Kew Gardens native Michael Salem believes his friend was killed and the events around his death covered up.
he’s determined to find the truth.
his words may sound like the stuff of TV movies, Salem insists they’re the
real-life circumstances surrounding the death of his former employee
Christopher O’Connor – a 22-year-old Jackson Heights man who was found
dead outside of an East Elmhurst nightclub in 1987.
New York City Medical Examiner at the time, Josette Montas, declared
O’Connor’s death to be “acute alcohol poisoning.”
Salem is convinced that O’Connor was murdered by bouncers who beat and
choked him at the now-closed L’Amour East nightclub at 77-00 Queens Blvd.
on April 11, 1987.
is trying to get the case reopened as a homicide.
to Salem, powerful politicians connected with the club covered up the case
to protect L’Amour East. He pointed out that Montas made no mention of
cuts or abrasions on O’Connor’s body when making a diagnosis, and
mentioned that several independently-hired medical examiners questioned
“Alcohol doesn’t kill 22-year-old Irish boys who are six feet tall and over 200 pounds. That’s ridiculous,” Salem said.
Salem’s website was launched in August and tells the story of O’Connor’s death in detail based on evidence – including witness accounts – compiled by private investigators.
asks witnesses to come forward, and offers a $100,000 reward to anyone whose
information leads to the reopening of the case and the conviction of
an active member of Parents of Murdered Children who has already spent more
than $1 million on this case, said, “The website should shake things up.
If the public reads the facts of Christopher’s case, they’ll see it’s
suspicious. If enough public interest surrounds it, maybe we’ll finally
get some justice.”
In an effort to get even more public interest in the case, Salem recently spoke to author and O.J. Simpson trial witness Mark Fuhrman about O’Connor’s death, and Fuhrman is interested in making the story into a book. Salem said, “I’m not going away until something gets done.”
to Salem’s website, on the evening of April 10, 1987, O’Connor was in
the L’Amour East nightclub with his girlfriend Deborah Faller and his
friend Vinny Cavasos watching the bands Motorhead and Savage Grace when he
became intoxicated and separated from the group.
some point during the evening, a drunk O’Connor was reportedly dragged out
of the club by bouncers, beaten up, and dejected, leaving his jacket inside.
appeared at the club again at about 4 a.m., when witnesses saw him fighting
with bouncers outside of the club.
to the website, at 4:21 a.m., O’Connor made a 911 call from a payphone
outside of the club saying he had been beaten badly and had blood gushing
from his eye. An officer was dispatched to Queens Boulevard and 76th Street
where the payphone was at about 5 a.m., but reported that no one was there.
making the 911 call, O’Connor also called Salem collect, and told him that
“they” had his jacket, and that he would “take care of it.”
said, “I didn’t know what was going on . . . If he had been drinking, he
may have thought that the bouncers stole his jacket and he may have gotten
loud. But that’s no reason to kill anyone.”
about 4:41 a.m., witnesses said they saw O’Connor try to get back into the
club again to get his jacket before bouncers dragged him into the club’s
1:45 p.m. on April 11, O’Connor was found face up and dead in a dumpster
behind L’Amour East by janitor Riza Dekidjien, a man who lived at
L’Amour East, and was found dead in 1989 days before he was scheduled to
speak with lawyers for the O’Connor family, Salem said.
records show that Dekidjien’s death is still unsolved, and that the death
was caused by an “unforced” break-in.
Dekidjien’s family did not return numerous phone calls, and Salem said, “That’s not suspicious? A guy who was key to the investigation was killed, apparently by someone with a key or who knew him, and that was never investigated? That’s not right. That’s wrong.”
told the Tribune that conversations he has had with police and former
members of the Queens District Attorney’s office have led him to believe
that former City Councilman Morton Povman was involved in the alleged
covered up of O’Connor’s murder.
said that Povman was protecting the club – which was already under
investigation at the time of O’Connor’s death because of a fatal beating
by bouncers there in 1984 – because of his legal ties to Joseph Guarino,
the man who owned the land that L’Amour East was located on. Povman
represented Guarino and several bouncers in a civil suit filed by the
O’Connors over Christopher O’Connor’s death that was settled for
$60,000. Salem said, “Povman settled the civil suit, but he made the
criminal stuff go away.”
who was unaware of the most recent accusations being made against him by
Salem, told the Tribune, “[Salem] is giving me a lot more power
than I ever had,” and said, “I was involved in the case, yes, and I can
just say from my memory that it was settled. That’s where it ends . . .
The police did a thorough investigation of this young man’s death, and
couldn’t find anyone to charge criminally. They couldn’t even identify
the guy who beat [O’Connor] up. I had absolutely nothing to do with it,
and I know nothing about any cover up. It’s dead meat, as far as I’m
added, “[Salem] ought to get the facts straight before he goes around
saying things that aren’t true. He’ll end up with a lawsuit if he keeps
responded, “That’s exactly what I want. I’d welcome a lawsuit. It
would give me a reason to bring all of this to light again . . . I love
Guarino, who lives in Nassau County, did not return numerous phone calls.
also believes that there were several bouncers at the club on April 10 that
have questionable records, including Patrick Bannon, who was later arrested
and convicted for murdering an off-duty housing officer outside of a Bayside
club also connected to Guarino.
bouncer supposedly there the night of O’Connor’s death was Angel Del
Villar, a man who ran for City Council in 2001, and was accused of
conspiring to cover up a death at another nightclub, according to published
Villar did not return numerous telephone calls.
The L’Amour East club, also known as “The Edge,” had 27 other criminal disturbances from March 15, 1985 to Dec. 20, 1986, including harassment, rape, assault, and several others. Salem said, “This place was bad news. The people involved with it were bad news. Yet nothing was ever done to the place.”
said that his website gets 10,000 hits a day, and said he has gotten phone
calls from dozens of people – including people overseas – saying they
were there that night and saw “suspicious things.”
said, “I’ve heard from Motorhead roadies, I’ve heard from people
across the country, I’ve heard from locals. People saw things, and
they’ve spoken to investigators, and we’re piecing it all together.”
said he “loved Christopher like a son,” and praised him for running his
mail order women’s clothing business. He said, “He was a good kid. He
worked hard. He was set to go to the College of Human Services. He loved to
help people.” He added, “This is just one case that is not being handled
correctly. Imagine how many there are?”
Queens DA’s office would not comment on the case because, “we really
have nothing to do with it now,” according to a spokesperson, who said,
“If it’s not a criminal case, we can’t do anything with it.”
Salem said he hopes to convince Governor George Pataki to reopen the case with a special prosecutor, and said, “If this case was looked at fairly, I think the corruption involved would probably blow people away.”
with information on O’Connor’s death is encouraged to visit
www.helpchristopher.com, or call 800-874-6434.