NEW YORK — The NYPD is investigating a series of robberies and assaults against men in Hell’s Kitchen.
CBS2’s Ali Bauman spoke to Linda Clary, who believes her son, 33-year-old John Umberger, was drugged, robbed and left for dead.
“John was an exceptional human being that was just a bright light that, ever since he was a child, was like a sun beam,” Clary said.
It’s been five months since Clary lost her son.
The DC political consultant came to New York on business in May. Days later, the police found him dead inside the East 61st Street apartment where he had been staying. His cell phone was gone and his wallet cleared.
“The wallet had been emptied of the credit cards, debit cards and driver’s license,” Clary said.
Umberger’s mother says police have surveillance video from days earlier, which shows her son leaving the Q, a popular nightclub for gay men in Hell’s Kitchen.
“It’s the same thing with Julio’s case, in that you have John sandwiched between two people in the back seat of a car,” Clary said.
It’s Julio. He was found dead in the back of a taxi five weeks before Umberger’s death and was last seen leaving a different gay bar in Hell’s Kitchen with three unidentified men.
“I don’t know who those people are, you know. His friends don’t know who those people are. That’s pretty suspicious,” Karinina Quimpo, a friend of Julio’s, told CBS2 back in May.
Ramirez was also found without a phone and with fraudulent charges on his credit card.
“Somebody drugged him to take his phone, to rob him. I mean, that is what happened. There is not a doubt in mind that’s what happened,” Carlos Ramirez, Julio’s brother, told CBS2 in May.
Police sources tell us both Ramirez and Umberger’s deaths are suspected to be overdose related. The medical examiner, though, has not yet determined the official causes. Sources tell us they’re waiting on toxicology results to determine which drugs, if any, were in their systems.
“I know he was drugged,” Clary said. “I also know that there are 14 other cases where the young men involved lived.”
NYPD homicide squads are now working with the District Attorney’s office to investigate several other incidents of robberies and assaults against members of the LGBTQ+ community, saying, “It is also believed that the motivation for these assault/robberies is monetary gain.”
“I hope that eventually these people are caught and held accountable for their actions and that as a community, we are protecting one another because we always have to,” Hell’s Kitchen resident Thai Pham said.
“You just don’t want it to happen to anybody else,” Clary said.
Authorities are asking anyone with information, or who may be a victim themselves, to contact the police.