Model confesses to castrating, murdering gay Portugese TV journalist

Renato Seabra, 20

From wire reports

NEW YORK — A male model has confessed to torturing, castrating and bludgeoning to death his “sugar daddy” — a celebrity Portugese TV journalist — at a Times Square hotel on Friday, Jan. 7

Renato Seabra, 20, told police he killed 65-year-old Carlos Castro “to get rid of demons, to get rid of the virus,” The New York Post reports.

“I’m not gay anymore!” Seabra reportedly told Castro before the attack, in which he castrated him with a wine corkscrew. Seabra was taken into custody a few hours after the attack and is now charged with second-degree murder.

Castro had arrived in the U.S. in late December in the company of Seabra to see some Broadway shows and spend New Year’s Eve in Times Square, according to a family friend.

There had been some friction between the two men toward the end of the trip, but nothing to suggest that anything horrible was about to happen, said the friend, Luis Pires, the editor of the Portuguese language newspaper Luso-Americano.

“I think that they were a little bit upset with each other, for jealousy reasons,” Pires told The Associated Press.

The couple saw the musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and took in the movie The Black Swan. But when it was time to meet Pires’ daughter for dinner Friday night, Jan. 7, Seabra suddenly emerged in the lobby of the InterContinental New York Times Square hotel acting strangely, Pires said.

“He told my daughter, ‘Carlos will never leave the hotel again,’” Pires said.

He said his daughter, distraught, fetched a hotel manager. Security guards opened the door to the room and found the body at about 7 p.m.

By then, Seabra had left the hotel but was detained by police hours later after he sought care at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, not far from the hotel. He was being evaluated Saturday at Bellevue Hospital Center, across town.

Police said the victim suffered serious head trauma. The medical examiner’s office will determine the cause of death.

Seabra was a contestant last year on a Portuguese TV show called A Procura Do Sonho, or Pursuit of a Dream, which hunts for modeling talent.

He didn’t win the show but did get a modeling contract with an agency founded by fashion designer Fatima Lopes, who developed the show and was a judge on it.

Lopes expressed her shock to Portugal’s Correio da Manha’s newspaper on Sunday.

“He never talked about his private life, he was a quiet boy and perhaps the shyest of all contestants in In Search of the Dream. He was very calm and polite, she said. “This whole thing seems surreal to me.”

Seabra had always been interested in fashion, he told the Independente de Cantanhede newspaper in September.

“I have entered this world, and I don’t want to leave it because I see I can be successful,” he said.

Castro, who also was a columnist in Portugal, was admired there for his bravery in coming out as a gay man and “revealing the feminine side of his personality,” said Rui Pedro Tendinha, a film critic who knew Castro.

He was a high-profile public figure as a TV personality, Tendinha said.

“The way he died is causing a big commotion in Portugal,” he said.

The organizer of Lisbon Fashion Week, Eduarda Abbondanza, said she knew Castro from his coverage of Fashion Week. Abbondanza said that when she fell seriously ill, Castro “was always there for me, calling me every time, checking up on me.”

On a trip to Rome, Castro even bought Abbondanza a rosary that the pope had blessed. Abbondanza said that when she heard about Castro’s death, she took the rosary to a church to pray.

“I only wish I could have helped him the way he helped me,” Abbondanza said. “He had a huge heart. Only a human being with a heart like that could have done what he did for me.”

Designer Ana Salazar, considered a fashion pioneer in Portugal, recalled Castro’s role as one of the country’s first social columnists.

“I was both in his best- and worst-dressed lists in the ’80s,” she said.

She said she was shocked by his death.

“It’s like something out of a horror movie,” she added.

A guest at the InterContinental, Suzanne Divilly, 40, told the Daily News she heard the two men arguing in their room during the day Friday.

“There was a lot of noise, talking,” she said. “You could hear them arguing in the corridor and even in our room.”

Pires described Castro as having “kind of a Liberace style. Eccentric, but very well-known.” He said he had been on Portuguese TV since he was a teenager, had written several books and was friends with the former president of Portugal, Mario Soares.

The young model and older journalist had been dating each other for a few months, he said.

“My wife and my daughter were with him for the past three or four days,” Pires said. “My wife told me that he was a very nice kid. Very polite. I think this must have been a crime of the heart.”

“This was a 21-year-old kid, looking for fame. He (Carlos) probably saw him watching girls, or something.”

News of the murder rattled the town of Cantanhede, population 38,000, in the central Portuguese district of Coimbra, where Seabra was born and where his family lives.

His sister, Joana Seabra, is a doctor and chairwoman of the local political committee of the Social Democratic Youth of Cantanhede. Calls to her home and surgery went unanswered Sunday, and no one was picking up the phone at the number listed as belonging to the family where the suspect’s mother, Odilia Seabra is believed to live.

Seabra’s childhood friend Lurdes Silva told the local Diario de Coimbra newspaper in Sunday’s editions that she was stunned by the allegations.

“He entered the fashion world in the hope of changing his life. Dreams are easy at our age,” she said. “He was looking for a dream and found a nightmare” She said the two shared an interest in racing pigeons.

