April 11, 2009

For Louchette’s Dead Friend, Dean Johnson [Dan Collins]

Reading about Dean Johnson’s gay NYC life isn’t something that everyone’s going to want to do. He moved there as a young man, just when the punk scene was getting going at legendary venues like CBGB’s. He became a doorman at a club and then a dancer, before becoming a party impresario of the gay scene and the frontman for a couple of outlandish, in-your-face gay bands. He wrote extensively on the internet about his hook-ups, and learned a day after his first band got signed to a contract that he was HIV-positive.

When the club scene took a dive, so did he. He struggled with drug addiction, and chronicled the whole thing on his MySpace blog. He got busted for heroin, and stole money from an employer to feed his habit. He cleaned up and relapsed and cleaned up again. He was 6 ‘6″ tall, shaved his head, sported outlandish glasses and alternately flounced about in dresses or assumed the uniform of a copper onstage. He’d rubbed elbows with numerous celebrities. He’d been through some hard times, and in the late summer and early autumn of 2007, he felt that his life was on the upswing. He’d begun to make his mark as an internet personality as well as a meatspace (and I do mean meatspace) one, he had a new band, The Velvet Mafia, that was starting to pick up gigs, and he’d kicked the junk and even the pot, noting that it had made him cross for days, but that he’d begun to be able to breathe. One of his last diary entries was this:

As I’m leaving the station in my neighborhood, I look over at the guy next to me and it’s fuckin’ Richie Stotts, the lead guitarist for The Plasmatics (the hot one with the mohawk) who I hadn’t seen since Wendy O. Williams drove a car through a wall of televisions on the westside pier back in 1983. He knew who I was so he was really friendly and we stood on the street chatting for a while, and I was particularly curious as to whether he thought Wendy’s death had REALLY been a suicide. He spoke frankly on the subject but asked me not to repeat anything he said – I can tell you that his answers were shocking, and reinforced my belief that an exibitionistic artist like Wendy would not shoot herself with a shotgun without selling tickets and hiring a film-crew. He said that sometime he would ‘buy me a beer’ and tell me more ugly truths. Then he asked me what was up with my band and I filled him in on what we’re doing and why I had been laying low for a while.

There was another side to Dean’s life that he was pretty up front about, too. He’d begun to consult Craig’s List to find jobs as a gay prostitute, a “top”. He’d pop Viagra to service his clients. On September 7, 2007, he wrote this in his online diary:

Current mood: relieved
Category: Travel and Places
That’s right..I actually vacationed in the pines. It was like living on the dance floor at Splash. From there I went to DC where I had a better time spending the weekend with a client who is disabled and walks on crutches. I’ll take gimp-sex over “High Tea” anytime. We had fun. He redecorated part of his apartment to look like a prison and I got to be the guard. :)

It wasn’t unusual for Dean to mention this kind of thing about his clientele, though he wasn’t about to post enough information about them online that people could identify them. Speaking in private was another matter: he was an almost overwhelmingly communicative person, it appears, to both friends and acquaintances. If you go to the pages set up for people to remember him after his death at the age of 45, you’ll find a very large number of people recalling him very fondly as a larger-than-life yet very down-to-earth and caring person.

Almost nobody believes the official account of his death.

But we’ll get to that in a bit. The reason that I’ve become interested in posting about Dean Johnson’s death is that it was mentioned by louchette in the comments to my post on Robert Wone. What does Johnson’s death have to do with Wone’s? Both of them died under mysterious circumstances in DC, and both of the initial investigations were carried out by the DC Police’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison. And, in both, there are serious questions about the conduct of the cases.

Louchette recalls Dean as a surrogate older brother, protective and wise to the ways of the street, even if, as some of his friends say, he was a risk-taker. At one point, he’d been a bouncer on a club rope line. He was physically imposing, even after almost 20 years of anti-HIV drugs. It’s clear from his postings that he was ambivalent about his role of top, but he was butch enough to carry it off to the satisfaction of his customers.

The reason that I chose, out of all Dean’s recollections, to reproduce the one about visiting the client in DC is because that’s the person who got him killed. Dean’s friends all knew that at various times in his life he’d been a prodigious consumer of drugs on a prodigious scale, so when word began circulating that he’d died of mixing a variety of drugs with alcohol within a few hours of reaching this acquaintance’s apartment, they were suspicious. They soon became much more suspicious still.

Dean’s one-time client and acquaintance was a man by the name of Steven Saleh. He lived in a one-bedroom apartment in a luxury hotel in DC, provided for by worker’s compensation from a position that he’d held in the Department of Commerce until, as he’d claimed, he was overtaken by fibromyalgia. To control the pain, he’d been prescribed OxyContin. In comments made to friends, apparently after his initial rendezvous with Saleh, Johnson described Saleh’s apartment as a mini-pharmacy. And it appears that Saleh was smitten with Dean. Friends who used his password to gain access to Dean’s email after his alarming disappearance discovered almost overwhelming numbers of emails to Dean from Saleh. Dean wasn’t Saleh’s only gay acquaintance from the ‘net, though.

