HomeUS News updateMom of NYC gay bar homicide victim John Umberger speaks out

Mom of NYC gay bar homicide victim John Umberger speaks out

As Linda Clary wept over her son’s body last June, she sought answers from him.

“I need to know. What do you need me to tell?” He said remembering that time. “What should I do? What happened?”

To her, his answer was clear: “Mom, I didn’t go voluntarily, I didn’t commit suicide, I fought and you have to fight for me,” she said.

Now, after nearly a year of uncertainty after her 33-year-old son, John Umberger, was found dead after spending the night at a gay bar in her Manhattan townhouse, Clary is finally getting some answers.

The New York City Medical Examiner’s Office ruled last week that the mysterious deaths of her son and 25-year-old social worker Julio Ramirez, who died in a separate but horrifically similar incident, were homicides caused by a “drug-facility burglary.” At least five drugs were found in his system, including fentanyl, lidocaine and cocaine.

Both men were found dead last spring After a tour of LGBTQ venues in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. After the death of both their bank accounts were empty.

For Clary, at least one officer is finally admitting what she said “she knew from the beginning”: her son was a homicide victim. Her frustration echoes that of several gay men who told NBC News they survived similar incidents between December 2021 and October 2022, adding that the medical examiner’s murder ruling revived concerns that authorities had begun I had dismissed their cases.

To the police, “it looked like John had gone to a club, got robbed, emptied his credit cards out of his wallet – but he still had his wallet, no phone – and he went home. Came in and did a bunch of drugs because she was so depressed about what happened,” Cleary said, referring to her initial conversation with the New York City Police Department. “That was where, ‘I’m sorry, that’s not my baby.’ I can assure you that if that were the case, John would not have done it.”

Linda Clary and John Umberger.
Linda Clary and John Umberger.Courtesy of Linda Cleary

Determined to claim his body and get answers, on June 4, a week after her son’s death, she drove from her home in Georgia to New York. and with the help of six family members and her son’s friends, she returned his She was able to get information about her last hours through her bank transactions, phone records and who had seen her last.

The group of seven showed up at the 19th precinct’s office the next day to present police with what they had been able to gather.

“They looked at us like we came from outer space,” Clary said. “Nobody was interested in finding out the truth.”

He said the group met the authorities and presented their information. Two days later, she received a call from the homicide detective assigned to her son’s case and has since felt confident in the department’s investigation, commending the detective as having “extreme professionalism” and being “committed to finding the truth”.

But in early November — five months after her son’s death — she grew frustrated with the pace of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office’s involvement in her son’s case, and turned to local media in hopes of applying pressure.

In a statement, Doug Cohen, a press secretary for the Manhattan DA’s office, said the investigation was “active” and “ongoing.”

Local reports in early November prompted more gay New Yorkers to step forward with similar accounts. In mid-November, the NYPD confirmed that it was investigating additional accounts of major burglaries at other local gay bars that resembled the Ramirez and Umberger cases. It also confirmed that it was investigating similar encounters that occurred in bars without LGBTQ affiliation.

John Umberger;  Julio Ramirez.
John Umberger; Julio Ramirez.Linda Cleary / Family Photo

Tyler Burt, 27, is among several gay men who told NBC News they encountered encounters like Ramirez and Umberger. He said that after visiting a gay bar in Manhattan’s East Village in December 2021, he got confused the next morning and was robbed of $15,000 in money and belongings.

Unable to fully remember what happened, he said he believed one or more of the individuals used his unconscious face to unlock his phone and bank accounts using facial recognition technology. He also said that he believed some sort of drug had slipped into his drink, which had caused him to faint and black out.

Burt said he reported the encounter to the police the day after the incident. He described the NYPD as being sometimes unresponsive and “reluctant” to do things like review surveillance footage. He shared with NBC News an email chain with the detective on his case, which revealed that many of his requests for updates went unanswered for days and weeks at a time.

“It felt like it wasn’t a priority at all,” he said. “I was following him, bugging this guy over and over again, and I was just getting nowhere.”

He said he has not received an update on his case since last January. However, he received a call from the detective assigned to his case in November after first speaking with NBC News. Burt said the detective scolded him for speaking to the media, saying it could compromise his investigation.

Portrait photo of Tyler Burt.
Tyler Burt.tyler burt

A 51-year-old Manhattan resident — who asked anonymity for fear of putting himself at risk of retaliation from the individuals involved in his assault — said that after a similar encounter at the Hell’s Kitchen gay bar last July, the NYPD gave him “a little fugitive”. He said he repeatedly made unanswered phone calls to the detective assigned to his case and came up empty-handed when he showed up to his local precinct’s office to find answers.

“Finally, they told me to stop going there, that they couldn’t do anything more,” he said.

Many of the men interviewed for this article described their initial interactions with the NYPD as accusatory, with police repeatedly asking them to deny illegal drug use and questioning their levels of alcohol consumption. But challenged

“There was a bit of a feeling, you know, ‘Maybe you shouldn’t have gone to a dirty gay bar,'” said a man who was robbed after visiting a Chelsea gay leather bar in October. ,

The 48-year-old Manhattan resident asked not to be named for fear of putting himself at risk of retaliation from the criminals involved in his encounter. (He works at MSNBC, which, like NBC News, is owned by NBCUniversal.)

In a statement, a spokesperson for the NYPD confirmed that its “Persons Against Persons Unit along with the Manhattan North and South Homicide Squads are working jointly with our colleagues at the New York County District Attorney’s Office to investigate several incidents.” where people have been victims. Either robbery or assault. The spokesperson said that “some of the victims are members of the LGBTQIA+ community, although it is believed that not all are victims.”

However, the spokesperson did not respond to specific questions about the allegations made by Cleary and Burt.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman-Siegal, whose district includes the Manhattan neighborhoods of Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea, where several encounters have occurred, described the NYPD as “foot dragging.”

“Sadly, these lives were spared because they were gay men who were in nightclubs,” Hoylman-Siegal, who is gay, said. “And whatever the reason, there seems to be a bias against taking these types of crimes seriously as if they happened to someone else.”

The NYPD did not directly answer questions regarding his remarks.



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