The mysterious death of a 25-year-old social worker from Brooklyn has his friends and family demanding answers.
Julio Ramirez was enjoying a night out on April 20 in Hell's Kitchen, and was last seen there after a night of bar hopping. But hours later he was found unconscious in a taxi on the Lower East Side, without his cellphone and wallet, and was later pronounced dead.
Karinina Quimpo, a close friend of Ramirez's since they met as students at the University of Buffalo, said there are too many unanswered questions surrounding his death.
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"We want to find out who did this," said Quimpo, who described Ramirez as a brother. "It's been taking a toll on all of us, everybody knew how lively he is, we can all hear his voice."
The mental health counselor who lived in Bushwick was partying with a friend the night he died, their last stop being the Ritz Bar and Lounge before the two went separate ways. At 3:45 a.m., police said that they found Ramirez passed out in the back of a cab, and he died at the hospital.
Quimpo said that Ramirez was a social butterfly, but he was careful and responsible too. Ramirez's brother, Carlos, told NBC News that a surveillance video showed him stepping into a cab with three unidentified men.
"Maybe be was drugged or he was slipped something," Quimpo said. "For him to get in a cab with strangers — he's a friendly guy, but he's typically very safe."
His family and friends have reason to believe Ramirez may have been targeted, and said it was was very strange he didn't have his phone on him when he was found in the cab.
"He did not separate from that phone, he never let it die," Quimpo said.
Carlos Ramirez said he searched his brother's laptop for clues, and found that his bank accounts were wiped out — $20,000 gone. He's convinced that a killer wanted his money, and used a phone to steal most of it.
"They changed the passcode on him and they went to town...big fancy dinners and spas. Transferring thousands of dollars here, thousands of dollars there," Carlos Ramirez told NBC New York.
"If this is something that is happening, if it's common in Hell's Kitchen, then people need to know about it," Quimpo said.
Ramirez's friends are raising money to create a memorial bench in his honor in Buffalo, where he met his college friends. Those friends, along with Ramirez's family, are awaiting the results of the medical examiner's report.
"My boy was everything to me, he was very sweet, so good. He did not deserve that," Ramirez's mother said in Spanish.
Police have not yet called the case a murder investigation, but rather a death investigation. His family believes it was an intentional killing.
"It was a malicious intent. Someone hurt him. They killed him," Carlos Ramirez said.