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Saturday, December 18, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Deceased Drag-Show Star Leaves Mummy, Mystery Behind In Closet

AP

NEW YORK - When famed drag queen Dorian Corey died earlier this year, he didn't leave any skeletons in the closet. He did, however, leave wigs, sequined dresses, feather boas - and the mummified body of a slaying victim.

Friends of Corey found the body in October while rummaging through his Manhattan apartment after he died of acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Two months later, investigators still can't explain how it got there.

"This remains a complete mystery," police Detective Louis Llanes said.

Corey, 56, was a veteran of the drag-show circuit and star of the 1991 documentary "Paris Is Burning," which chronicled the lives of female impersonators. He died Aug. 29.

On Oct. 19 friends of Corey went to his fifth-floor apartment in Harlem to look through his expansive wardrobe, police said. They made their grisly discovery after coming across a heavy trunk.

Inside was a male body, tucked into a fetal position and wrapped in imitation leather.

Police soon determined the man died from a gunshot to the back of the head. But the body's dried and shriveled state made finding out who he was and when he died difficult.

Soaking the body in a special solution to loosen the skin, investigators took a fingerprint they eventually matched with a name: Robert Wells.

Wells, who was last seen by his family in 1968, had a history of trouble with the law, including arrests for rape, burglary and assault, said police Sgt. Mark Giffen, who is investigating the case.

Through other tests and evidence found in the trunk, investigators determined Wells was killed about 15 years ago, Giffen said.

But who pulled the trigger remains open to speculation.

A diary recovered from Corey's apartment did not contain a confession or any clues, Llanes said.

Still, one rumor circulating in the transvestite community points to Corey. He supposedly left a note explaining he killed Wells in self-defense during a break-in, said Chi Chi Valenti, the producer of "Jackie 60," an underground club where Corey often performed.

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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