LOWER EAST SIDE (PIX11) — The mother of Nikki Huang, a 22-year-old woman found fatally shot in the head in the passenger seat of her friend’s burning car in the Bronx earlier this year, spoke out on Thursday, saying news coverage was only presenting one side of the story.

“It’s so unfair and gut-wrenching knowing that my daughter was murdered and named a victim, yet media and his family are still making it seem like she’s the reason for all this,” Huang’s mother, Amy Chan, wrote in an Instagram message to PIX11’s Mary Murphy.

Chan was referring to the family of Jesse Parrilla, the 22-year-old college basketball player who was in the driver’s seat of the burning car. Huang and Parrilla had been shot in the head before the car was set on fire, police said.

Nikki Huang, left, was found dead inside a burning car in the Bronx on May 16, 2022, police said. (Credit: Huang family handout)

Huang’s mother shared photos of her family with PIX11 News. The family owns a restaurant, Wa Lung Kitchen, and a nail salon on Grand Street.

Chan said she’s very upset about news stories suggesting Parrilla was killed because he gave Nikki a ride and was in the “wrong place at the wrong time.”

“Talking to [the media] or blaming anyone won’t bring my child back,” Huang’s mother wrote in the Instagram message. “But sitting back as I’m mourning my oldest, my only girl, and my best friend, while people are truthfully twisting the story, has me sick to my stomach.”

Huang and Parrilla met at P.S. 110 in Lower Manhattan and later attended Tompkins Square Middle School together. They would cross paths as Parrilla played on various basketball courts on the Lower East Side.  

Huang was often seen at her family’s restaurant.

“She’s always helping,” her father, Don Huang, told PIX11 News outside the restaurant on Tuesday. “She’s a nice girl, always smiling.”

It was difficult for the grieving father to talk about the tragedy.

“Everybody loved her, everybody loved her,” he said, standing near some memorial candles still on the sidewalk outside the restaurant.

Don Huang noted that his daughter grew up on the Lower East Side, “so she knew everyone here.” Some neighbors said the family was always generous when asked to contribute to community fundraisers.

When asked about the nail salon, Nails by Nikki, he said, “That’s her gift.  That’s a gift for her.”

Police initially heard that Nikki Huang told some friends with gang affiliations that she had been robbed on May 15. That night, there were a series of shootings involving rival gang members, sources told PIX11 News.  

At 1 a.m., Parrilla had just dropped Nikki Huang off at her family’s apartment when he was carjacked, sources said. Chan sent PIX11 News a photo of her daughter’s necklace.

“This was the necklace she took off and placed on our floor mat after getting a call from Jesse’s phone to go downstairs, knowing that she was probably walking into danger,” the mother wrote.  

Chan noted her daughter always looked out for her friends.

“Another piece of info about Nikki, she would never ever not be there for a friend that she thought may be in trouble,” the mother wrote on Instagram.
“If she did, she may still be alive today and never went back downstairs that tragic night after receiving the call from Jesse’s phone.”

The necklace Nikki Huang’s mom says she left on the doormat before leaving the house the night she died. (Credit: Huang family handout)

Police believe the people who killed Huang and Parrilla first drove them in Parrilla’s car to Maspeth, Queens, where the suspects shot a man in the face as he put out the trash. This was about 2:20 a.m. on May 16.

At this point, Parrilla answered a phone call from his mother, who was repeatedly trying to reach him.  

“I love you, mom,” Parrilla’s mother had recalled what her only child told her before the phone call abruptly dropped.

Around 4:30 a.m., Parrilla’s burning Honda was found near a golf course in the Bronx with the body of Nikki Huang in the passenger seat and Parrilla’s body in the driver’s seat.

Chan told PIX11 News her daughter was working very hard to establish her independence.

“She was working three jobs trying to save up for an apartment she applied for and just got approved for,” the mother wrote. “She helped with the family business during the day and picked up graveyard shifts at another restaurant because she was so excited about starting life with her new place.”

The mother also shared more details about her daughter’s goals.

“She knew she had the nail salon that her father gifted her after graduating high school but she went on to pursue college while going to beauty school.  She had so much life ahead of her.”

Chan said the neighborhood children adored her daughter.

“She was most comfortable around her brothers and her younger cousins and children of my friends,” the mother noted. “Always made sure nobody ever went hungry when she was working at the restaurant, even knowing that the kids had no means of paying. She didn’t care about that not one bit. That’s who my Nikki was.”