Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jon Laubach: Death of a Chelsea Businessman

John Laubach. Personal photo.

His 2009 stroke changed his life, but it didn’t stop John Laubach. Sure, he cut back at work and had to move a few blocks away to a cheaper place, but he still had his beloved church, and he remained the sort of friendly, easy-going man who would stroll through his neighborhood with his pet cockatoo on his shoulder.

It wasn’t a stroke but rather his vibrant social life—in particular, his sympathy for rough younger men—that would lead to his death.

In March of 2011, John Laubach, 57, was found dead in his bed. He’d been bound and gagged and his small Manhattan apartment had been ransacked, but there was no sign of a break-in.

Within two weeks, police had Laubach’s alleged killers in custody. Edwin Faulkner, 30, and Juan Carlos Martinez-Herrera, 26, are accused of murdering the man who was paying them for sex.

A New Life

John Laubach left his job as an insurance executive after his stroke; it had become too hard for him to work long hours. By 2010, the Baltimore native found his Fifth Avenue apartment too expensive for his new life. He was on his—his parents and sister were already dead and he wasn’t tied to a partner—but his insurance work had treated him well and he was able to sell his Manhattan pad for $650,000. He moved from Greenwich Village to a fourth-floor walk-up on West 22nd Street in Chelsea, just half a mile uptown.

The new apartment was close enough to the Church of the Ascension that he continued to volunteer there. The stroke had left him with a limp but didn’t stop him from making the short walk every week. On Sundays he helped sexton Len Bowman prepare for the 9 a.m. service, arranging flowers, checking the candles and making sure the communion wine was ready.

He kept busy during the week too. Laubach worked with master florist Christ Giftos, and friends say he was also studying to become either a social worker or an Episcopalian priest.

Living in Chelsea, the dense commercial and residential neighborhood that’s considered the heart of New York’s gay community, meant that Laubach had plenty of social opportunities. He and his white Goffin cockatoo, Bolo, were a common site in the neighborhood.

Among his occasional haunts was an adult video store on Eighth Avenue. Laubach met Edwin Faulkner and Juan Carlos Martinez-Herrera at the Blue Store in February. The New York Daily News says that Laubach hired the two men as “caretakers.” The New York Post and the Wall Street Journal say that he was hiring them for sex.

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