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Chelsea Man Befriended 'Grifters' Before His Murder, Friend Says

By Mathew Katz | March 10, 2012 10:51am

CHELSEA — In the month before his death, John Laubach befriended two "grifters," who he brought to his apartment and lavished gifts upon, leading friends to fear they would take advantage of him.

Last week, police found the former event designer dead in his Chelsea apartment and are seeking one of the men for questioning, a friend of Laubach told DNAinfo.

Police have released a photo of a man wanted in connection to the murder of Laubach, who was found bound and gagged in his West 22nd Street apartment. Police said the man was caught on camera trying to use Laubach's ATM card shortly after the murder. They did not release his name.

Police also recovered some of Laubach's jewelry from a local pawn shop after his murder, which they believe was sold by the killer, sources said. Laubach's laptop was also stolen.

Another friend, who claimed to have been introduced to the two "hustlers and grifters," said Laubach showered them with gifts, but denied that he had a sexual relationship with them.

Laubach suffered a stroke several years ago, causing him to physically shut down and get very weak at night, said the friend, whose name is being withheld by DNAinfo for his protection.

"Before the stroke, he could pick up boys in two seconds," according to the friend, "After the stroke, not so much — he felt inadequate, and so would buy stuff for the hustler boys. There was no sexual relation whatsoever."

The stroke also caused Laubach to limp and slur his speech, said the friend, who feared Laubach's physical condition rendered him unable to defend himself against an attack.

"John was always the type of person who helps out kids in the area, he would give them plane tickets home," the friend added.

Laubach's beloved cockatoo, Bolo, was placed in foster care with the Empty Cages Collective, an animal rescue and advocacy group.

According to the friend, Laubach's will names a guardian for Bolo, but his friends and family currently can't get the will from his apartment because of an ongoing police investigation there.

PJ McKosky, a coordinator with Empty Cages has been in touch with the friend and said he is looking forward to giving the bird a proper home.

"If this is someone who knows Bolo and has experience with Bolo, that's awesome," he said.