HUNDREDS of people mourned the brutal killing of youth football coach Michael Jones at a memorial church service in New York.
The 25-year-old’s tearful girlfriend Bryeanna Murphy was consoled by players and staff from the New York Red Bulls, the club where Mr Jones had worked for four years.
Colleagues paid emotional tributes with many wearing Red Bulls shirts with “Jonesy” printed on the back.
Mr Jones’s fellow coach John Birchall broke down as he told mourners: “I wish I could take a moment and tell him how much he means to me and that I love him so much.”
Jenny Akdag, 48, whose son was coached by Mr Jones, said she couldn’t believe he was gone.
She said: “He was doing a normal thing that we all do, walking down the street, talking on the phone to your girlfriend. It’s terribly, terribly sad to see someone so young lose their life, especially in this way.”
As mourners grieved, police were trying to track down 32-year-old Orlando Orea, the ponytailed suspect who fled to Mexico on Tuesday just hours before his name was put on a no-fly list.
Neighbours described Orea as a “weird guy”.
Karen Espinoza, 18, who lived on the floor below Orea, said: “Every time I saw him, I was always creeped out.
“He just seemed like a weird guy. He always walked with his head down. He didn't talk to anyone.”
Detectives suspect Orea mistook Mr Jones for a man whom he argued with in a bar.
Mr Jones was outside when Orea killed him, police sources said.
CCTV captured the brutal attack which saw the Tarleton man stabbed six times and his ear cut off.
A police source said: “The attack was done deftly, with brutal efficiency. It’s somebody who knows how to use a knife very efficiently.”
At the family home in Tarleton, Mr Jones’s parents, Carole, 53, and Perry, 50, and brother Philip set up a memorial of their own in the front garden.
Dad Perry said: “We’ve put all his football medals and shirts in the garden along with all the flowers and cards from the community. We thought it would be a nice thing to do.”
Mr Jones had been with Ms Murphy for six months and had wanted to move to New York permanently to be with her.
Ms Murphy’s dad, Tim, described Mr Jones as “a real gentleman”.
He said that the family had been in email contact with Mr Jones’ relatives.
He said: “We expressed to them our sincere condolences. We wanted to let them know we are thinking of them.”