel's lawyer, Michael Alperstein, made a brief opening statement asking jurors to "keep an open mind" and painting Cancel as a young man with a long history of emotional problems.
"By the time Mr. Cancel was nine or 10 years old, he was already deeply emotionally disturbed," Alperstein said, adding there was "suicide attempt after suicide attempt."
Cancel faces a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted. Testimony is expected to resume on Friday.