Wanting a caretaker, Saleh had advertised room and board on Craig’s List. His ad brought a response from a young man named Jordan “Jeremy” Conklin, a wayward 26-year-old gay kid who’d escaped from his Arizona Mormon roots to the big city. Compared with Johnson, Conklin was a babe in the woods who’d gotten an undergrad business degree at Arizona State, and was waiting tables, trying to find himself. The idea of free room and board in DC, where the percentage of gay men was even higher than in San Francisco, appealed to him. He responded to Saleh’s ad figuring that he’d get a look around, spend a few days, test out the job market. He said goodbye to his boyfriend, John Allen, and took the train down to DC.

Saleh had been pressing Dean for a visit prior to receiving his new houseguest, and he was nervous about having the two of them around at the same time. He’d said to Dean that he wouldn’t be having sexual relations with Jeremy, but then sent him an emailed photo of Jeremy’s cock, wondering whether he might be interested in a little multi-party activity. Dean humorously suggested that Jeremy might learn something from such an encounter.

Late in the evening of September 16, 2007, two days after Jeremy arrived, Dean received distressing news from Saleh in his email. The young man who was staying at Saleh’s apartment had overdosed. Police received a 911 call, as well, and paramedics were unable to revive the young man. Saleh shared his anxieties with Dean online. Would he be blamed for the death of his guest? Johnson assured his acquaintance that it wasn’t his fault that Jeremy had died, that Jeremy was responsible for his own choices in having taken the drugs that caused his death. When Jeremy’s boyfriend called the next day, police answered his phone and gave him the news. Toxicology results later would show that Jeremy had died from a combination of OxyContin and alcohol, which Saleh said Jeremy must have discovered where he kept them hid. The thing is, Jeremy didn’t do drugs. In fact, he’d moved out of a previous living situation because his roomies did.

Over the next days, Saleh poured out his anxieties to Dean online, begging him to come and support him at his time of need. Earlier his importunities had gotten to the point where good natured Dean got snappish about it, because if he was going to go to DC, he wanted to fly. Packing his 6′ 6″ frame into most commuter accommodations wasn’t a prospect he particularly relished for any long period, especially as he’d recently injured his shoulder. Saleh was solicitous and bought him an Amtrak ticket after inquiring into the dimensions of the seat; he knew that Johnson would rather fly, but . . . . And Johnson apologized for having been irritable. Contrary to later accounts, some of them quoting a friend of Dean’s by the name of Dale Corvino, Dean had arranged to visit prior to Saleh’s news regarding Jeremy, on September 13, and Saleh had sent him the ticket. On September 19, 2007, perhaps the last day of his life, he boarded the train for DC, arriving in the late afternoon. Saleh was the last person who would see him alive.

Just before or possibly just after midnight, one of Dean’s band-mates received a call from his cell phone. It was Saleh, stating that Dean was unconscious after taking a pill. The friend on the receiving end of the call urged Saleh to call 911. Later, Saleh called back to say that he had placed a cold compress on Dean’s forehead and that he seemed to be coming around. Police did receive a 911 call, but it was hours later: Saleh reported another unconscious man at his apartment. He claimed that he’d awakened in the morning to discover Dean unresponsive. The police, responding to the second 911 call from the same location regarding the same phenomenon, found Dean dead on their arrival. The police report says nothing about these calls, although the Washington Blade article states that the lead detective in the case, Paul Regan, had been in contact with the band member and was aware of the calls.

Meanwhile, in NYC, nobody knew that Dean was dead in DC. As the days dragged on, they became increasingly concerned. They called the police, the hospitals and the medical examiner’s office in DC, having heard about the phone call, but nobody knew a thing. They sent out an internet APB. Finally, when Dean didn’t appear for a rehearsal for his band, which had its first really big gig coming up in just a couple of weeks, they used his password to read his email. Saleh’s name opened the door to the information that Dean’s body was in the morgue, where it had been already for an entire week. Later, investigators would attribute this extraordinary delay to an unspecified “police error.”

Now, I’m going to reference a bit of one of louchette’s emails to me. I hope she won’t mind my putting into the post what she’d have preferred not to put in comments:

below is a copy of what i posted, so that you can have the links. and again, i will NEVER believe there was no foul play involved. dean without ID? hell, he never went anyplace without his passport, lest some hottie offer to fly him to paris on the spur of the moment. and i know from spending time with him in person that he wasn’t strung out, had really cleaned himself up, was planning to go forward with a new phase of life.

i think he knew too much. i think it was made to look like an accident, whether by saleh or someone else i don’t know. and i think that any deeper investigation would have exposed some powerful people and that couldn’t be allowed.

and g-d fucking dammit i miss him so much. i actually am crying again. but i’m not gonna say that in a comment.

