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Gay SF Man Who'd Been Missing Found Dead

by Seth Hemmelgarn

Shinji Kobayashi
Shinji Kobayashi  (Source:Courtesy Facebook)

A gay San Francisco man whose friends had reported him missing has been found dead.

Shinji Kobayashi, 48, was last seen alive Wednesday night, January 24, after the San Francisco Ballet's performance of "The Sleeping Beauty," according to friends. He was reported missing to police days later.

John Hoffman, a friend of Kobayashi's, told the Bay Area Reporter in an email Wednesday, January 31, "I'm sorry to report that they found the body of our friend. He had been in the apartment the whole time. There was no sign of foul play. He had a heart condition - we will know more after the coroner's report.

"His body was next to the bed, covered in clothing is what we've been told. The building manager who did the wellness checks didn't see him. ... This is a very sad ending - not the one we'd hoped for."

The San Francisco Medical Examiner's office confirmed Kobayashi's death but an employee said Wednesday afternoon that his family hadn't been notified and details couldn't be released yet.

One of the people who saw Kobayashi at the ballet was Karen Hanzawa, who last spoke with him during an intermission.

"Nothing seemed unusual about him," she said in an exchange of Facebook messages with the B.A.R. "Shinji being his sweet quiet self" told Hanzawa and another friend that he was watching the ballet for the second night in a row, she said.

She wondered how he was going to get home and asked him where he lived. Kobayashi, a Hayes Valley resident, responded that he lived only two blocks away and planned to walk home.

Hanzawa last saw Kobayashi during the encore. At 10:55 p.m., he posted video of the curtain call on his Facebook page and told Hanzawa in a follow-up comment that he'd had "a great time."

"He did not indicate that he had any problems and he did not seem stressed," Hanzawa told the B.A.R.

Kobayashi, who worked as a dog walker and was known for his reliability, was supposed to meet longtime friend Chanel DeLaney, 51, Thursday afternoon to walk her dog.

"Usually, he's at my house between 3 and 3:30," said DeLaney, who last saw Kobayashi Wednesday afternoon, when he told her he'd see her the next day. "If he's ever running late, he texts me."

She texted him at 4:15, and then again about 45 minutes later. Over the next 48 hours, she texted and called him multiple times, with no response from him and no signs that he'd read her messages.

Like others who saw Kobayashi over the past couple of weeks, DeLaney said that he didn't appear to be having any problems with anything or anyone, and there was no indication that he was suicidal.

"He was his usual genial self, and that's why something's happened, because this is so unlike him," said DeLaney, who wept as she discussed her friend. "... He's got a huge network of friends who love him," she said, and "no one can fathom what has happened. It just is mysterious."

In a text exchange with the B.A.R., Hanzawa shared a message from a client of Kobayashi's that said, "People have gone to his house, and he hadn't been there for at least two days. Everything appeared to be in order at his place."

"That was sent on Saturday," said Hanzawa. "I think they have been keeping an eye out since then and still no sign of him at his place."

Officer Giselle Linnane, a police spokeswoman, said in an email Tuesday that she could only confirm "that there is a missing person's case open with someone by [Kobayashi's] name."

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