In March 1996, the “Club Kids,” as they were called, were faced with a collective tragedy when one of them suddenly went missing before turning up dead about a month later. Investigation Discovery’s ‘The 1990s: The Deadliest Decade: Death Of An Angel’ chronicles Andre “Angel” Melendez’s murder, delving into Andre’s early life and how he was killed by someone he thought was a friend. So, if you’re curious to find out more, we’ve got you covered.
How Did Andre “Angel” Melendez Die?
Andre “Angel” Melendez was born in Colombia in May 1971 and moved with his family to New York City, New York, during the early 1980s. Initially described as a quiet and shy boy, he later met the club crowd in the city, which changed his demeanor. At the time, the 25-year-old aspired to become an actor and wanted to make movies. He eventually became part of the club scene in New York City, a group that held impromptu parties in unlikely places.
Angel was known to wear a pair of feather-covered wings and, at the time of the incident, was reported to be a drug dealer. The 25-year-old suddenly disappeared after March 17, 1996, with nobody knowing his whereabouts. It wasn’t until the following month that his dismembered body floated ashore in Staten Island, New York. Angel’s legs were cut off from his body, and investigation later revealed that he died from asphyxiation and strikes to the head with a blunt object.
Who Killed Andre “Angel” Melendez?
Initially, Club Kids started as a way to help others to feel like they were a part of something. It became a safe place for gay kids and drag queens. The parties seemed harmless enough in the beginning, just an impromptu gig at a subway station or a fast food restaurant. However, over time, the scene was introduced to drugs, and people began taking cocaine, ecstasy, and heroin, among other things, making it a dangerous affair for anyone who joined in.
Part of this scene was Michael Alig, a gay kid from Iowa who had moved to New York City and quickly warmed up to the party atmosphere there, becoming a promoter. Michael had known Angel, who was living in Queens, New York, and had stayed over at Michael’s place in the past. By 1996, Michael was a popular figure in the club scene with many connections. Sometime in March that year, he had learned about a potential DEA bust to arrest drug dealers. Michael later stated that he called the dealers to ask them not to come to the clubs that night.
In a later interview, Michael revealed that Angel showed up at one club nevertheless and was turned away. He wasn’t even paid his wages that were in the club’s safe at the time. Michael later claimed Angel showed up at his house a few hours later and was high from drugs. At the time, Michael lived with a man named Robert “Freeze” Riggs. According to Michael’s explanation, an altercation ensued regarding the money, with Angel getting the better of him. Then, Freeze tried to help Michael by getting Angel off him; he used a hammer to hit Angel until he was unconscious.
Then, Michael wrapped a sweatshirt around his fist and punched Angel several times. While Freeze told the police that Michael poured detergent down Angel’s throat, Michael maintained that didn’t happen. He added, “I didn’t smother him – he died of asphyxiation, but I didn’t put something over his face and go like that. We just thought he was unconscious, which wasn’t uncommon for people in my house. So we put him on the couch.”
But the duo then realized Angel wasn’t breathing. In a drug-fueled haze, they decided to cover up the crime and placed the body in an ice-filled bathtub, pouring Drano over it to mask the smell. Michael and Freeze took more drugs while Angel’s body lay there for several days. According to Michael, about eight or nine days later, Freeze bought butcher’s knives and cut off Angel’s legs. They put the legs in a duffel bag and dumped it into the river. Then, Michael and Freeze placed the rest of the body in a cardboard box, tossing it in the Hudson River in New York City.
In the months that followed, Michael had told others about killing Angel. Not just that, one witness remembered Michael talking about murdering Angel just days before the crime happened. Earlier reports also mentioned Michael stealing close to $20,000 from Angel, using most of the money to buy furniture in his apartment after Angel was murdered. The authorities eventually caught up to him, making the arrest in November 1996.
How Did Michael Alig Die?
In September 1997, Michael Alig pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in Angel’s death. He was eventually sentenced to serve 10 to 20 years behind bars. In May 2014, after 17 years, Michael was released amidst media attention. He later talked about his time in prison and said he continued to do drugs while inside. But Michael said he changed after a few years, adding, “I can’t do this anymore. If I have to go through a year of withdrawal, well, you know what, I killed someone, and that’s the price I have to pay.”
Michael was sober when he was released and initially lived with a friend. He was reported to have been going to rehab meetings every week and was working on his memoir as well. Michael later said, “Looking back at the person I was at that time, I feel nothing but shame and disgust. I was a selfish junkie who killed another human being. But that’s not the Michael Alig I am today or the Michael Alig I was before I became an addict.”
Apart from that, Michael painted while in prison, maintained a YouTube channel, was active on social media, worked on a clothing line, and handled promotions at a club in New York City. He was also involved with a charity that helped younger people learn journalism. However, drugs got the better of him because the 54-year-old was found dead of a heroin overdose in Manhattan, New York, on December 25, 2020.
Read More: Where is Robert “Freeze” Riggs Now?