Chelsea florist’s tragic end
- Last Updated: 4:51 AM, March 4, 2012
- Posted: 1:07 AM, March 4, 2012
A Manhattan floral designer who frequently picked up younger men was found tied up and slain in his Chelsea apartment in what may have been a sexual encounter gone wrong, sources said yesterday.
John Laubach’s hands were bound with duct tape and tethered to a bedpost with an electrical cord, and his feet were also tied together, the sources said.
Laubach, 57, whom neighbors described as an eccentric who often walked around with his white cockatoo, Bolo, on his shoulder, was found Friday at around 8 p.m. wearing only a white undershirt and gagged with duct tape, his face covered with a towel.
There were no indications of forced entry into Laubach’s West 22nd Street apartment, which had been ransacked.
Laubach had plans that night with a close female friend, who had a key to the apartment and was worried when she couldn’t reach him by phone.
With no visible signs of trauma, the city Medical Examiner’s Office said the cause of death was pending toxicology test results, which could take up to 10 days.
Sources said detectives are poring over Laubach’s cellphone and computer to learn whom he was talking to before he was killed, and are exploring the theory that one of his hookups may have resulted in his death, the sources said.
They are also exploring the possibility of a home-invasion robbery, the sources said.
“Whoever was involved tried to cover up what he did,” according to a source.
Laubach, who once worked for Sotheby’s and later with master florist Chris Giftos, frequently hooked up with men in their early 20s, feeding and clothing them, his pals said.
“I don’t know him to have any enemies,” a longtime friend said. “Maybe he picked up the wrong person, who thought he had money.
“I’m devastated. He didn’t deserve to die like that.”
Described as a kind and generous, Laubach went everywhere with Bolo, a Goffin cockatoo. The bird was being looked after by NYC Animal Care & Control.
“He would be concerned about the bird; he would want the bird to be taken care of,” a friend said.
The friend, who did not reveal his name, said Laubach was pursuing a master’s degree in social work. Another longtime pal said the highly religious Laubach, whose sister and parents all predeceased him, was studying to become an Episcopal priest.
Laubach sold his Fifth Avenue apartment in 2010 for $650,000 because he couldn’t afford it anymore, the friend said. He still attended the nearby Church of the Ascension, where he had Bolo blessed in October.
“He was at church often, a wonderful guy,” said fellow churchgoer Dennis Weiskopf. “He brought [Bolo] to the Blessing of the Animals. He would even come to church with the bird on his shoulder.”
Health issues, including a 2009 stroke, kept Laubach from working, friends said.
“He was a kind person,” the longtime pal said. “Everybody was fond of him.”
A neighbor said, “He looked like Mel Brooks — just better looking.”
Erika Medina, a worker at Cafe Champignon around corner from the crime scene, said Laubach was a “regular customer.”
“Everyone knew him because of the parrot,” Medina said.
Other neighborhood regulars recalled him sitting on a bench outside the cafe with the bird.
Laubach’s former neighbors on Fifth Avenue described him as an outgoing person who regularly attended church.
Additional reporting by Larry Celona, Aaron Feis and Kirstan Conley