It’s not as though Dean didn’t have time to arrange himself before departing. And it bears repeating that he was so far beyond narcotics that he had actually quit smoking dope in the months before his death. Whatever the disposition of his identification, there’s the matter of the cell phone, presumably taken into evidence by the cops: why couldn’t they have called any of the numbers on that phone to figure out whose corpse it was that they were dealing with? Did they just figure that they were going to take Saleh’s word that this second dead body wheeled out of his apartment within the span of a week was who he said it was? It doesn’t make much sense.

The following appeared on another blog dealing largely with gay issues:

The story made DC’s Fox 5 News at 10 last night. And this morning my city councilman (I live in the same Ward as the crime scene) emailed this out…

I wanted you to know that this morning I spoke with Commander Anzallo, who heads up detectives for MPD, concerning a report of two deaths at the Envoy at 2400 16th NW.

On two separate dates–September 16 and September 20–just four days apart the tenant called 911 to report an unconscious man in his apartment.

In both cases, the individual was >unconscious but dead on scene, there >were no visible signs if trauma or foul play and each person had been invited into the apartment by the tenant.

Police executed a search warrant, and are treating this as highly suspicious. They are awaiting further medical reports.

The first death involved someone who was 26 years old, and the second someone who was 45 years old.

That is all there is to say at present.

One would have hoped that under such circumstances, the investigators would have pushed hard for more evidence regarding the circumstances. But if there were more pertinent evidence, you’re not going to find it in the news. Dean’s sister Beth (his mother predeceased him) expresses some of the same kinds of frustration with the police and investigators that Mrs. Wone has encountered:

the police knew who dean was….they claim that the fact that he was visiting alone from out of town caused the delay in notification. i think it is clear that his death was being treated as just another dead hooker until his fame and vast army of loved ones became apparent.

I’m going to let the WaPo take over for a moment:

According to a police affidavit filed in D.C. Superior Court, Saleh told detectives in September that he gave Johnson a Rozerem pill. And the Web site of WTTG-TV (Channel 5) quoted Saleh as saying in an interview that he kept OxyContin in his apartment hidden from visitors. In a brief interview yesterday, Saleh’s attorney, Paul Kiyonaga, would not discuss his client’s medications.

“Mr. Saleh has been informed that the autopsies on Mr. Conklin and Mr. Johnson have been completed and there has been no finding of wrongdoing in connection with their deaths,” Kiyonaga said in a statement. “Mr. Saleh hopes that these autopsy results will afford closure to their families and to all those who are grieving the tragic loss of these men.”

Conklin, a business graduate of Arizona State University, worked as a nightclub bouncer last summer in Provincetown, Mass., a resort community on Cape Cod. John Allen, who became romantically involved with Conklin in Provincetown and shared an apartment with him there, said in an interview that he never saw his friend use drugs.

Johnson, however, was open about his emotional instability and off-and-on battles with substance abuse, acquaintances said. One friend in Manhattan, Dale Corvino, said that most of the drugs in Johnson’s body probably were medications that had been prescribed for him.

“Elavil is an antidepressant, and I’m pretty sure he was taking an antidepressant,” Corvino said. “Klonopin is an anti-anxiety pill, and I think Dean probably would have taken something like that for the trip down there.” Johnson, who came here by train, “really had a lot of anxiety about traveling alone. And he had a shoulder injury, which was really very painful, and I know he was taking something for it, which could have been the Ultram.”

So, nothing to see here, move along, right? Numerous MSM articles replicate this bit of information from Mr. Corvino, but the only one worth reading for the context is the one from the Village Voice:

The next day, September 16, [boyfriend John] Allen called Conklin’s phone from Massachusetts, and a D.C. police officer answered. Two attempts later, he was told by Saleh that Conklin was dead. Allen says he called back again demanding an explanation, and he says Saleh claimed that Conklin had been upset and that Saleh had comforted him. “Then he became dismissive,” Allen notes, “and he asked me, ‘What else can I do for you?’ ” Further calls to Jeremy’s phone went to voicemail.

Saleh told police that Conklin “must have taken some pills.”

Saleh’s monstrous narcissism in that instance sounds quite a bit like that reported in the Washington Blade:

During the course of the ride, Mr. Saleh stated to members of the Metropolitan Police Department, ‘What is the media going to call me? The gimp black widow?’” the affidavit quotes him as saying. It says Saleh also stated during the ride to the police station, “I guess I won’t have any more dinner parties.”

Corvino said Johnson’s friends learned through an e-mail exchange between Johnson and Saleh shortly before Johnson’s visit to Saleh’s apartment that Saleh referred to himself as a “gimp” because of his physical injuries and pain.

The police affidavit made no mention about whether investigators placed any special significance in Saleh’s description of himself as a “black widow,” a reference to the male-killing, poisonous spider.

Through the e-mail exchange, which friends obtained by entering Johnson’s account, the friends learned that Saleh invited Johnson to stay with him to keep him company “because he was freaked out” over Conklin’s death, Corvino said.

