Last Call: The shocking true story behind HBO documentary series

Still from HBO's Last CallMax

Last Call: When a Serial Killer Stalked Queer New York is a chilling new documentary series on HBO — here’s what it’s about, as we explain the crimes of serial killer Richard Rogers and the background of Anthony Marrero.

Arguably, some of the most impactful documentary films and series are those that hold up a magnifying glass to the issue of social injustice, whether that be the US justice system’s racial inequality explored in Netflix’s 13th or the issue of sexual assault in Victim/Suspect

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Though it proved to be a contentious dramatization, Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story at least highlighted the prejudice of police officers towards the LGBTQ+ and POC communities in America at the time. 

And now, a new docu-series from HBO focuses on the former community, telling the story of “The Last Call Killer” and how he was able to get away with his heinous crimes for decades despite numerous calls for help from the LGBTQ+ community – here’s what you need to know about the series and the case at the center of it. Warning: Some may find this content distressing. 

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What is Last Call about?

Directed by Anthony Caronna, Last Call: When a Serial Killer Stalked Queer New York is a new four-part documentary series from HBO. It tells the story of Richard Rogers, – dubbed “The Last Call Killer” – who targeted gay and bisexual men. The series demonstrates how he was able to get away with his crimes for so long, examining the wider context of the issues facing the LGBTQ+ community, from the 1960s to the present day. 

Check out the trailer below: 

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As per the official synopsis: “In the 1990s, as hate crimes were on the rise and the AIDS crisis escalated, a serial killer preyed upon New York City’s gay men. The HBO Original, four-part documentary series Last Call: When a Serial Killer Stalked Queer New York dives into the deep-rooted biases of the criminal justice system and illuminates how the LGBTQ+ community fought to solve the murders and demand fair treatment of queer crime victims.”

Who was Richard Rogers and what did he do? 

Richard Rogers, a name that struck fear into the hearts of New Yorkers during the late 20th century, was a notorious serial killer whose heinous crimes shocked the nation. Though he is suspected to be the perpetrator to have murdered and dismembered four gay and bisexual men between 1991 and 1993, police only found enough evidence to convict him of two of the crimes. 

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The first known victims of who was dubbed “The Last Call Killer” by the media were 54-year-old Peter Stickney Anderson in May 1991 and 57-year-old Thomas Richard Mulcahy in July 1992. Both of their stories are explored in the first episode of HBO’s Last Call series. 

Episode 2 looks at the life and story of 44-year-old Anthony Edward Marrero, the third victim in the case whose remains were discovered in plastic bags on May 10, 1993, while the third episode focuses on 56-year-old Michael J. Sakara, who was last seen alive on July 30, 1993.

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Still from HBO's Last CallMax
Richard Rogers was convicted of two murders

Rogers targeted vulnerable gay men, preying upon their marginalized status and the stigma surrounding their sexuality. His victims were often individuals who frequented the gay scene in New York City, seeking companionship and acceptance in bars, clubs, and other meeting places. It was within these spaces that Rogers used his charm and manipulation to gain their trust before subjecting them to horrifying violence.

The police response to Rogers’ crimes was hindered by discriminatory attitudes prevalent within law enforcement at the time. Homophobia within the ranks of the force led to a dismissive and apathetic approach to investigating crimes against the LGBTQ+ community, with disappearances attributed to a supposed underground world of drugs and promiscuity, rather than being recognized as the horrifying crimes of a serial killer.

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There was plenty of evidence for police to handle, with Rogers leaving the remains alongside the implements and tools he used to dismember his victims in various trash bins along highways in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York. But Rogers wasn’t arrested until 2001, when a new forensic technique was used to identify his fingerprints from the bags he wrapped the body parts in.

In 2005, he was found guilty on two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of hindering apprehension for killing Thomas Mulcahy and Anthony Marrero. He is currently serving two consecutive life sentences in a New Jersey prison. 

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The documentary series has been praised for dealing with the case with sensitivity, with EW writing: “This thoughtful, well-paced series from director Anthony Caronna weaves together illuminating social and historical context, loving explorations of the victims’ lives, and a gripping criminal mystery to create an emotional and educational odyssey that transcends the standard boundaries of true crime.”

Why was Richard Rogers called “The Last Call Killer”?

Richard Rogers was commonly referred to as “The Last Call Killer” due to the method he employed to target his victims. His modus operandi involved targeting gay or bisexual men frequenting bars and clubs in Manhattan during the late hours of the night when last calls for alcohol were announced. 

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This period, when the bars were about to close and patrons were inebriated, presented an opportune moment for Rogers to strike. He would befriend his victims, gaining their trust, before luring them to secluded locations where he would ultimately carry out his murderous acts. 

But, as discussed, Last Call doesn’t just focus on the killer in question, but also the wider context of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community, while looking at the lives of the victims and how many were forced to live in the closet due to the prejudice of society at the time. 

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Who was Anthony Marrero?

While Episode 1 of Last Call focused on Peter Anderson and Thomas Mulcahy, the latest episode, which dropped on Sunday, July 16, looks at the life of Anthony Marrero, the third victim of “The Last Call Killings” and one of the two men Rogers was convicted of killing. Marrero was lovingly named Tony by his siblings, coming from a family of five brothers and two sisters. 

In Last Call, his brother Jose remembered Tony as a kid, describing his “big bush of hair”. “If you see him, you’ll remember him,” he says. When Tony moved to New York, Jose told him, “You don’t know nobody,” but he replied: “Well, I want to live my life, I want to do this.”

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Tragically, when asked if he knew about Tony being gay, Jose denied this aspect of his life, saying: “He wasn’t gay,” further reflecting the familial and societal pressures on people who are forced to repress their sexuality. 

Anthony Marrero in Last Call on HBOMax
Anthony Marrero was tragically killed by Rogers in 1993

Anthony Marrero was a sex worker when he was targeted by Rogers in 1993, having last been seen alive around the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan. He was just 44 years old when he was killed, before his remains were found in New Jersey. His body had been cut into seven pieces, and the cause of death was determined to be multiple stab wounds to the back and torso. 

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In its review on the docu-series, Rolling Stone described how the media was just as prejudiced against the LGBTQ+ community as the police, highlighting Marrero’s obituary as a shocking example. 

“But if the police don’t come out looking good here, the media might look even worse,” it said. “Take the New York Times obituary brief on Morrero, headlined, ‘Anthony Morrero: Crack Addict, Prostitute,’ which goes on to explain that his life was ‘marked by a failed marriage, drug addiction and ultimately gay prostitution, the authorities said.’ 

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“And just like that, a life and death are dismissed. Tabloid headlines described Rogers’ spree with phrases such as ‘gay-slay.’ Clearly, it can’t be easy to solve or report on a crime when you view the victims as less than human.”

The first two episodes of Last Call: When a Serial Killer Stalked Queer New York are available to stream on Max now, with the next episode dropping on Sunday, July 23. You can check out some of our other true crime coverage below:

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