The months-long search for a suspect in a gruesome double homicide ended with a knock on the door.
Suspected killer Jahmel Sanders, 30, was taken into custody after a brief fight when police showed up at his girlfriend’s Bronx home, New York Police Chief of Detectives James Essig said Wednesday.
“We found it there,” Essig said. “We knocked on the door, he opened.”
Sanders faced a range of charges, from murder to kidnapping to arson, in the May 16, 2022 executions of Nikki Huang and her friend Jesse Parrilla. The two victims were shot in the head and their charred corpses were found inside a burned-out car in the Bronx.
He was arrested Tuesday, ending a 10-month manhunt, and authorities are still looking for another suspect, 34-year-old Steven Santiago. Both were members of the “Down the Hill” gang on the Lower East Side, and Essig said the fugitive Santiago had ties to New Jersey.
Police previously searched for the suspect in New Jersey and Queens, according to the chief. His girlfriend was not charged with any crime, he added.
Sanders had been staying at an assisted-care facility for the mentally ill and homeless, where he bragged about killing someone after moving in about two years ago, according to a neighbor.
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“He was going in and out, but mostly outside,” said the neighbor, who did not want to be named. “He was mostly quiet, but he had real problems. Sometimes he was in the hallway yelling: ‘Those sons of bitches are coming to get me!’
During a brief court appearance Wednesday in the Bronx, Sanders winked as he walked out of a three-minute hearing attended by relatives of the victims. He was due to return to court for arraignment on Thursday.
The alleged killer did not say anything Tuesday when he was led in handcuffs from the 45th Precinct precinct in the Bronx, and did not comment when he was taken into custody, according to Essig.
A rapidly escalating feud between the gang and their rival “Up The Hill” crew left three people dead and three more injured during eight hours of violence on the Lower East Side, Queens and the Bronx.
The deadly events were set in motion when 23-year-old Huang had her expensive Louis Vuitton bag robbed on the street, with the victim reaching out to friends from “Up The Hill” to get the wheels rolling.
Parrilla, 22, a skilled basketball player, was killed solely because of his ties to Huang, authorities said.
The suspects took the two victims to the Bronx, where they were fatally shot before the car caught fire, according to Essig. He added that two other vehicles were torched during the violent night, one in the Bronx and the other in Manhattan, as the suspects used different cars to get around.