“Steve, sometime prior, had hired Dean as an escort,” said Corvino, who noted that he read the e-mail exchanges between Johnson and Saleh. “But this visit was not on the basis of an escort visit,” Corvino said.

“He always would end up sort of forming personal relationships with his clients, his Johns,” Corvino said of Johnson.

Allen said police and the news media initially misidentified Conklin as “Jordan Cronkin.” He said Conklin’s last name was misspelled by police and that he and his family used the name Jeremy as his first name since the time he was a child.

Allen learned of Conklin’s death when a D.C. police officer answered Allen’s cell phone call to Conklin. Allen gave police contact information of Conklin’s family. Neither Conklin nor Johnson had any official ID on them or with them at the times of their deaths.

Conklin’s father arranged a viewing in Arlington, Va., of his son’s body for Allen. The body was then cremated and shipped to Conklin’s mother in Arizona, who is no longer with the father. Allen, who said the news of his boyfriend’s death has been highly upsetting though they only dated a few months, plans a memorial service on the beach in Provincetown at sunset on Oct. 27 for Conklin’s gay friends.

Now, Saleh admits having given Dean a Rozerem–a sleep agent–in order to calm him down, though Dale Corvino states it’s likely that, apart from the anti-depressant Dean was on (that helped him kick some of his other drug habits), he may have taken the anti-anxiety drug Klonopin. The toxicology reports state that in Dean Johnson’s case, as in Conklin’s, the major contributing factor to the acute intoxication from which they are both determined to have died was the OxyContin. It seems rather . . . irresponsible of Steven Saleh to have left it once again where it might be found by a visitor. But the parallels go further. In his emails to Dean Johnson regarding Jeremy Conklin, Saleh unfolds the overdose in real time:

Meanwhile, Johnson started getting e-mails from Saleh about his visitor. Saleh, sounding like he was apprehensive about Johnson’s reaction, at first claimed that Conklin wouldn’t be around when Johnson arrived, and emphasized that he wouldn’t be having sex with him. But Saleh later e-mailed a photograph of Conklin’s penis and suggested that the young man join in their activities. “Maybe he’ll learn something,” Johnson responded. But later, Saleh sent several more messages saying that Conklin had been drinking his Bacardi rum. Saleh says that it didn’t surprise him after looking at Conklin’s MySpace page. He concluded that Conklin was recovering from some kind of abuse in his background by turning to drink. He told Johnson that he was trying to get Conklin to relax.

This was precisely the reason he would later provide for having supplied the Rozerem to Johnson, though why Johnson would have to relax after arriving isn’t clear. Nor is it clear why the anxious admirer would wish to administer a powerful sleeping agent at 9:30 pm, when he had been so eager for Dean to arrive. Leaving aside the toxicologist’s view that the OxyContin was principally to blame for the deaths, that still doesn’t at all explain how Saleh gets away uncharged with supplying a prescription drug to a man who dies in his apartment. At one point, investigators were actually floating the possibility that Johnson had a bad drug interaction between Viagra or Cialis and his anti-depressant.

In a different article, in the WaPo, we get this extra bit of information:

Conklin came by bus Sept. 14, arriving at the Envoy late at night. The friend said that the next day, Saleh told Johnson that Conklin was enjoying himself and that he had been drinking Saleh’s rum. He also wrote that he was going to let Conklin send a message to Johnson.

Shortly afterward, the friend said, another e-mail arrived in Johnson’s mailbox, apparently from Conklin, who introduced himself and said that he was delighted to be living with Saleh, that he had not felt this happy in a long time.

Why does that ring untrue? Because according to John Allen, Conklin hadn’t made up his mind yet to move to DC.

The parallels go still further, though: whatever the “police error” responsible for Johnson’s corpse having been consigned to the morgue for a week before anyone he knew apart from Saleh having found out about it, the delay in contacting anyone about Jordan “Jeremy” Conklin’s death had to do with the police reporting the name as Jordan Cronkin, according to his boyfriend, John Allen.

So, we’ve got two guys, one 6′ 4″ and the other 6′ 6″, both dead principally of the combined effects of booze and OxyContin, often prescribed for the fibromyalgia that Saleh said that he was suffering from (oddly claiming as well, it seems, that the condition was job related), both of whom are found to be missing any identification, both of whose friends and family weren’t contacted by authorities in a timely fashion, both cases handled by the Gay and Lesbian Liaison:

Police have declined to say whether he [Saleh] is a suspect because no evidence has emerged that a crime has been committed, police said.

Johnson’s friends have said Johnson told them Saleh is a former federal government employee who sought disability status for what he claimed was a work-related injury. Johnson reportedly described Saleh’s apartment as a “mini pharmacy,” the friends have said, because Saleh was taking a large number of prescription drugs.

