THE best friend of a social worker whose body was found inside a cab says she knew something was wrong before learning of his death.
Speaking to The Sun, Shiva Campbell said she noticed several red flags after Julio Ramirez, 25, stopped responding to her texts.
The best friends, who fondly referred to themselves as "Jiva", had texted back-and-forth about Netflix's increasing prices and how streaming services were cracking down on shared accounts.
Campbell's last text to him was: "Ramirez, did something happen?"
She had no idea he was dead.
Security footage from the early hours of April 21 reportedly showed Julio walking away from the Ritz Bar and Lounge, a gay dance club, with three unknown men, his older brother Carlos Ramirez told NBC News.
There was nothing unusual about the outing, Campbell told The Sun.
"He usually went out on Wednesday or Thursday," she said.
"We were texting like we always do, and just b****ing about Netflix and the streaming services since he shares all his accounts."
His brother called to tell her Julio was pronounced dead at a local hospital in the early morning of Friday, April 21, 2022.
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What happened between the time Julio left Ritz Bar and Lounge and his death remains a mystery.
The NYPD has declined to answer any of The Sun's questions about his death.
"It's all part of the investigation," the agency said in response to every question.
That leaves little comfort to Campbell, Julio's brother Carlos, or his parents.
"[His parents] are just trying to keep it together," Campbell said.
"They're all really close. Julio was the youngest. That's their baby.
"If I'm feeling the pain this much, I can't imagine what they're feeling."
Julio studied at the University of Buffalo with Campbell and received his Master's in Social Work before landing a job in New York City.
Campbell said that the night he was found dead went from ordinary to alarming very quickly.
His location service on his iPhone was turned off, he stopped replying, and the messages she sent went from iMessage blue to text message green, she said.
"When he didn't answer, I knew something happened.
"I didn't think he was dead. I just thought he got hurt," said Campbell.
Friends are now raising money for a memorial bench at the University of Buffalo via GoFundMe.
'FULL OF LIFE AND LOVE'
Julio and Campbell became friends after studying together at Buffalo.
Campbell told The Sun that Julio lost his phone last winter, and he texted her from his iPad until he got a new phone.
She recalled the fun the two had together, sharing an anecdote from college.
Campbell said that even while classes were remote, they always had dinner at a buffet on Wednesdays.
Julio would prop the phone up with a background, tell Campbell to be quiet so he could participate in class, and then they would go back to having fun.
"He always said he can go tomorrow, so live for the day, not knowing it would actually be true," Campbell told The Sun.
"Julio was full of life and love, and he would want people to learn from his story and be aware of your surroundings – and not everyone has the best intentions in life."
'APPEARS TO BE A PATTERN'
Law enforcement sources fear Julio's death may be tied to a robbery ring.
One source told PIX11 News: "It appears to be a pattern.
"There's a group going around."
According to the source, the ring had been targeting people in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood who had been drinking – with one member posing as a cab driver.
The source said victims typically get into the taxi before being coerced into handing over their bank details.
"This is the first case where somebody died," the source added.
Within days of Julio being found dead, his family said more than $20,000 had been drained from his accounts.
Julio's phone and wallet were also missing at the time of his death.
Mysteriously, on April 25, 2022, Carlos noticed a changed Apple iCloud password and strange money transfers in his brother's emails.
Carlos told NBC News: "They had literally taken every dollar that he had, all his savings and all of his money."
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According to another source, homicide detectives are investigating despite no determination on the cause of death yet.
The case remains open as people gathered in Times Square on June 8, 2022, to call attention to Julio's death.
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