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3 Charged In Robbery, Beating Death Of Hamilton Heights Man

Handcuff (credit: clipart.com)

Handcuffs (credit: clipart.com)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Two men and a woman were charged Saturday in connection with the beating death and robbery of a man in Hamilton Heights.

The victim – Charles Romo, 48 – was one of three gay men found slain in New York City recently, prompting concerns from community leaders that the slayings might be related.

Romo was found dead in his apartment at 87 Hamilton Pl. around 10:20 a.m. Jan. 28, police said. He was discovered by his housekeeper, police said.

He was found in his underwear and was tied up and beaten, according to reports.

On Saturday, two men – Keith Stokes, 50, and Ralph Stokes, 52 – were charged with Romo’s murder. A third suspect, Bridgette Cash, 38, was charged with grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property for allegedly robbing Romo, police said.

All three suspects are homeless, according to police.

Sharon Stapel, executive director of the Anti-Violence Project, said Romo might have let all three alleged assailants in.

“There is some speculation that the victim might have met the perpetrators online,” Stapel said.

Romo suffered 9/11-related post-traumatic stress disorder since his former roommate, John Willet, was killed in the attack, according to a New York Daily News report. He lived in the apartment with his beloved service dog, had been planning to move back to his native Texas, according to published reports.

There was no word as to whether Romo was killed in a hate crime, or just a robbery.

Romo was one of three gay men recently killed in New York City, and police believe all the victims met their killers online.

All three men were middle-aged and strangled. There were no signs of forced entry in any of the cases and police believe all the victims met their killers online.

Besides Romo, David Rangel, 53, was found dead in his Jackson Heights apartment on Jan. 26, according to the New York City Anti-Violence Project. Rangel was killed in his own apartment and was found stuffed under a couch.

And on Feb. 9, police found Joseph Benzinger, 54, dead inside a hotel room at the Crown Motor Inn on Queens Boulevard, police said.

On Tuesday, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman, that “It appears that the cases are not related with different suspects involved.”

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