PELHAM BAY, the Bronx (PIX11) — Nikki Huang’s mother emerged from an SUV clutching a stuffed rabbit toy that once belonged to her daughter. Jesse Parrilla’s mom used a shovel to clear weeds from the site where her son’s Honda was set on fire, with Jesse and Nikki inside, one year ago on May 16, 2022.
“They were murdered here,” Jesse’s mother, Michelle Morales, said at the site on Shore Road inside Pelham Bay and Split Rock golf course. “I want to have both of them have their memories alive. And I don’t want no one to forget where they had to suffer their last hours here.”
Morales, along with relatives and friends, erected small, white fences around crosses bearing the names of Jesse Parrilla and Nikki Huang, who were both 22 when they were kidnapped on the Lower East Side and killed several hours later.
They were both shot execution-style around 4:30 a.m., with Huang in the passenger seat and Parrilla in the driver’s seat of his silver Honda when it was set on fire.
Their deaths capped a night of terrible violence that started soon after Nikki Huang was robbed of her expensive bag on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. She had just finished work at about 9 p.m. Her mother recalled that Huang called her dad in a panic.
“The reason she called was she wanted us to change the locks because they had her keys,” the mother, Amy Chan, said in an interview with PIX11 News on March 7.
NYPD Detective John Soto of the 45th Precinct in the Bronx said Huang was likely overheard complaining about the robbery.
“I think Nikki was expressing her angst about being robbed, and maybe the wrong person heard,” Soto said back in March.
By 11 p.m., a “Down the Hill” gang member was fatally shot near a deli on Avenue D in the East Village, according to investors. Shortly after, two rival “Up the Hill” gang members were shot but survived, police said.
Jesse Parrilla, a college student with excellent basketball skills, was dropping Nikki Huang off at her apartment at about 1 a.m. when police said two suspects, Jahmel Sanders and Steven Santiago, were caught on surveillance pulling Parrilla out of his Honda and throwing him in another vehicle. The Honda later returned to Huang’s apartment, and the young woman was summoned outside. That’s when Nikki Huang was also kidnapped, police said.
A convoy of vehicles made their way to Maspeth, Queens, where another gang rival was shot in the face, police said.
Finally, Huang and Parrilla were driven to the remote road inside the Bronx golf course, where they were shot in the head and left to burn in the car.
“Jesse was loved beyond words; he’s missed beyond measure,” his mother said as she constructed a memorial with flowers and posters of her son at the scene.
Amy Chan put butterfly decorations on her daughter’s memorial and a sign that said “Nail Salon.”
Nikki Huang owned a salon up the block from her parent’s restaurant on Grand Street. Her mom said last year that her daughter was working three jobs so she could afford a new apartment.
On the same day that Amy Chan did her first interview with PIX11 News, police arrested their first suspect in the case, Jahmel Sanders. Detectives said Sanders was hiding out in the Bronx with a girlfriend.
Steven Santiago — half-brother of the man fatally shot when the gang violence started last May 15 — remains on the loose. Police are also looking for two unidentified men who were seen on surveillance leaving a burning Fiat on the Major Deegan Expressway on May 16, 2022. The white Fiat was used as the getaway car from the golf course.
The NYPD has offered a $10,000 reward for information that leads to new arrests and convictions in the case.
Rev. Andrew Ford, a youth program coordinator from the Lower East Side, said prayers Tuesday at the scene on Shore Road.
He told Amy Chan and her husband, Don Huang, along with Jesse Parrilla’s mother, “The community stands behind you, even if it may not seem like it.”
Ford was referring to the difficulty of getting witnesses to talk.
“Fear is a terrible thing,” Ford said. “It makes you shy away from what should be done.”