A Manhattan man has been charged with murder in the gruesome May 2022 slayings of a former college basketball player and his female friend — both of whom were shot to death and set ablaze in the Bronx.
Cops nabbed the suspect, Jahmel Sanders, 31, Tuesday at a Bronx homeless shelter after almost a year-long manhunt, police sources said.
He’s been charged with murder, manslaughter, robbery, grand larceny, kidnapping and arson for his role in the killings — which sources have said were the result of a gang war triggered by a stolen purse.
Police discovered the charred bodies of Jesse Parrilla and Nikki Huang, both 22, when they responded to a call of a car fire on Shore Road before dawn May 16. Inside Parilla’s mom’s Honda Accord, they found him dead of gunshot wounds to the head and chest. Huang had been shot in the head and neck.
Both were horribly burned.
Following Sanders’ arrest, Huang’s mother, Amy Chan, told PIX11 that police had assured her this would not turn into a cold case.
“I’m thankful that the detectives stayed persistent,” she said.
Parilla’s mother, Michelle Morales, thanked the team that’s worked on her son’s case, according to PIX11.
“I think the investigation is going in the right direction,” she said.
Another suspect, Steven Santiago, remains on the run.
Police sources told The Post that the victims were executed in retribution for Huang complaining to her gangster friends that rival gang members had stolen her purse near a Lower East Side housing project.
The two groups — simply named the “Up the Hill” gang and the “Down the Hill” gang — have allegedly been involved in a territorial dispute that spans decades, sources said.
The gangs hail from opposite sides of Houston Street on the East Side. Although they’ve taken shots at each other in the past, they rarely murdered one another, sources said.
Huang, who worked at Wa Lung Kitchen, her family’s Chinese restaurant on Grand Street, was mugged in early May by suspected members of the Down the Hill gang, police sources said.
But instead of going to the cops, she allegedly sought justice through her pals in the Up the Hill gang.
A series of shootings followed, which culminated when Down the Hill gang members grabbed Huang and Parrilla while they were hanging out together.
Huang and Parrilla were driven to the Bronx, where they were allegedly executed inside the car and set ablaze.
Parrilla, who played basketball for a year at Genesee Community College and had no criminal record, wasn’t involved in the dispute.
He’d known Huang since middle school, his mother said.
“He was a good-hearted person just helping a friend out with a ride,” she said through tears after his murder. “I don’t think he was aware of anything. He had no idea what was going on because he would never put himself in a situation like that.”
Sources said he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Huang also had no criminal record, sources said.
Tina Moore, Steve Janoski