Crime

What’s Behind the Murders of Gay Men in Hell’s Kitchen?

A man’s death in May could be connected to an alleged gang targeting gay men in New York City. Five months later, his mother—Linda Clary—is breaking her silence on the stalled investigation. “I can’t be quiet anymore,” she told The New York Post

Clary’s son John Umberger, 33, was visiting New York on a work trip when he disappeared after a night out in Hell’s Kitchen on May 28. He was earlier seen at a dinner with friends, and at around 3am, he used his credit card at gay nightclub The Q NYC. Surveillance camera footage later shows him entering the townhouse he was lodging in with three unidentified men, all of whom left without Umberger 45 minutes later.

On June 1, Umberger’s body was discovered. He had been robbed of his phone and wallet, with over $25,000 transferred out of his bank accounts. His credit card had been used at nearby businesses, and a failed attempt was made to empty his trust fund. Additionally, someone responded to text messages through his phone around 5am, but Clary does not believe that these were from her son. He stopped sharing his location at 9am, and by 8pm, a message Clary had sent was labeled “read.”

Preliminary toxicology tests later showed that he had died of an overdose, likely due to a spiked drink. Another alleged homicide victim—social worker Julio Ramirez, 25—died in a similar way on April 21. Security cameras show Ramirez leaving the Ritz Bar and Lounge (a gay club in Hell’s Kitchen) with three unidentified men. His body was later discovered in the back of a taxi cab. He had also been roofied and robbed.

It’s been nearly five months since these deaths, but police have yet to issue a warning to LGBTQ+ New Yorkers. “Word needs to get out, especially in the gay community, that they are targeting gay men,” Clary said. “This same group of killers have drugged, robbed and murdered countless young gay men in New York.” Despite this claim, only the two deaths are alleged to be connected at the time of this writing.

Clary praised the detectives for their work on the case, but she has accused Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for “refusing to prosecute my son’s killers”—although there have been no arrests made. A spokesperson for the NYPD has said that they are still waiting for the medical examiner to confirm the cause of death in both cases.

“New York is unnecessarily unsafe, and it breaks my heart because John was so excited to be in Manhattan,” Clary said. “He loved being there. He was a little ray of sunshine.” 

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