NEW YORK CITY — The youth soccer coach who was brutally stabbed to death in Union Square was remembered by hundreds of mourners who streamed into a White Plains church Wednesday morning.
Family and friends gathered at First Baptist Church for the memorial for Michael Jones, a British native who was killed on West 14th Street early Sunday in what authorities believe was a case of mistaken identity.
"He was such a fun loving guy, always up for anything," said Stuart Thomas, 30, of Randolph, New Jersey, who worked with Jones as a Red Bulls coach two years ago.
Jones’ parents, who reportedly learned about his death when a friend sent them a Facebook message urging them to call the NYPD, told the Liverpool Echo that they wouldn’t attend Wednesday’s memorial service.
“We just want to get Mike back here as quickly as we can really and finish off what’s going on in America,” Jones’ father, Perry, told the newspaper. "From our point of view all we are looking for is somebody being arrested."
Jones’ body will be brought to England for his funeral which is still being arranged, mourners said.
The Red Bulls organization, which plans to hold a moment of silence before their next game on October 20, will also send Jones’ family a collection of photos, letters, jerseys and other items mourners have given them.
Wednesday's memorial — at which some friends of the beloved soccer coach wore his Red Bulls' #6 jersey with his nickname "Jonesy" printed on the back — was being held just a day after NYPD detectives identified the suspected killer.
Sources said police received multiple tips after releasing video of the suspect and that the suspect's tattooist ultimately identified him as Orlando Orea.
Orea, who may have attacked Jones believing he was someone he fought with at a bar earlier in the night, paid cash for a plane ticket to Mexico City and left the country Tuesday morning, sources said.
Jones' friends said they were frustrated with the latest turn of events.
“You thought they were getting closer and closer, but that they finally identified someone and he ran away to Mexico," said Mark Fischer, who worked with Jones on several teams. "It is a shock and upsetting.”
Orea, 32, who reportedly used several aliases, allegedly stabbed Jones about a half dozen times on 14th Street and Fifth Avenue around 4:30 a.m. Sunday, police said.
Sources said Orea was arrested twice for domestic violence in Nassau County, and in March of 2001, he was accused of stabbing three people during a fight outside a Bell Boulevard bar. Orea was later acquitted at trial.
Police believe Orea is now hiding out in his home city of Pueblo, located outside Mexico City, sources said.
Residents in Orea's Ridgewood neighborhood said he seemed odd.
"I’ve seen him just a couple times, but he seemed like a weird guy,” said neighbor Karen Espinoza, 18. “Every time I’d see him I’d always be freaked.”
But other neighbors said Orea showed no signs of snapping.
“He seemed like a pretty cool guy. He was never in a bad mood,” said Michael Chumpitaz, 18. “He didn't seem like the type of guy to do that type of stuff.''
Sources said the NYPD is in contact with state, federal and Mexican authorities to coordinate efforts to track Orea down.
At the memorial, those in attendance said the service was as heartbreaking as it was joyous, full of tears and laughter and stories of how Jones lived. Photos of him decorated the funeral home, and friends played a touching video to close out the event.
One of the attendees, Cole Reardon, 12, said he had learned a lot of soccer under Jones' tutelage.
“He was one of my favorite coaches,” Cole, who attended the service with his father, said. “He would always help me and just joke around.”
Jones' lessons to Cole weren't lost on Cole's dad, John, either.
“He taught him how to perseverance and taught him how to be tough,” John Reardon said.