BY MICK MEENAN | New York City detectives apprehended the suspect in the murder of Victor Dombrova Neto, a gay Brazilian native who resided in Brooklyn.
Mickey Cass, 25, was attempting to check in to a men’s homeless shelter in Miami when police officials nabbed him for the killing of Dombrova Neto, 27, a popular bartender at the Gemini Lounge, an East Village night spot.
After allegedly killing Dombrova Neto in the victim’s apartment, Cass is thought to have made off with his money and taken a bus south.
After his arrest, Cass confessed to killing Kevin Bosinski, 27, a gay Buffalo man, in the summer of 2002.
According to a Buffalo police official, New York detectives contacted the upstate department shortly after discovering Dombrova Neto’s body stuffed into a closet in an apartment at 765 Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn’s Kensington section.
The Buffalo official said that Cass has been a suspect in the Bosinski murder and cops initially suspected that Cass had fled to California. According to the official, a bench warrant for Cass’ arrest had been issued for a misdemeanor offense, and the suspect had a record for various other minor crimes.
Buffalo police did not identify Cass as a gay man, nor have they classified the Bosinski murder a hate crime.
New York City police officials described Cass, a Buffalo native, as a drifter who used his good looks and charm to pick up gay men and live with them for periods of time. Apparently, Cass also supported himself as a hustler.
The Buffalo district attorney plans to coordinate with New York City law enforcement officials to determine if Cass is the killer of Kevin Bosinski.
His confession in the Bosinski killing raised concern that Cass is a serial killer of gay men.
A New York police department spokesperson denied that their investigation includes other gay victims. New York intends to extradite Cass from Florida and a spokesperson in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office said the suspect would be arraigned on October 8 on a second degree murder charge.
“Apparently, he got into an argument with his roommate and strangled and killed him,” said the D.A.’s spokesperson.
However, according to Dombrova Neto’s friends, the victim knew Cass for only a short time and the men were not joint leaseholders.
Clarence Patton, of the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP), said that the Dombrova Neto killing does not appear to be a hate crime, but it is too early in the investigation to make that determination.
“Our initial concern was that it was partner violence,” said Patton.
He indicated that AVP was not aware of Cass before his name surfaced in media reports the day of the Dombrova Neto killing.
“Frankly, I first heard about the killing from the media,” said Patton. “The distressing part of this is that although the police released details about this person, my office was not informed.”
Patton said that the police failure to enlist AVP’s help might have occurred because detectives had such a solid lead on Cass’ whereabouts.
On the morning of September 25, police responded to an initial call at the Coney Island Avenue apartment several hours before being called again, this time by neighbors who reported a loud disturbance. According to police, when the matter of money came up, Cass became violent. He met Dombrova Neto roughly a week before the killing.
An NYPD spokesperson said that officers responding to the first harassment call left Cass in the apartment when they left because they had no reason to arrest him. The spokesperson said that the landlord discovered Dombrova Neto’s body when he entered the apartment to inspect a broken thermostat. A witness reported to the Daily News that before the police’s first visit to the apartment, he saw Cass and Dombrova Neto struggling in front of a fire escape window.
Dombrova Neto had no relatives in New York City.
Carol Arguello, a Brazilian consulate official in New York, said that his body was flown back to Sao Paolo on September 29.
Batya Lahav, a friend of Dombrova Neto, met the victim three years ago.
“He was always funny and lovable and flamboyant and really great,” she said.
According to Lahav, the victim moved to New York when he was 20 to study dancing. For the past seven years, he worked at Gemini Lounge.
“He used to dance at Gemini and you knew he was a great dancer. Vicky will be missed immeasurably,” said Lahav, referring to the victim by his nickname. “His absence is paralyzing to those of us who had the good fortune of knowing him.”
Karla Reyes, the general manager of Gemini Lounge, said in a written statement, “To me, Vicky was one of the most amazing people I have ever met. He was a uniquely sensitive and insightful person and a loyal friend. He has no idea how many hearts he touched.”
Eryck Duran is the executive director of the Brazilian Rainbow Group, an advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual Brazilians in the New York area. The group holds regular meetings at the LGBT Community Services Center on West 13th Street in Manhattan and gives advice to Brazilian and Portuguese-speaking immigrants on a variety of topics, from employment issues in the United States to homophobia and violence.
“Brazilians in New York need to be very, very careful because of homophobia or other crimes,” said Duran, who acknowledged that the United Sates grants more freedoms to its gay citizens than does Brazil. However, Duran cautioned, there are pitfalls.
“There is a false sense of security because New York is much safer than the urban areas in Brazil,” he said. “Domestic violence does strike some of our members, sometimes due to their immigration status, especially if they have American boyfriends.”
A memorial service for Victor Dombrova Neto is planned for Friday, October 17, at the Naked Lunch, 17 Thompson Street, near Grand Street, at 8 p.m. Donations are being collected to send to the victim’s family in Brazil to help pay for the cost of funeral arrangements.
For more information about the Brazilian Rainbow Group, a support group for LGBT Brazilian and Portuguese-speaking New Yorkers, call 212 367 1471 or e-mail BRG@GMHC.org.