What to Know
- The man accused of killing a 29-year-old Queens nurse found naked and strangled with her teeth knocked out said he has voices in his head
- "I really liked her. I didn't want to kill her," Danueal Drayton, who met her on a dating app, said from his jail cell in California
- Drayton was captured in LA and had another woman captive; authorities are looking into whether he may be connected to more cases
Only weeks before a Queens nurse was killed, left naked in a blanket with her teeth knocked out in her own bedroom, and another woman was sexually assaulted on the opposite side of the country, a New York judge released the suspect without bail in a separate strangulation case.
The judge didn't know Danueal Drayton had a violent criminal history involving women.
The freeing of Drayton on July 5 has outraged the nurse's family and frustrated prosecutors. They and Drayton's defense lawyers believe he would still be 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.
"You can't let a person like this walk out of jail ... free without a bond," Kenneth Stewart, whose daughter, Samantha, was found dead in her Queens apartment on July 17, told reporters last week. "My daughter would be living today."
A court spokesperson says there was no way the judge could have known.
"It would have been impossible for the judge at that time to foresee the allegations that are presently unfolding and coming to light with regard to this defendant," Daniel Bagnuola, director of the office of community relations with the Nassau County court, said in a statement.
Authorities say Drayton, 27, from New Haven, Connecticut, claims to have killed at least five women in his home state and in New York. He said he met some victims on the Tinder dating app. Police are trying to confirm if his statements are true.
He was arrested last week in Los Angeles after police say he raped a woman who he met during an Uber ride. He pleaded not guilty. He told the Daily News in a chilling jailhouse interview that voices in his head made him kill Stewart. He also recalled choking the two other women in Los Angeles and New York.
A spokesman for Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said her office is now reviewing why Drayton's Connecticut criminal record, which was available in a national database, was not presented to Judge Erica Prager before she freed him on his own recognizance.
Nassau County prosecutors had sought $7,500 bail for Drayton after he was charged with choking his ex-girlfriend last month. Judge Scott Fairgrieve set bail at $2,000 on July 1 and Drayton was detained.
"The bail set by Judge Fairgrieve should have been continued at $2,000 bond or $1,000 cash, and Mr. Drayton would have continued to be held in jail," the DA's spokesman, Brendan Brosh, said in a statement. "The prosecutor on July 5 detailed serious threats made by the defendant to the victim, and noted that he had slashed the tires on her car."
Prager did not return a message seeking comment.
Lawyers with the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County, who are representing him in the strangulation case, had asked Prager for a bail reduction and did not know at the time about his Connecticut record, which includes a nonfatal strangulation, unlawful restraint and violating protective orders.
"If (Prager) had that information, she probably would have made a different determination on the bail," said N. Scott Banks, chief attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County.
It's not clear what the procedures are in New York for checking the National Crime Information Center database for defendants' criminal histories in other states, and Brosh couldn't immediately say. New York courts spokesman Lucian Chalfen only said judges have wide discretion in setting bail.
Drayton also slipped through the cracks in Connecticut, where his probation officer tried multiple times to find him after he disappeared in late May and missed required meetings. He was on probation for misdemeanor harassment.
Connecticut officials were never informed of his June 30 arrest in New York and obtained an arrest warrant for him on July 26, according to the Connecticut Judicial Branch.
Court records obtained by The Associated Press show Drayton was sentenced to three years in prison in 2013 for beating and choking his girlfriend in East Haven and violating a protective order
"He started pummeling me in my face!" the girlfriend told police. "Swing after swing after swing to the point my body went into shock. ... He grabbed me from behind and started strangulating me with his arms and within seconds I passed out."
He got out of prison in November 2014 and began serving probation. Seven months later, he was arrested again for holding another woman against her will in Waterbury, and got another three-year prison sentence. He got out on probation in April 2017. He was arrested again in February by New Haven police for sending threatening messages to a male friend. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year of probation in March.
Connecticut prosecutor Sean McGuinness declined to comment on the 2018 harassment case.
New York Police Department Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said Thursday that Drayton has been speaking with investigators in California and has said things that would lead them to believe he's responsible for other crimes in New York City.
Nothing Drayton has said regarding those alleged crimes has been verified by NYPD investigators.
"We are very interested in the history of Mr. Drayton," Shea said. "We have resources devoted to really following up on his past. What could we learn? What other victims may there be?"