The affidavit says Saleh told police he had given Johnson a sleeping pill the night of Sept. 19, when friends say Johnson arrived in Washington, and that Saleh discovered Johnson unconscious the next morning. The affidavit says Saleh told police that Conklin “must have taken some pills,” which, according to Saleh, caused Conklin to lose consciousness in the late morning or early afternoon of Sept. 16.

Saleh has not returned calls to his apartment seeking comment.

Police have declined to provide information beyond what appears in the affidavit, other than to say there were no signs of trauma or injuries on the two bodies and no outward evidence of foul play.

“The Medical Examiner will have to guide us as to whether it’s a criminal matter,” said Sgt. Brett Parson, an assistant to Chief of Police Cathy Lanier and former commander of the police department’s Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit.

Parson said he could not comment on the preliminary findings of the Medical Examiner, which are based on autopsies performed on the bodies. But he said the Medical Examiner’s office has not listed the two cases as a priority concerning the toxicology tests, a development, according to Parson, that usually means authorities don’t believe a death is a homicide.

Parson said results of the toxicology tests are expected within two to four weeks. Allen, Conklin’s boyfriend, said a detective working on the investigation told him it could be as long as several months before the toxicology tests are completed.

As was the case with Robert Wone, the toxicology results were unconscionably delayed.

Let’s say that the police misplaced both the bodies at the morgue. It still doesn’t explain why they wouldn’t have gotten into Dean Johnson’s cell phone to try to notify someone that he had become a corpse. It doesn’t explain, either, why they couldn’t pinpoint a time at which Saleh had first contacted a band member, a bit of information that seems crucial, given that he says he discovered a corpse the next day, and one that doesn’t, apparently, appear in the affidavit. Clearly, the investigators made no real effort to construct a timeline. Just as clearly, there’s a lot of crucial evidence that they didn’t follow up on, not the least of which is determining just what might have happened to Dean Johnson’s identification, which nobody has mentioned retrieving from his NYC apartment on the very, very unlikely chance that he left town without it. Neither, apparently, has anyone discovered what may have become of Jordan “Jeremy” Conklin’s. What other drugs did police find in the apartment, and were they also prescribed? We don’t know. Did police contact the prescribing physician? We don’t know. What kinds of contacts might Steven Saleh have in Washington that could have made this thing go away, or is it just because the police and the medical examiners suck that this guy’s gotten off? We don’t know. Why, if Dean had accidentally overdosed, did Saleh not take his band mate’s advice and call 911, and even if he believed that Dean had recovered, did he think it was a wise idea to go to sleep? We don’t know. What estimate for a time of death did the coroners give in either of these cases? We just don’t know.

Were any other blood samples taken from Conklin’s body before it was cremated? Remember, the question of whether the examiner’s office retained blood samples from Robert Wone was undetermined. Were any samples of Dean Johnson’s kept? We don’t know.

In the event, no charges ever were brought against Saleh, and although the cause of death is listed as undetermined, rather than accidental death or suicide or, obviously, homicide in both cases, they’re both closed as of the moment.

If you go to the Motherboards, the last entry you’ll find is dated 9-20-08. If you go to Dean Johnson’s MySpace page, someone posted as recently as 2-23-09. If you look at the last entry on his MySpace blog, at the bottom you’ll find that he was watching a movie called Cruising, a detail that gave friends gooseflesh:

Al Pacino hunts for a serial killer in a lurid world of gay leather bars in Cruising. Because of his resemblance to the victims of a series of slayings, cop Steve Burns (Pacino) goes undercover as a gay man, wandering through wild, gyrating bacchanalias straight out of a Tom of Finland painting, hoping that the killer will be drawn to his dark, tormented eyes.

Steven Saleh’s MySpace page is still open though. He last logged in a year and a week ago, advertising himself as a gay man who liked to swim to keep himself in shape. As far as I know, he’s still around, and he’s probably out there on the web somewhere, still casting.

Posted by Dan Collins @ 8:23pm

Comments (76)

  1. Keep on this.

  2. Oxycontin for fibromyalgia? Huh? Who wrote that scrip?

    Back to the meat of the thing, this is quite a story, Dan. Worth digging into.

  3. Or, what blowhard said.

  4. Full disclosure: My father died addicted to Oxycontin. Which is OK when you’re a terminal cancer patient. It’s a blessing, really.

    Fibromyalgia doesn’t rate Oxycontin.

  5. Pingback: Hey

  6. Hey Dan —

    First link is to a gmail page only “1qygpcgurkovy” cookie guy can open.

    Keep on this.

  7. I saw Cruising once. With T. She is on messenger. She says we thought it was very 70s and that the 70s are something we nod at appreciatively because we are not always able to make meaningful distinctions among films of the period, but not a fun movie to watch is what she remembers … “part of that gritty, shiny-sweaty realism that dominated the 70’s crime flicks” (Hardcore, Deathwish, etc.) … basically she says “ick”. She says this 70s sort of thing culminated with Scarface and then America got more better air condition and or makeup artists.