“The news has hit Cantanhede like a bomb,” Casas de Melo, an organizer of the Cantanhede racing pigeon association. He told Diario de Coimbra Seabra was “a spectacular young man.

The death is the second recent slaying in an upscale New York City hotel room.

Swimsuit designer Sylvie Cachay, 33, was found strangled and drowned in a bathtub at the trendy Soho House hotel on Dec. 9. Her boyfriend Nicholas Brooks has pleaded not guilty in her death.

Brooks, the 24-year-old son of You Light Up My Life writer and Oscar winner Joseph Brooks, has been held without bail since his arrest.

And in February last year, prosecutors say multimillionaire Gigi Jordan killed her 8-year-old autistic boy at the the posh Peninsula Hotel. Jordan pleaded not guilty to murder. She wrote a letter saying she planned to kill herself and her son, but prosecutors have said she may have faked the suicide attempt. Her lawyer says the claim is baseless.

—  John Wright

GLAAD marks 25 years

DERRIK J. LANG | AP Entertainment Writer

LOS ANGELES — The gay advocacy group GLAAD is happy to be turning 25 years old.

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation celebrated its anniversary Friday night, Dec. 3, with a swanky cocktail party at the Harmony Gold Theatre in Los Angeles. Chaz Bono, Jean Smart, Amber Heard and Ed Begley Jr. were among the celebrity attendees who toasted the group, which focuses on how lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks are presented in the media.

“We’ve made great progress in these media capitals,” said Jarrett Barrios, president of GLAAD. “Beyond Hollywood, beyond New York, between these blue states, right at this nation’s red center, we have miles to go. How far do we still have to go to ensure that an environment of respect exists for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people?”

GLAAD was first formed in 1985 in New York to protest the New York Post’s coverage of AIDS. The organization went on to push for several changes throughout the media, such as the inclusion of a same-sex couple on the viewer-voted wedding contest on NBC’s Today show and modifications to how gays are referred to in The Associated Press Stylebook.

The group now annually holds the GLAAD Media Awards, which actor Steven Weber called the “gayer Oscars,” and releases the “Where We Are on TV” report, which tracks LGBT characters on network shows. This year’s report found that there were 23 gay and bisexual characters on scripted network TV out of a total of 600, up 3 percent from last season.

“The steady stream of negative portrayals and censorship of gay and lesbian lives on film and in television has given way to much more realistic and life-affirming depictions, such as this year’s The Kids Are All Right and TV’s Glee,” said Richard Jennings, a former president of GLAAD who received the first-ever Founders’ Award at the event.

Throughout the ceremony, attendees heard from former GLAAD board members, watched video montages of hallmark moments from the organization’s past 25 years — such as when Ellen DeGeneres’ character revealed she was a lesbian on her ABC TV comedy series in 1997 — and hissed at mentions of opponents of gay rights initiatives — such as Anita Bryant, Laura Schlessinger and Mel Gibson.

Jonathan Murray, co-creator of MTV’s The Real World, the long-running cable TV reality series that regularly includes gay and lesbian cast members, was bestowed with the Pioneer Award, given to a person or organization who significantly contributes to raising LGBT visibility in the media. Murray admitted the series never received much criticism.

“I think it’s because it was real,” he said. “How can you argue with something that’s real?”

—  John Wright

Did Chef Gordon Ramsay’s harsh criticism drive Oak Cliff’s Rachel Brown to suicide in 2007?

Rachel Brown

More than three years ago we published this short story about the apparent suicide of Rachel Brown, an Oak Cliff-based personal chef who’d been a contestant on the Fox reality show Hell’s Kitchen.

This Tuesday, we noticed that for some strange reason, our story about Brown’s death was experiencing a remarkable surge in online readership (with now more than 3,000 page views in the last two days). When we looked into it, we discovered that the main “entry source” for recent readers of the story is the Google search phrase, “Rachel Brown Hell’s Kitchen.” But why, we wondered, is everyone all of a sudden searching this? Well, for one thing the new season of Hell’s Kitchen began last week. But a much bigger factor has surely been this story from CBS News, prompted by the recent suicide of another cooking show contestant:

Joseph Cerniglia, 39, of Pompton Lakes, N.J., apparently leaped to his death yesterday from the George Washington Bridge, the New York Post reported. The owner of a restaurant in suburban New York, Cerniglia had appeared in 2007 on “Kitchen Nightmares,” a show that subjected struggling restaurateurs to harsh criticism from English foodie Gordon Ramsay.

In 2007, 41-year-old Rachel Brown reportedly shot herself to death after appearing on “Hell’s Kitchen,” another show that featured Ramsay.

Ramsay is famously tough on contestants.

“Your business is about to f – - king swim down the Hudson,” Ramsay told Cerniglia, the married father of three, according to the Daily Mail.

Does that kind of talk drive people to kill themselves?

Probably not, says the former president of the American Academy of Suicidology, Dr. Robert Yufit.

“My guess is that both of these people had major problems before appearing on the show,” Yufit told CBS News. “I would almost bet that the show itself should not be held responsible. I would say say that the show might have tripped off something else that was going on in their lives.

—  John Wright