Police Seek Help in San Francisco Gay Man's Disappearance

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday February 12, 2021

Christopher Woitel
Christopher Woitel  (Source:Handout/Mark Guarino)

San Francisco police are seeking help from the public as they investigate the disappearance of Christopher Woitel, a gay man whose family last heard from him Jan. 9, local CBS affiliate WPIX reports.

Woitel, 50, had been in communication with his mother on that day, but then he dropped out of sight. His credit cards and bank account show no recent activity, and his apartment seems to be intact, media reports said. But a homeless man Woitel knew and had helped over the years was found to be in possession of Woitel's phone. That man claimed that Woitel had been killed and his body tossed into the bay.

Reporting that the city's police department had issued a news release Feb. 10 about Woitel, the San Francisco Examiner said that the missing man is "described as a white male, 5 feet 10 inches tall and 200 pounds. He has brown eyes and dark brown, wavy hair, and wears a gray-brown beard and glasses.

"He's also known as a gentle, giving man," the article continued, referencing Woitel's habit of offering help to those in need, including allowing homeless people to stay with him from time to time - a trait that friend Jennifer Berg said was worrisome.

"It was always a little concerning," Berg told the Examiner, "and he didn't really like to talk to me about it too much because I would always say 'What are you doing, why are you doing that?' "

Another friend, journalist Mark Guarino, said that Woitel "is a very compassionate person about things that were going on in the world, people who were not given a fair shake. I think he sees things through that lens."

Gaurino told the Bay Area Reporter that the missing man is gay, and provided local media outlets with a news release summarizing the findings of a private detective that Woitel's family hired.

The release mentioned "a trail of social media and text messages that show Woitel's frantic state of mind regarding the homeless man's possession of his phone and anxiety over the recent U.S. Capitol insurrection in Washington.

"Surveillance video shows the homeless man coming and going from Woitel's apartment," the release added.

Berg opined the "the police are sort of slow walking this thing," and expressed worry that "the trail's getting cold."

The city's police have come in for criticism regarding violent crimes in the past. In August of 2018, San Francisco resident Brian Egg went missing. Neighbors contacted police several times about their fears, but nothing much in the way of action was taken until professional crime scene cleaners were seen arriving at Egg's apartment. Police entered the property at that point, and discovered the missing man's headless torso submerged in a fish tank. The victim's hands were also missing.

Though two men were found to be living in Egg's home and had reportedly used Egg's credit card to hire the cleaners, they were released by police, who said there was insufficient evidence to charge them.

That murder remains a mystery to this day.

San Francisco police ask that anyone with information regarding Woitel's disappearance or current whereabouts contact a tip line at 415-575-4444 or text "SFPD" and any relevant information to TIP411.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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