  8. Same problem as psycho re: the first link, Dan.

  9. What’s with the True Detective mein lately?

  10. Trying to be more bipartisan, I think cynn. Bigger tent and all that.

  11. Thanks, guys. First link should be fixed, now.

  12. “What’s with the True Detective mein lately?”


  13. There have been some fairly big scandals involving the D.C. police — a gang of drug-dealing police who murdered witnesses, for example. There is also the awesome incompetence of the D.C. government to consider. Then, there is the surprising indifference one sometimes encounters when reporting crimes to the police, in general; I have encountered this once or twice. A ‘Through the Looking Glass’ environment to be sure.

    Killers getting off scott-free because of influence, bribery, or connections is primo nightmare material. That’s petit aristocracy, banana republic stuff. Yes. Stay on it, by all means.

  14. Disturbing. It’s been a couple years since I took the Metroliner to DC but post 9/11 they’ve made a pretty big point of requiring photo ID. I find it hard to believe Johnson left New York without it.

  15. Regarding the “True Detective” jibe — the possible issues in these cases are utterly consistent with the overall direction of this web site, in my opinion.

  16. Per Dicentra’s advice, I’d mention to cynn that a death isn’t necessarily the best jumping off point for a joke, it’s also a bad time to forget the whole I before E rule. “mein”, you fucking idiot.

  17. This is such an unfortunate story. I hope those responsible are found and brought to justice.

  18. Sure, louchette. My pleasure. Let me know if anything needs to be altered.

  19. Something really stinks here.

  20. I grew to hate DC, its crap government and the way that government treated its people. Reading this is an awful reminder why that was. Goddamn it.

  21. There is, as has been noted a political stink to all of these. To the political class, well leashed incompetence has as much value as competence. It provides the cover of “they were just stupid”.

    Keep at it. There is a thread in there that someone doesn’t want pulled. With all the skeletons in DC who knows where any pulled thread may lead.

    Not to mention that any death needs to be explained much better than this. Everyone deserves it, everyone, we are all humans and equal under law and in the eyes of God.

  22. On September 13, he acknowledged that Johnson would rather fly, but asked if he could purchase a train ticket for him instead.

    Planes have manifests and trains don’t have manifests.

  23. oh. Saleh makes noises as if he were the type of person what would be very … susceptible to blackmail, and maybe something in his pharmacopeia was paranoia-inducing?

    Also, just on the face of it, escorts and blackmail are sort of not strangers. But he’s l’s friend, so let’s flip that about. People what hire escorts are not unaware that escorts and blackmail are sort of not strangers. A 40+ guy what takes up this sort of business is probably not well set up for retirement and Johnson was an anxious person. Anxious enough to let on about any financial anxiety in a way what might inadvertently make a paranoid person paranoid?

  24. i know that dean was, perhaps, a less sympathetic figure than mr. wone, or even young jeremy. but no human deserves to have their life taken without consequence, with the crime neither investigated nor prosecuted thoroughly.

    something is very sick in our system, and in our capital city in particular, i think…

    and thank you again dan. <3

  25. That’s one angle, hf. It’s compicated, though. Saleh purchases Dean’s ticket on 9-13-07. Conklin departs from MA, where he’s been working at a resort for the summer and met his boyfriend, on 9-14, speaks with him late afternoon on 9-15, dead the next day. It’s true that Saleh’s spilled more information to Dean than in retrospect he wanted to, but it’s also true that he appears to have fantasized about a 3-way with both of these guys. Then, Jeremy dies.

    Dean’s already got his ticket. Does Saleh intend to murder both of these guys? Does he accidentally kill Jeremy while trying to get him wasted enough to have sex with a gimp? He apparently likes the idea of being imprisoned and dominated. He’s 5′ 7″, these guys are pretty darned tall. So, Jeremy’s dead. Does he then go about administering the same cocktail to Dean, just to prove its effects on Jeremy were replicable?

    So, let’s imagine that this guy’s actually a serial killer. That’s an awful lot of carnage for a beginner, two in four days. Why would he want to draw so much attention to himself? Not clear.

  26. I was thinking Conklin might could have inspired him.

  27. capitol. dammit. *sigh* i am tired. and sad. and wishing for justice, for more than just these three. and going to bed. me & my typos. amen.

  28. Dan, I sent an email to your ver. account about a very minor detail.

  29. It’s just… I don’t think there would be a for real meaningful difference between airfare and a train ticket from NY to DC. This is not making sense.

  30. Be interesting to know whether any of Saleh’s emails advanced a rationale for Amtrak, hf. Hope someone archived them.

  31. there was another thing…

  32. everything about this doesn’t quite make sense, HF. which is precisely why it is so very troubling. just like the wone case is. something in both stinks. badly. about the DC authoritahs. and which powerful people they msy be protecting from exposure. and really i should go to sleep, if i can.

  33. louchette, I’m sorry about the loss of your friend.

    I’d have said it earlier but I default towards have a drink and stare at the floor on occasion.

