A Crown Heights landlady saw a large black garbage bag still on the curb on Thursday, June 22, even though trash had been collected earlier that morning.
She assumed the bag, discarded outside of her Kingston Ave. apartment, contained construction debris, and was therefore too heavy for garbage men to pick up. So, she said, she decided to divide up the debris.
But she was in for a gruesome surprise.
When she opened the bag, she found stuffed inside it the partially clothed body of Chanel Petro-Nixon, 16, who had been missing since Father’s Day. Petro-Nixon’s body, the woman said, was curled in a “fetal position.”
“I jumped after I saw it,” said the woman, who asked not to be identified. “It was very frightening, like something was going to jump out at me.”
Seventy-seventh Precinct Police said they were not immediately able to identify Petro-Nixon’s sex, due to decomposition. The medical examiner determined that she was strangled. There were no signs of sexual assault.
Homicides have climbed 33.3 percent in the 77th Precinct over the past five years, according to police. This opposes a citywide trend of a 17 percent decline in homicides in the same period.
A 19-year-old neighbor and family friend who would identify himself only as Lionel said that the family was in shock, and that relatives from Panama flew in to support them. The family declined to be interviewed.
Acquaintances described Petro-Nixon as a shy-yet friendly girl with academic aspirations.
“She was extremely conscientious,” said her guidance counselor at Boys & Girls High School, who also said she was “bumped up” a grade.
“She was quiet,” said Lance Harrel, a security guard at Boys and Girls High School, where Petro-Nixon, a Bedford Stuyvesant resident, was a junior. “I never saw her in trouble or arguing with anybody.”
One neighbor, Shane Lyons, 31, described Petro-Nixon as “innocent” and perhaps “a little gullible.”
Another neighbor, Leonard Haynkly, 29, said he hardly ever saw her out alone. “Most of the time I seen her, she was with her family.”
Petro-Nixon was last seen leaving her home on 1605 Fulton St. around 6:30 p.m. on June 18, walking down a commercial strip that is busy even on Sundays. Earlier that morning, she had been seen in her Sunday best, attending Mount of Olives Church. Her family reported the next day that their only daughter was missing.
“Somebody had to have seen something,” said Haynkly, adding that it wasn’t dark outside when she disappeared.
A $12,000 reward is being offered by the NYPD, Crime Stoppers and 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Petro-Nixon’s killer.
Neighborhood signs with her picture have been posted around the community. Her wide smile accentuates a sweet, round face.
On the front steps of her family’s apartment building, a shrine has been arranged with candles, teddy bears and a cardboard sign scrawled with sentiments including, “We will always love you,” “God bless you” and “It’s so hard to say goodbye.”
More condolences can be found on Chanel’s Web page at MySpace.com, a social networking site where one person posted “RIP CHANEL AKA HONEY I LOVE YOU 4EVER.”
Teen Web Usage
should be Cautious and Monitored
A newspaper report said police were looking at Petro-Nixon’s MySpace page for possible clues to her death.
Nearly 40 percent of American high school students have posted personal information such as names, ages or contact information on the Internet, and 12 percent have decided to meet strangers they first met on the Web, according to iSafe student surveys.
“I don’t believe there has been an official notice, warning or directive from the Board of Education in New York regarding the dangers of using MySpace and Internet sites in general,” said Stuart Winchester, an 11th -and 12th -grade teacher at Cascades High School in Manhattan.
Petro-Nixon’s page gives intimate access to her personality, interests and plans for the future. In her profile, she wrote, “I am a quiet person, but don’t push my buttons.I live in the hood and i’am hood but still classy.you have to show me respect b4 u get it…. Holla at me i’m very friendly and easy to talk to.”
Further down the page, she posted answers to the following questions:
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Ever been beaten up?
Nope and neva gonna happen.
How do you want to Die?
This article was written and reported by Reuven Fenton and Bess Kargman of Columbia University’s School of Journalism.
Publisher’s note: While no connection has been made between Chanel’s Internet site and her death, police and youth advocates say young people must be more careful with the information they put on the Web, and that parents and guardians must be watchful of teen Web activities.