MANHATTAN (PIX11) — The NYPD chief of detectives revealed Tuesday that an alleged murder suspect, Jayqwan Hamilton, was seen on his friend’s cellphone video inside an East Side townhouse where drugging victim John Umberger lay dying on May 28, 2022.
Describing one of the videos, Chief of Detectives James Essig said, “The victim is on the bed unconscious, in the same pose in which he was later found deceased.”
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced Hamilton’s indictment for murder, robbery and identity theft on Tuesday. The NYPD said Hamilton and his alleged accomplices, arrested earlier this month, targeted many people in the LGBTQ community before and after they fatally drugged Umberger, a political consultant, with a fatal cocktail of fentanyl, lidocaine, and other drugs to access his smartphone. The suspects removed $22,000 from his bank accounts. Surveillance video had shown Umberger leaving The Q, a gay club on Eighth Avenue, with two men before he went to the townhouse.
“Their motive was simple: to make money,” Bragg said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Hamilton is also charged in connection with the April 21, 2022, fatal drugging of Julio Ramirez, a Brooklyn social worker who was found dead in the back of a cab after leaving the Ritz, a gay club on West 46th Street. Ramirez had $17,000 removed from his bank accounts by robbers who accessed his cellphone.
Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell thanked the members of the Fugitive Enforcement Unit who arrested Hamilton without incident in the Chelsea section of Manhattan on Monday afternoon.
In early April, two other suspects, Jacob Barroso and Robert Dimaio, turned themselves in to police in Lower Manhattan.
The commissioner bristled when one reporter said six gay men had complained the NYPD ignored complaints they had been drugged during robberies last year.
“Categorically no to your question,” Sewell responded. “This was a complex investigation. We would never discriminate against anyone in this city.”
Mayor Eric Adams picked up on the question and said, “In these cases, you have to get it right. If we do a premature indictment or arrest, families may not get the justice they deserve and need.”
Umberger’s mother, Linda Clary — who was vocal in her belief that the district attorney was not moving quickly enough in the case — was teary-eyed on Tuesday while thanking Detective Randy Rose of the Manhattan North Homicide Squad.
“I’m so relieved and grateful,” Clary said after flying to New York from her Atlanta home to attend Hamilton’s criminal arraignment.
Clary said investigators tried to initially pass off her son’s death as a simple overdose.
“I had to keep showing up to say this is not right,” Clary said.
Clary also thanked the media for following the case this past year.
“You have played such a huge role,” Clary said.
NYPD sources told PIX11 News’ Mary Murphy last June that at least two robbery crews were operating in Manhattan — midtown and downtown. In December, the Manhattan district attorney announced the indictment of suspect Kenwood Allen and other alleged accomplices in a different robbery pattern. It’s believed at least 40 people have been drugged and at least seven died.
“There are other groups doing this,” Clary said. “It’s a city problem that needs to be addressed.”
PIX11 News learned several months ago that two drugging victims were dumped in the Bronx last summer and also robbed. Their cases are still being investigated.
Police are also investigating the drugging death of fashion designer Katie Gallagher, who dressed celebrities like Lady Gaga and Laverne Cox. Last summer, she was found dead in her apartment from a fatal cocktail of fentanyl and other drugs.
PIX11 News also received information the suspects in the Hell’s Kitchen deaths knew each other from Farragut Houses in Brooklyn.
Jayqwan Hamilton was arraigned Tuesday afternoon and remanded to jail.
Umberger’s mother said she would pray for the man accused of killing her son.
“You took my baby away from me,” Clary said through tears. “And what you meant for evil, God meant for good, and good is coming out of this.”
Clary urged men in the LGBTQ community to go out with friends when they go to clubs.