Five Defendants Now Charged In String of Robberies, Murders in Hell’s Kitchen

Many of the victims, although not all, were members of the LBGTQ community and the attacks sent fear through the community. Two people died in the course of the drugging and robberies and now three face murder charges and two others face grand larceny charges.

| 19 Apr 2023 | 05:30

A fifth defendant, believed to be the mastermind of last year’s string of robberies and murders in the Hell’s Kitchen area that sent terror through the LBGTQ community, has been arrested.

Jayqwan Hamilton, 35, was arrested on Monday, April 17 in connection with the string of druggings, robberies and murders between 2020 and 2022 in Hell’s Kitchen and the surrounding neighborhoods. Many of the crimes occurred in Manhattan’s gay bars and several of the victims have been been members of the LGBTQ community, which grew particularly alarmed by the attacks.

“The source of this crime was clearly rooted in greed and total disregard for the victims,” Mayor Eric Adams said at a news conference on April 18. “We want to send a message to the L.G.B.T. community: We understand the trauma you experienced during this time.”

Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg said that anyone who has been drugged and robbed in a similar fashion should contact his office. “Nobody should have to worry about their safety and well-being when enjoying Manhattan’s vibrant nightlife, and this investigation sends a clear message that we have no tolerance for this type of deadly conduct,” Bragg said at a press conference.

Hamilton joins Jacob Barroso, Robert DeMaio, Andre Butts and Shane Hoskins, who were all were charged in connection with the crimes in recent weeks.

Two druggings and string of robberies resulted in deaths, so defendants now face murder charges.

On April 21, 2022, social worker Julio Cesar Ramirez, 25, was found dead in a Lower East Side taxi. He had been drugged by several men he met at a Hell’s Kitchen bar called the Ritz that night, and money had been transferred out of his bank account.

Ramirez’ killing is alleged to connected to the death of 33 year old political consultant John Umberger, 33, whose body was found days after he had left the Q Bar, a night club just blocks from the Ritz. It was found after Umberger’s death that $20,000 had been transferred out of his accounts.

James Essig, the NYPD chief of detectives, said that the investigation was aided by two videos that police found on DeMaio’s phone. The first video showed DeMaio and Hamilton inside the Upper East Side townhouse where Umberger’s body was discovered.

In a subsequent video, Essig said, “the victim is seen on the bed, apparently unconscious, in the same pose in which he was later found deceased.”

In total, NYPD reports, there are seventeen incidents believed to be part of the same robbery ring, including the deaths of Ramirez and Umberger.