Two men who were fatally drugged in New York City while leaving gay bars last year and whose bank accounts had been drained were both homicide victims, according to the local chief medical examiner’s office.
The medical examiner said Friday that the deaths of social worker Julio Ramirez, 25, and political consultant John Umberger, 33, were caused by a “drug-facilitated theft”, NBC News reported.
Friday’s announcement came amid a New York police investigation into a series of robberies and assaults tied to clubs and bars in Hell’s Kitchen, a neighborhood in the city known for its nightlife.
Ramirez was discovered dead in a taxi last April after surveillance cameras caught him leaving a venue and entering a taxi with three other men at about 3.15am. According to NBC New York, Ramirez was alone in the backseat at 4.10am when the driver approached a police officer to report that Ramirez was unresponsive.
He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital less than an hour later.
Ramirez’s family said that his phone had been taken and its password changed, and that $20,000 was stolen from his bank accounts.
In Friday’s announcement, the medical examiner said that Ramirez’s death was caused by “acute intoxication by the combined effects of fentanyl, p-fluorofentanyl, heroin, cocaine, lidocaine and ethanol”.
Umberger was visiting the city a few weeks later, in late May, when he died with the same combination of drugs in his system, according to the medical examiner. His body was discovered inside his boss’s East Side townhouse, four days after he left a nightclub in Hell’s Kitchen, the local news outlet WPIX reported.
According to his mother, surveillance footage showed him in between two men while leaving the nightclub and entering a car. Umberger also had about $20,000 transferred out of his bank accounts and his credits cards had been maxed out, his mother added.
New York city councilmember Erik Bottcher, who represents Hell’s Kitchen, had urged the Manhattan district attorney to swiftly charge those responsible for the deaths of Ramirez and Umberger.
“We demand justice for the people who murdered Julio Ramirez and John Umberger,” Bottcher said in a text message reviewed by NBC.
He added: “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.”
A spokesperson from the district attorney’s office told NBC that an investigation centering on Ramirez, Umberger and others who died similarly is “ongoing”.
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