A suspect has been charged with murder in the 2018 killing of a Queens nurse, in which he allegedly left her naked in a blanket with her teeth knocked out in her own bedroom after the two met on a dating app.
In addition to the murder charge, Danueal Drayton was charged on Thursday with two counts each of grand larceny and identity theft, as well as possessing stolen property, sexual misconduct and more.
A message seeking comment was left with an attorney for the 31-year-old Drayton, who formerly lived in Brooklyn and New Haven, Connecticut, before that.
Samantha Stewart was a registered nurse at Long Island Jewish Hospital and a beloved role model for her brothers and sister, her family said after her death. Her brother discovered the 29-year-old unconscious with injuries to her neck and head inside her Springfield Gardens home, police said at the time.
The brother said that Stewart appeared to have been strangled and that her tongue was sticking out and her teeth were knocked out.
In the months after the alleged slaying, Drayton said he heard voices in his head that made him do it. He told the New York Daily News from a Los Angeles jail — where he was in custody at the time on charges involving another woman he allegedly held captive in California — that he remembered strangling Samantha Stewart and talked about voices urging him to harm people.
"I really liked her. I didn't want to kill her," he said from behind a glass partition. "They told me she had to die."
District Attorney Melinda Katz said that Drayton went on a date with Stewart on July 16, 2018. Drayton said at the time that he and Stewart visited a race track and shared an artichoke pizza and he had no intention of hurting her. Once inside her apartment in Queens, Drayton beat and strangled Stewart and "engaged in sexual conduct"' with her dead body, according to Katz.
Drayton said he strangled Stewart and tried to resuscitate her but eventually, her body went "stiff." He used bleach to partially clean up the crime scene but intentionally left his "Egyptian cologne" behind in the hope police could link it to him.
"I wanted to get caught. I took some of her things with me and used them. I kept my same phone. I knew they could track it. I didn't know how long it would take," he told the Daily News in 2018.
Katz called the young nurse's death "a brutal crime that makes every person using a dating app fearful." She said Stewart "was duped into going out on a date with the defendant, who played a charmer online but was in fact an alleged sexual predator.''
Drayton then stole Stewart's credit cards and used one of them to buy a plane ticket to California, prosecutors said.
In the weeks before the alleged killing, a New York judge released the Drayton without bail in a separate strangulation case, unaware of his criminal history.
Authorities said after Drayton's arrest Thursday that he has a long history of violence against women including arrests for unlawful imprisonment and strangulation in Connecticut, and was accused of trying to choke another woman to death in North Hollywood shortly after he arrived in California, authorities said. The North Hollywood case is pending.
Two law enforcement officials previously told The Associated Press that after his arrest in California, Drayton claimed he had killed at least five women in Connecticut and New York.
The freeing of Drayton outraged Stewart's family and frustrated prosecutors. They and Drayton's defense lawyers believed he would have still been behind bars on the Long Island strangulation charge if they and the judge had known about his rap sheet in Connecticut. His record in New York was clean at the time.
After using Stewart's credit card to buying a one-way ticket, Drayton landed in Los Angeles and met a woman while taking an Uber ride, he said, and they went back to the woman's apartment, where he choked her. He recalled seeing her body wedged between a toilet and the wall, thinking she was dead, but then she stirred.
Drayton said he attempted suicide with Advil before police caught up with him.
He faces up to 25 years to life in prison for Stewart's killing.