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Police Finger Masseur in Killing of Israeli Gay Nightclub Pioneer

A week after gay nightclub operator Savyon Zabar was found strangled in his Upper West Side apartment, prosecutors have charged his massage therapist Daqyan King for second-degree murder in connection with the death.

Zabar’s death apparently came after a sexual encounter gone awry, with sources conflicting over how King described the event to police. DNAInfo reported that King claimed that Zabar tried to have sex with him, and that it escalated into the strangling. Meanwhile, the New York Post cited unnamed sources that said King told police the incident happened following a consensual encounter that included mutual choking.

Zabar’s roommate Antonio Baez said that King often stayed over, and that he was surprised when he stormed out the night of January 3. Baez discovered the body the next day. King has been arraigned and imprisoned without bail while awaiting trial.

Known to friends as “Big Ben,” Zabar managed two Chelsea clubs, the Escuelita and XL. Before it was shut down last year, the Escuelita was known for its “voguing,” featuring dancers who would perform moves inspired by models and drag queens.

“He was really well known,” Carlos Arenas, who used to work the door at one of the clubs that Zabar managed and promoted, told DNAInfo. “The club life was his passion. He was a big staple in the gay community. That was his thing, he was an entertainer.”

Baez, who started a GoFundMe page to raise money for souvenirs and T-shirts to commemorate his roommate and friend, described Zabar as “someone who helped a lot of us weather[sic] his personality was different and tough , we learned , he made us tough , we all going to remember him as a good person , because he cared for a lot of us , even though he didn’t say it , he did.”

Contact Daniel J. Solomon at solomon@forward.com or on Twitter @DanielJSolomon

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