A third and final suspect was arrested in connection with the homicides of two men who were drugged, robbed and killed in separate incidents after visits to New York City gay bars last year, two senior law enforcement officials said Monday.
Jayqwan Hamilton, 35, was charged with murder, robbery, grand larceny, identity theft and conspiracy connected to the deaths of John Umberger, 33, a political consultant, and Julio Ramirez, 25, a social worker, the officials said. Two other men — Robert Demaio and Jacob Barroso — were arrested in connected with the deaths earlier this month.
Umberger and Ramirez were found dead after they visited gay bars in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood last year. Both had left the bars with at least one unknown person before their bank accounts were drained of thousands of dollars using facial recognition access on their phones, relatives said.
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Last month, the medical examiner’s office ruled their deaths as homicides caused by a “drug-facilitated theft.” Multiple drugs were found in their systems, including fentanyl, lidocaine and cocaine.
Police obtained security video showing Hamilton and Demaio entering and leaving Umberger’s temporary residence in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, two senior law enforcement officials have said.
Through a search warrant, police also recovered two videos from Demaio’s phone that showed Demaio and Barroso at the site of Umberger’s death, the two officials said. In one of the videos, the officials said, Umberger appears to be unconscious, lying face up on a bed at his temporary New York City residence.
Police named Hamilton, Demaio and Hamilton last month as among those responsible for a broader “citywide robbery pattern” that includes at least 17 victims. The incidents — which include Ramirez’s and Umberger’s robberies and deaths — occurred from Sept. 19, 2021, to Aug. 28, authorities have disclosed.
Two additional suspects were apprehended in connection with the string of robberies.
Andre Butts, 28, was arraigned this month on robbery, grand larceny and identity theft charges. Butts was captured on security video buying sneakers with Ramirez’s credit card, according to prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office. He pleaded not guilty and is being held on $100,000 bail after he tried to flee during his arrest, prosecutors said.
Shane Hoskins, 31, was arraigned last month on felony larceny and identity theft charges in connection with the same string of robberies.
An indictment naming Hoskins, Demaio, Butts, Barroso and a fifth unidentified co-conspirator outlined a pattern in which victims were “incapacitated to the extent that their ability to perceive events became diminished” so the suspects could then steal their cellphones and credit cards. The men would use the physical cards and information stored on the victims’ phones to transfer money to themselves and make purchases, the indictment says.
NBC News has spoken with several gay men who said they survived similar incidents from December 2021 to last month.
New York City police previously confirmed that multiple groups of criminals are committing such crimes against men visiting the city’s gay bars. Police also said similar crimes were being committed against patrons of bars without any LGBTQ affiliation.
A separate group is suspected of committing similar crimes against 26 victims, two law enforcement officials said last month. One of the subsequent group’s victims was the fashion designer Kathryn Marie Gallagher, whose death in July was ruled a drug-facilitated homicide by the medical examiner’s office, the officials said.
Last month, the New York City medical examiner’s office also confirmed that it is investigating “several additional deaths in similar circumstances” to those of Ramirez and Umberger. It is unclear, however, whether they were found dead after having visited gay bars or whether they were connected with Demaio, Barroso and Hamilton.
A spokesperson said the medical examiner’s office “could not comment further due to the ongoing criminal investigations.”