Death of Acclaimed NYC Fashion Designer Who Dressed Gaga Ruled Homicide 8 Months Later

Kathryn Marie Gallagher was found unresponsive in her Manhattan apartment on a summer night in 2022. The acclaimed designer died by 'drug-facilitated theft,' the medical examiner's office revealed Friday

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What to Know

  • Eight months ago, a 35-year-old woman was found dead in her Manhattan bed. The NYPD just identified her as Kathryn Marie Gallagher and said her death had been ruled a homicide
  • The medical examiner's office said Gallagher, an acclaimed fashion designer who had more than two dozen collections under her own label and showed at Fashion Week in both New York and Paris, died of a toxic drug combination and ruled the manner "drug-facilitated theft;' the NYPD didn't elaborate
  • Gallagher had been working on a Fall 2022 collection at the time of her death; Lady Gaga and Laverne Cox are among the icons dressed by her, her sisters wrote in an obituary shared on the alumni page for the Rhode Island School of Design, which she attended

It was July 24, 2022. NYPD officers responding to a 911 call at a Manhattan apartment building found a 35-year-old woman unresponsive in a bedroom. She had no obvious signs of trauma.

On Friday, eight months to the day she was found, police identified the woman as Kathryn Marie Gallagher, a Pennsylvania-born painter and "internationally-recognized fashion designer," according to her obituary.

And they declared her case a homicide.

The medical examiner's office, reached Friday, said Gallagher died of acute toxication by the combined effects of alcohol, fentanyl, ethanol and p-fluorofentanyl. The latter is a designer drug linked to overdose deaths in eight states between late 2020 and June 2021, according to the CDC. The city medical examiner also said Gallagher died by drug-facilitated theft, indicating someone may have drugged Gallagher to steal something, though the NYPD didn't elaborate.

Gallagher was found on a bed in her Eldridge Street apartment shortly before 9 p.m. that summer night in July. She was pronounced dead at the scene. It wasn't clear from police Friday what, if anything, was missing from her home.

Drug-facilitated theft was also listed as the manners of death for two men -- one a beloved social worker, the other a political consultant visiting from Washington, D.C., who mysteriously died in separate incidents after leaving Hell's Kitchen bars in 2022. Both of their bank accounts were drained. Police sources said Gallagher's is separate from those ones, and is still under investigation.

Police sources have linked Gallagher's death to 26 others, including five deaths on the Lower East Side, although there's no official indication the case is connected. In regards to the other cases, police charged Kenwood Allen with the deaths of two men. Alen was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury in December.

Gallagher's family said in a statement to NBC New York that "the homicide determination shared by the medical examiner today affirms what we knew: Katie was the victim of a crime. We have been holding this information while awaiting the official ruling. Sharing this news helps us set the record straight, demand accountability, and grieve more openly."

The family's statement went on to say that they are "grateful for any developments that help us move forward, focus on Katie's life and legacy, and bring more awareness to fentanyl and similar drugs being used as weapons against innocent people."

According to an obituary published on the alumni page for the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, Gallagher established her own fashion line -- Katie Gallagher -- in New York City in 2010. She completed more than two dozen collections under that label that premiered during New York and Paris fashion weeks and had been working on her 27th collection at the time of her death. Her sisters wrote she had planned to show that collection in Fall 2022.

The obituary, shared by her sisters, says she dressed the likes of Lady Gaga and Laverne Cox, and says her work has been featured in magazines like Vogue, "The Cut," "Elle" and "Glamour" over the years. Gallagher moved to Chinatown after attending RISD following a childhood in rural Pennsylvania, and it was there she honed her craft, it said.

The sisters described a fearless designer committed to excellence, one with a heart, and touch, so gently magnanimous that people and even animals were drawn to her.

"Like A.A. Milne's Eeyore, she preferred gloomy days and cold rain. As a child, she was drawn to the woods, mixing potions and playing there with her sisters. Animals were drawn to her gentle and calm demeanor. She could talk to them and once even touched a deer in the stillness of the trees. She loved poetry and heavy metal," her obituary read. "She felt deeply, though she couldn't always articulate it, and she had an enormous, forgiving heart. When she was younger, she was an obsessive athlete, a gymnast, and a state-qualifying long-distance runner. Katie loved Halloween, witches, and ghosts, and had the tattoos to let everyone know it."

"She was unique, beautiful, smart, unabashed, and always wanting. She was hardworking and talented, with so many ideas and plans for future projects," the sisters' remembrance continued. "We are so proud of who she was and all she achieved in her brief but full and beautiful life. She was Katie, our daughter, sister, aunt, and friend."

A memorial was held for Gallagher in Pennsylvania last August. Another celebration of life is scheduled for this May.

Anyone with information on Gallagher's case is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.

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