Why did the city forget about this brutally murdered teen?
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By Andrea Peyser
May 13, 2016

Why did the city forget about this brutally murdered teen?


Police are still searching for Chanel Petro-Nixon's killer nearly 10 years after she first went missing.
Photo: Tamara Beckwith; Paul Martinka

Chanel Petro-Nixon was whip-smart, God-fearing and so very beautiful.

Called “little princess’’ by her adoring parents, she aimed to become a psychiatric nurse. Instead, the straight-A high school honors student was murdered, strangled by unseen hands, her body dumped on a Brooklyn street, in a fetal position, inside a black garbage bag.

She was 16 years old.

In the nearly 10 years since we lost Chanel, I never saw Jay Z and Beyoncé hit the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant to donate $1.5 million to help find her killer, as they did to help the Black Lives Matter movement.

I never saw filmmaker Quentin Tarantino march demanding justice for Chanel, the way he slimed cops as “murderers’’ after black men were killed unintentionally in police custody while resisting arrest.

I wept at the first annual neighborhood vigil held in honor of the lost girl with the brown skin, dark eyes and brilliant smile. But as days turned to weeks and then to years with no solid leads, Chanel all but faded from public consciousness. But I never forgot her. Chanel’s life matters.

Her slaying never received the kind of nonstop news coverage given to blondes who spilled out of bars to meet grisly ends. An initial police report declared her a “runaway,’’ which angered Chanel’s mental-health-worker mom, Lucita Petro-Nixon, and made me bitter at first. A $38,000 reward for case leads went unclaimed.

But, eventually, I concluded that the formula determining which victims receive massive attention and which don’t is steeped in racial politics, not blond hair. Police long suspected that Chanel’s killer was someone she knew, another person of color. Almost certainly a guy. And in this climate, a good girl likely slaughtered by a black male hasn’t got a shot at winning the type of publicity given to black men dying at the hands of cops.

Now, investigators from the Brooklyn DA’s Office and police may be close to solving this case.

When Chanel disappeared on June 18, 2006, she told her folks she was meeting a friend from her church-run middle school, Veron Primus, to fill out summer job applications.

Primus said Chanel never showed up.

Her body was found four days later. An autopsy determined she was not sexually assaulted.

Now — finally! — a potential suspect.

In the years since Chanel’s murder, Primus, 29, has been tried and acquitted in New York City on charges of sexually assaulting two women. He was deported to his native St. Vincent and the Grenadines after doing time for violating an ex-girlfriend’s order of protection. Back in the Caribbean, he allegedly went on a one-man misogynistic crime spree.

WPIX/Channel 11 reporter Mary Murphy traveled to St. Vincent to interview Primus’ ex-girlfriend Mewanah Hadaway, who escaped April 15 after he allegedly held her captive for 3½ months in a wooden enclosure at his house.

He was charged with her kidnapping and rape. Hadaway told Murphy that Primus showed her newspaper clippings about Chanel’s case and talked about having killed a girl in the United States (though he didn’t confess to her murder). Is this the break authorities have been waiting for?

Primus was charged in the November strangling murder of a female St. Vincent real estate agent. Now, New York authorities are reviewing multiple “cold cases” to see if he could be a serial killer.

“We’re just hoping for justice,’’ Chanel’s father, Garvin Nixon, told me by phone from Delta Air Lines, where he works as a ramp agent. “It’s all we’ve ever wanted. We need the truth.’’

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