  34. Over the next days, Saleh poured out his anxieties to Dean online, begging him to come and support him at his time of need. Earlier his importunities had gotten to the point where good natured Dean got snappish about it, because if he was going to go to DC, he wanted to fly. Packing his 6′ 6″ frame into most commuter accommodations wasn’t a prospect he particularly relished for any long period, especially as he’d recently injured his shoulder. Saleh was solicitous and bought him an Amtrak ticket after inquiring into the dimensions of the seat; he knew that Johnson would rather fly, but … And Johnson apologized for having been irritable.

    Unless first class was on the table it’s a given that Amtrak would be more comfortable than coach. Duh. Comfort sells a lot of Amtrak tickets. It’s a nice way to get from where you are to where you’re going, for 2-4 hour trips anyway.

  35. Saleh might could be reading this. That’s a lot not not creepy.

  36. u got a greg palast hat?
    cuz nuttin says diggin
    like leaning on ur shovel
    and wiping brow with a..
    greg palast hat!

  37. I think it’ll be a cold day in hell before Greg Asspal covers this.

  38. your pacifica is showing

  39. get’s my news from all sides o’ the
    tricep cube
    got to…
    i’m going to boston t party
    makin sign/ need help/ don’t want to be lame
    f’k it/want 2 b special
    my 2 ideas are..
    congress/ 30 minutes to pass a bill

    30 minutes in make-up [too long]
    msm/ if u r fair/ i mite buy ur paper [NOT]
    fox sucks too
    i didn’t vote for a bunch of pirates

    sorry/ these r all lame
    but i’m going anyway/ got three days

  40. if u funny people come up w/ a nasty/sarcastic/tic /tic/ bomb
    i will use it!
    shame?/ not i
    said the voter to barney frank
    come to massachusetts…
    pirate free since
    john kerry took up windsurfing….
    but there be treasure…]
    in mary joes-teeth!
    there be a map! aye

  41. Pretty deep Dan, and louchette. Let’s hope this Saleh fellow gets what coming to him.

    This whole story just reeks of coverup, and the truth need be told.

  42. I suspect part of this lack of investigation is police really don’t want to get involved in what goes on in the gay community. There is a very perverse element with some members and there is an attitude of people putting themselves in harms way.

    But as pointed out by Dan, this is more than some perverse gay men gone wild and dying as a result of recklessness. There appears to be something very wrong going on with these cases.

  43. This incident reeks and people are right to ask very tough questions of the DC authorities. Without more specific information I cannot conclude this is a cover-up. More likely individual laziness and institutional inertia coupled with fear of entering a moral morass and political minefield. With maybe a smattering of personal bigotry mixed in.

    Even with the best intentions a group of detectives asking alot of invasive questions is not going to be well received in the ‘community.’ Not to mention that even the innoccent (of murder) probably have any number of other things that they don’t want discovered by the police. Likewise what investigative agency really wants to deal with all the tangential crime that will be found within that particular pandora’s box. Just imagine the reception if DC police started tracking down the rest of Saleh’s tops and bringing them in for questioning.

    Even in my own limited experience I have personally seen, from Sarasota to Scottsdale, every single aspect of this tradgedy played out numerous times (with the sole exception being the serial bodies in the same apartment aspect.) It goes on, and is tolerated – by the very people it victimizes, everywhere.

    Overall this is just another example of the further balkanization of our society. The GLBT community is just another ‘hood. Law enforcement will only begin aggressively persuing these types of cases when the community demands the attention and actively assists in their efforts. But, given that a relatively large and vocal subset of the culture specifically choosen to live well outside the laws and mores of the mainstream (and, most importantly, likes it that way) I do not forsee that change any time soon.

  44. Giving the police the benefit of the doubt, they may simply not have enough evidence to investigate further, or they may be waiting to see what Saleh does next, or they’re just incompetent.

    Keeping in mind that what we are reading is not a police report , but anecdotal, it certainly reads as if both deaths were planned. Perhaps Mr Saleh concluded he needed bigger thrills.If the police aren’t willing to do anything. Find out his history. Find out his habits.

  45. Rod Stewart on “George”: ~

    Georgie’s life ended there
    But I ask who really cares
    George once said to me and I quote
    He said never wait or hesitate
    Give and get before it’s too late
    You may not get another chance
    Cause it’s a mask and it won’t last
    Play it hard and play it fast
    Georgie was a friend of mine

  46. DC if for reals a weird weird place what with the not quite so-Boston college atmosphere and its newly minted status as financial capital in a twilight zone-Rome in decline sort of way what with the swamps and all. My friend K. was at medical school down there but got into the cocaine and now is no longer a med person but waits tables and inhabits the seedy underbelly of a seedy place somewhere adjacent to DuPont circle.

  47. The thought of DC finally being able to buck the constitution and gaining statehood frightens me. Knowing that it is for number games only, and by all definition a city/state… with epidemic corruption. This case in only a veneer of what must truly be happening in that swamp.

