Questions are swirling following the mysterious deaths of two gay men who, on separate occasions, were drugged, robbed and found dead after going out for a night of fun in the same Manhattan neighborhood.
The mother of one of the victims believes that her son may have been a target after he was found dead following a night spent at a Hell’s Kitchen bar.
“Enjoy literally being in the greatest city in the world, but do not let yourself be alone, even for a minute,” said Linda Clary.
Her son, John Umberger, was visiting from Washington DC who was simply having a good time with friends on May 28. The group ended up at the Q NYC on 8th Avenue.
But after that, details become hazy. The 33-year-old Umberger was last seen leaving the club with two unidentified men later that night.
His mother shared with NBC New York the leading theory investigators said they are pursuing.
“There’s definitely a system of being drugged, whether it’s through drinking something or needles, or whatever that renders the person immobile to protest of being taken advantage of. And it wipes out your memory,” Clary said.
As days went by, Clary found it odd her son wasn’t returning her messages. She alerted police her son was missing. On June 1, they found Umberger dead inside his employer’s townhouse on the Upper East Side.
“They seem to target young gay men, but I think young people across the board are vulnerable in countless cities, in countless places,” Clary told News 4.
The grieving mother says Umberger’s cell phone and credit cards were stolen, with more than $25,000 wiped from his bank account.
Umberger’s mysterious death is eerily similar to that of another gay man in the city, Julio Ramirez. In April, police say Ramirez got in to a cab with a group of unknown men after a night out. He was last seen alive outside the Ritz bar on West 46th Street.
“To get into a cab with a bunch of strangers, to just give away his phone potentially give away his belongings, it’s just not like him,” said a friend of Ramirez’s, Karinina Quimpo.
Julio Ramirez was enjoying a night out in Hell’s Kitchen back in April, hours later he was found unconscious in a taxi on the lower east side.
Ramirez’s bank account has also been cleaned out. NYPD will only confirm that investigations are ongoing for both men.
Clary said that detectives are also looking at 14 other victims with similar stories — but who survived. She also said people are looking into other deaths as well.
“I know they are going back through the records on deaths that were listed as drug over doses to make sure there are not other cases tied to the same group,” Clary said.
Requests for comment from nightclub Q NYC were not immediately returned. The Medical Examiner is still working to determine the cause of death for both men.