Pace University student Jason Pravia, 19, was murdered in his Chelsea apartment on Saturday morning after he left a downtown party. According to reports, Pravia left the party extremely drunk and went to Union Square to score drugs. There he met Jeromie Cancel, 22, an occasional dealer and former mental patient who accompanied Pravia back to his apartment. After Pravia fell asleep, Cancel suffocated him with a plastic bag.
Cancel confessed to punching the sleeping student, fastening an electrical cord around his neck, stuffing a plastic bag down his throat and smothering him with a pillow, the police sources said. He told cops he did not engage in any sexual activity with Pravia and used the victim’s TV to watch “Saw,” a gorefest in which a serial killer finds ways to make his victims murder each other, the sources said.
“He’s a monster,” said a police source. “He smothers a guy and watches a …horror movie …before he leaves.” Cancel grabbed the honor student’s laptop, cell phone and iPod before leaving the apartment about 11 a.m. He told investigators he sold the laptop on the street and the cell phone at a nearby store.
Investigators have recovered the cell phone, police said. Cancel has been arrested four times in Florida, including for drug possession and for stealing a car, officials said. He was charged with murder and manslaughter in Pravia’s death. Although previously estranged from his father, Cancel showed up at Soto’s Ridgewood home in June and moved in with him. Cancel told his father he drifted between Pennsylvania and Florida and spent time in a New York mental institution.
Just weeks later, Cancel robbed his father, cleaning out the apartment of its PlayStation, video games, digital camera and other electronics, Soto said. Cancel disappeared, only to return Tuesday at 1 a.m., Soto said. “He has to be on some kind of medication or something. …He kept repeating stuff,” said Soto, his voice trailing off.
Pravia, who was gay, was known as a hard partyer who dated a lot of men and would sometimes use drugs in social settings, sources said. He and Madonna, friends from Massachusetts, had moved into the Chelsea building just two weeks ago.
Madonna, who had been out of town for several days, received several worried text messages from Pravia’s mother, who had not heard from her son since Friday. Madonna found the body when she returned home.
According to police, Cancel has expressed no remorse for the killing and when asked why did it, responded, “Because I wanted to. You got a problem with that?”