  48. I don’t think DC is all that different than much of the rest of the country. There are threads present in that story that link up to much of what goes on elsewhere. There are people like Saleh – a sad mix of predator and parasite – who exist on some sort of state sanctioned dole which allows them to persist and spread their debauchery and misery to whoever they contact.

    Currently I work in the SW Virginia, E Kentucky portion of Appalachia. There are dirtballs and a sordid subculture here too. The only differences are that they live in trailers instead of toney hotels and it is socially acceptable to express ouright bigotry and hatred towards them.

  49. That should read ‘There are people like Saleh… everywhere.’


  50. Very creepy. I think this kind of thing happens far more often than one might think. Young people (and some not so young) just head off toward the fun, never realizing how vunerable they are to people they don’t really know.

  51. This sounds like a modern Raymond Chandler: deaths, police cover-ups, possible political and/or money powers in the background, trying to keep things under wraps, etc.

    Not that I am trying to make light of any death; but that is the way this is reading.
    Keep it up Dan.

  52. i could far more easily believe that it was merely a case of sloppy police work and general CYA behavior, and that the officers may not have wanted to dig too deeply into things with a high ick factor, had there only been one mysterious death at saleh’s apartment. but two in less than a week? it just seems like too big of a coincidence. and it seems like it should have been a giant red flag for the detectives. back when this happened i didn’t raise a stink anyplace, as it wasn’t my place to do so. but i followed the story as his sister and others fought with the authorities about the case. and reading paglia’s wone piece last week, where there clearly seems to have been a major miscarriage of justice, brought all my questions about the DC authorities and the DC legal system back to my mind.

    and yes, such evil things happen most everyplace. humans being humans after all. but i find it especially troubling when something so dodgy and so smelly of badness happens in the nation’s capitol, where there are so very many powerful and politically connected people.

    also, even if it was simply a case of massive police incompetence that is still troubling, even if not terribly surprising. and that too needs to be exposed, particularly if it is in some manner systemic. and again, especially so when the system in question is that of the nation’s capitol, the seat of government power.

    and maybe it’s dumb, but i have to keep hoping that whoever was responsible for the deaths in both fishy cases is caught and punished for their crimes, as well as any related cover-ups such as they might exist. even if that seems unlikely now. i’d still like to live to see some justice for these three mens’ deaths. so that their families can have some closure and some peace.

  53. Jordan “Jeremy” Conklin, a wayward 26-year-old gay kid who’d escaped from his Arizona Mormon roots to the big city

    Now he’s dead. Not much of an escape.

  54. #56
    Thee just might not be enough evidence for the DA to make a case. Two people in a room, one of them dies and there is no overt evidence of foul play, the police only have the word of the survivor to go on.

  55. Yes, Rusty, but there were two of them in the space of four days.

  56. And they just happened to find dude’s stashed oxycontin and OD on it.

  57. What a sad tale. Should’ve read it yesterday.

  58. Two people in one week OD in your apartment in the real world, even accidentally, and you are going to jail.

  59. Something smells rotten with these incidents, and the police need to investigate each death fully. Two young men dead, in one apartment, days apart. I hope Steven Saleh is reading this thread. Great reporting, Dan. Thank you for spending your time researching and publishing it all.

  60. Two people in one week OD in your apartment in the real world, even accidentally, and you are going to jail.

    Especially when they OD on your drugs.

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  62. #59
    I’m not taking the side of the police. It’s just how they operate. John Wayne Gacey managed to kill 33 mostly gay men until the 33rd. The 33rd was just a kid who lived two blocks away from where JWG was working and looking for a summer job.
    All I’m saying is if the cops aren’t doing anything maybe its time for other interested parties to do some investigating of their own.

  63. Nobody taking Klonpin needs a sleeping pill.

  64. He became a doorman at a club…
    Did Dean work the door/velvet rope at Webster Hall in the early ’90s?

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  67. I dated Jeremy Conklin for a while before he left Arizona. There are some mistruths in the story. His legal name was never Jordan and his did not graduate from Arizona State. He actually never went.

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  69. Hi Dan,I am Jeremy’s ex John Allen I enjoyed your article much um, If I can help in anyway I would be glad to I haven’t searched Jeremy’s name too much recently online. I did today and found your article which was written a few months back but the most recent I have found in quite some time. Umm I do need to make one comment though to Daniel who commented on 4/20 Jeremy’s name on his birth certificate was listed as Jordan, and yes he didn’t end up graduating but he did attend ASU for a semester. Anyways Dan I can be reached via email at jgabe128@yahoo.com or my myspace url is livefan81. I myself have contacted the ploice so many times and get nowhere, so recently as a few months ago.
    Please feel free to contact me
    John Allen

  70. John, you’ll find Dan currently blogging at POWIP. As it is unclear how much Dan checks back here and it is therefore doubtful he’ll find your comment, I urge you to see him there. He will be interested to hear from you.

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