The death of the independent New York-based designer Kathryn “Katie” Gallagher has been ruled a homicide.
No arrests have been made and the investigation remains ongoing, according to officials at the New York Police Department.
The New York City chief medical examiner’s office determined that the cause was due to “acute intoxication by the combined effects of fentanyl, p-fluorofentanyl, and ethanol.”
The 35-year-old had been found on July 24 in her Lower East Side apartment on Eldridge Street. Shortly before 9 p.m. on July 24, NYPD responded to a 911 call and found the designer unconscious and unresponsive on a bed in a bedroom, according to the police report that was filed last summer. There were no signs of trauma. EMS responded and pronounced Gallagher deceased.
Asked if Gallagher’s death was being investigated as a drug-facilitated theft, as had been reported by one news outlet Friday, a NYPD spokesperson said, “The investigation remains ongoing.”
Gallagher’s sister Lara said via email, “If people have info, they should contact the NYPD.”
In a statement issued Friday, the Gallagher family said they have been “proactively” working with the NYPD, NYC Office of Chief Medical Examiner, and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for the past eight months “to get answers about Katie’s sudden death. We realize that the news released today, while difficult, is a necessary next step toward seeking justice for Katie, which is our primary goal.”
Her relatives acknowledged how the homicide determination “affirms what we knew: Katie was the victim of a crime. We have been holding this information while awaiting the official ruling. Sharing this news helps us set the record straight, demand accountability, and grieve more openly.”
The statement continued, “We are grateful for any developments that help us move forward, focus on Katie’s life and legacy, and bring more awareness to fentanyl and similar drugs being used as weapons against innocent people.”
Born in DuBois, Pennsylvania, Gallagher and her three sisters later moved with their parents — a history teacher father and a registered nurse mother — to State College. The imaginative siblings enjoyed running around the woods together and storytelling. They also learned to stick up for themselves, and had been encouraged by their parents to find what they love to do and to never give up. For Katie Gallagher, that meant forging into fashion.
After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2009, she decamped for Manhattan, interning with Anna Sui at one point and modeling here and there for Gap Japan, Ray-Ban and other brands. Prior to her death last summer, Gallagher was crafting her latest signature collection.
The designer’s family is planning a celebration of life memorial service for her in May that will feature pieces from previous collections. Without access yet to her laptop, tablet and digital accounts, they haven’t “been able to determine Katie’s exact plans for her latest collection yet,” Lara Gallagher said. “We do know that she was in the middle of a photography project with William Eadon. The completed photos were featured in a Vogue article last summer. They were doing street casting (not models), which was a new direction for her.”
A GoFundMe page was launched last summer to create a legacy fund in the designer’s honor. As of Friday afternoon, $30,200 had been raised toward the goal of $50,000.
While Gallagher never ascended to international stardom or national fame, she created her own storyline and maintained a certain ingenuity. There also were occasional sparks of personal triumph such as suiting up Lady Gaga, Laverne Cox and Daphne Guinness on occasion.
Following her death, Prabal Gurung’s chief operating officer Shan Reddy, who met Gallagher during her interning days, said, “She’s the story of so many New Yorkers that come to the city with nothing, and give it everything, making it the place the world looks to for creativity, inspiration and most importantly, grit.”
The Gallagher family noted Friday, “Katie was an incredibly loved, talented, and ambitious person, who we miss everyday. She was a self-made fashion designer and artist. To know her was to know her strength and tenacity. When we think about the callous disregard for her life and all that she would have done or could have done had this not happened, our hearts break all over again.”