At least 43 druggings, with 7 fatal overdoses, have been linked to 2 separate patterns of robberies dating back to September 2021
HELL'S KITCHEN, Manhattan (WABC) -- A third suspect wanted in connection to the drugging deaths of two men in Manhattan after a night out is under arrest and was arraigned on Tuesday.
Jayqwan Hamilton, 35, said nothing as officers walked him out of the 7th precinct on the Lower East Side Monday -- and police say he has a long criminal record.
Police say he is part of a group tied to at least 17 drugging and robbery cases between September 2021 and August 2022.
Officials announced an indictment Tuesday against Hamilton, Robert Demaio, 34, Jacob Barroso, 29, Andre Butts, 27 and Shane Hoskins, 30, for robbing victims outside bars in order to steal their phones and credit cards.
All of the defendants are charged with robbery, conspiracy and identity theft, but Hamilton, Demaio and Barroso are also charged with murder.
The deaths of two of the victims drugged, John Umberger and Julio Ramirez, were ruled homicides earlier in March.
The two men were drugged and beaten following nights out at gay bars in Hell's Kitchen. They had been given drugs tainted with fentanyl.
The persistence of Umberger's mother, Linda Clary, helped to drive attention to the plight of her son. He was a 34-year-old political consultant who vanished over Memorial Day Weekend in 2022. He was found overdosed in an unfamiliar apartment building.
His life force and his bank accounts had been drained.
On Tuesday, Clary said she forgives the people who police say killed her son.
"May God just have pity on your soul and I hope that one day you know the loving grace that's found in Jesus Christ just like I do and you took my baby away from me and what you meant for evil, God meant for good and good is coming out of this," Clary said.
Julio Ramirez, 25, died in a similar manner and he was found dead in the back of a taxi. His bank accounts had been drained after a night out at a different gay bar.
For months after, members of the gay community rallied for justice. But investigators soon learned this was a much larger pattern of crime that targeted all kinds of bars across the city.
"They target their victims leaving bars, offering drugs in some cases, then either through force or when the victim passes out, they remove jewelry, money, watches and phones from their victims," said NYPD Chief James Essig.
Police believe that Ramirez and Umberger were just two of 17 people victimized by the group.
Two other suspects, Demaio and Barroso, were arrested and appeared in court earlier this month. Andre Butts was also arraigned earlier this month on other related charges.
The drugging death of fashion designer Katie Gallagher, who was found dead in her Lower East Side home last summer, shares a similar set of circumstances.
Police say they are investigating dozens more similar cases like that, possibly linked to a different group.
At the end of March, police linked 43 druggings, including the seven fatal overdoses, to two separate robbery patterns in and around Manhattan clubs.