Dorian Corey lived a life of many secrets, including one that came out after she died.
Photo Courtesy of New York Magazine
There are some wild true crime cases that have been written about. In most of them the victim is known and there is usually a known motivation for the murder. Only in a handful those things are not known, even in this case the victim is known. Though DNA testing was needed to identify the murder victim.
Paris is Burning and drag superstar Dorian Corey was the toast of the LGBTQ community in New York City. Her shows were always sold out and the community always rallied behind her when there was trouble. Some have said she was at the Stonewall riots that kickstarted the gay rights movement, though like many things in her life there is no evidence to support this. The first example of the mysterious life she led.
The Man in the Closet
After her star started to burn out, Dorian Corey stayed home most nights. Not only was her career on the downswing but she had also contracted HIV and was very ill. She breathed her last breath August 29, 1993. This is where her story took one of the wildest turns ever.
Her friend, Lois Taylor, was left everything. Including the responsibility of cleaning out Corey?s Manhattan apartment. For years Corey had lived on 140th street in the Hamilton Heights area of Harlem. The apartment was the center of her life, and Taylor was happy to go through the closet.
Just over a month after Corey passed away, Taylor went to the apartment with a couple of friends. As they went through the closet, imagine a 90s type of montage should play with the image, it was a grand time. That is until the came across the trunk. Taylor called the police right away, since she was not able to lift the trunk and neither of the others could either. When they opened it, there was a smell. Taylor would later say: ?That?s when we called the police, ?cause honey, I wasn?t chancing it.?
Detectives went through layers of wrapping, including a leather layer. The leather was believed to have helped keep the smell from emanating from the closet. As it turned out, there was a mummified body in the trunk. The only sign that it had been murdered, besides the obvious, was the bullet hole in the head.
The police were able to identify the body as Robert Worley. A man who had not been seen since 1968. Right around the same time it is believed the body was thrown into the closet.
For all intents and purposes, Dorian Corey seemed to be a sweet, loving woman who happened to be part of the LGBTQ community. She got her degree in graphic design from Parsons School of Design. Friends say she didn?t have ?the mind of a criminal.? Yet, there is also a side of her that was quite guarded and didn?t share much of her personal life even with the people closest to her.
Some have speculated that the trunk had been there when Corey moved in, since it is believed she moved after 1968 and would have been difficult to move the trunk. Making things more difficult would have been the NYPD, seeing as they were racist and homophobic. They were always on the lookout for a reason to harass a person of color or a member of the LGBTQ community. Being able to harass Corey with her stature as a star would have been the highest goal for them.
It would seem unlikely though that the trunk was there when she moved into the apartment. So how exactly did the trunk get there and what happened to the man who became a mummy?
With a secretive woman at the center of the story, there have been many theories about how and why Worley was killed. Ruling out the possibility that Corey had no idea about the body in the trunk, there seems to be a never ending stream of theories.
One theory that has stood the test of time is that Worley was killed during a robbery attempt. Are there a lot of robbers who commit their crimes in their underwear? Worley?s mummified body only had on a pair of torn blue and white boxers, so this would seem to disprove the theory. On top of that, Worley?s brother claimed the dead man had complained about a woman named Dorian the last time they spoke.
The most logical theory is that Worley had been abusing Corey and she had enough. One night after a particularly bad beating, she got her gun and shot him in the head. Corey?s friends have confirmed that she owned a .22 caliber gun. She wrapped him up in the layers of material because the NYPD would not have been friendly towards her and would have seen her go to jail.
There is also the belief that Corey penned a short story that was also a confession. The story was found after her death and the plot revolved around a transsexual woman who murders her lover because he forces her to undergo a sex change operation. Most people who have read this story have said it is eerily similar to Corey and the man they presume is Worley. Though the same friends caution they were never told of a romantic relationship between the pair as was par for the course with Corey.
The Quiet Queen
While the case is still open, police do not believe they will ever be able to solve it. There are so many variables in the case and a distinctive lack of evidence makes for the perfect cold case recipe.
Some wonder why Corey would not have confided in anyone about killing an abusive boyfriend. The answers lies in the same answer as to why she didn?t call the cops if he was indeed beating her. There was no hope that the NYPD would have helped her and every chance they would have sent her away, despite her failing health.
So she took the secret to the grave and let it be unleashed after she was dead. Leaving behind a mystery that will also serve as her legacy.