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NYC gay bar deaths were homicides, medical examiner rules

Julio Ramirez and John Umberger were last seen alive leaving gay bars in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood last year.
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Two gay men who ended up dead with their bank accounts drained after leaving New York City bars last year were both homicide victims, authorities said Friday.

The men died in separate incidents.

In November, the New York police said that detectives were investigating a string of robberies and assaults connected to night spots in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood.

Investigators wanted to know more about the deaths of Julio Ramirez and John Umberger and if they were among “several incidents where individuals have been victims of either robberies or assault," police said at the time.

John Umberger; Julio Ramirez.
John Umberger and Julio Ramirez were drugged and killed in separate incidents following visits to New York City gay bars.Linda Clary; Family photo

The deaths of both men have been ruled homicides caused by a "drug-facilitated theft," the Office of Chief Medical Examiner said Friday.

Ramirez's death in April was caused by "acute intoxication by the combined effects of fentanyl, p-fluorofentanyl, heroin, cocaine, lidocaine and ethanol," the medical examiner said.

The 25-year-old social worker was found dead in the back of a taxi an hour after being seen leaving the Ritz Bar and Lounge with three unidentified men on April 20.

His family has said that approximately $20,000 was drained from his bank accounts and that they believed he was drugged.

A month later, Umberger, a 33-year-old political consultant, was found dead after he and two unidentified men left another popular Hell’s Kitchen gay bar, the Q.

The unidentified men transferred about $20,000 out of Umberger’s bank accounts and maxed out his credit cards, his mother, Linda Clary, said. She also believes her son was drugged.

Umberger’s death was caused by "acute intoxication by the combined effects of fentanyl, p-fluorofentanyl, cocaine, lidocaine and ethanol," the medical examiner said.

Family members of the two men could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

In the months following the deaths, more gay New Yorkers came forward with accounts that had similarities. The NYPD also confirmed additional accounts of grand larcenies at other New York City gay bars that resembled Ramirez's and Umberger's cases.

On Friday, New York City Council member Erik Bottcher, whose district includes Hell’s Kitchen, called on the Manhattan District Attorney’s office to move forward with charges “as soon as possible.”

“We demand justice for the people who murdered Julio Ramirez and John Umberger,” Bottcher said in a text message. “As we approach the one-year anniversary of their murders, the pain experienced by their families, friends and our entire community has only been exacerbated by the fact that their killers have not been brought to Justice.”

Kay Nguyen, a press officer for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, said in a statement that “the investigation is ongoing," and declined further comment.