What to Know
- The man accused of killing a 29-year-old Queens nurse found naked and strangled with her teeth knocked out allegedly spoke of killing others
- The suspect is a man the victim, Samantha Stewart, recently started dating after meeting on a popular dating app, according to her family
- The suspect was captured in California and had another woman captive; authorities are looking into whether he may be connected to more cases
Investigators are looking into whether a man suspected of killing a woman he met on a dating app in New York City may have killed others, two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press on Monday.
Danueal Drayton, 27, was arrested last week in Los Angeles after police say he sexually assaulted a woman, tried to strangle her and refused to let her leave her North Hollywood apartment.
He pleaded not guilty Monday to attempted murder, rape and false imprisonment charges and was held on $1.25 million bail.
After his arrest, Drayton talked about killing at least five others in Connecticut and New York, the officials said. Investigators are trying to determine whether his claims are true.
The officials said Drayton did not admit killing Samantha Stewart, a nurse found dead in her New York City apartment, though police believe he's responsible. Stewart's lifeless body was found July 17 on the floor of her bedroom in Queens, wrapped in blankets and it appeared that she had been strangled and some of her teeth had been knocked out, police said.
Her brother found her body and called their father, who then called police, authorities said.
The officials said Drayton had met Stewart on Tinder and then used her credit card to buy a plane ticket to California. Detectives tracked him to Los Angeles, where they found him holding a woman against her will in North Hollywood last week and arrested him.
Investigators also linked Drayton to a June 17 rape in Brooklyn, police said. The 23-year-old victim in that case had met Drayton on Tinder and they spoke for a few hours before meeting up, the officials said. Drayton allegedly choked the woman when she said she wanted to leave and then raped her, according to the officials.
The officials were not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
Investigators believe Drayton may be responsible for other attacks and believe he was using several dating websites and apps to meet women, Dermot Shea, the chief of detectives in New York City, told reporters.
Officials are using DNA testing to determine whether Drayton's DNA turns up in forensic evidence collected from any unsolved homicides.
Drayton, who has history of violence against women, including arrests for unlawful imprisonment and strangulation in Connecticut, had bought a one-way ticket to California almost immediately after Stewart was killed, Shea said.
Drayton was arrested on Long Island on June 30 and was charged with choking his ex-girlfriend, breaking into her house and then sending her a threatening Facebook message that he was going to cut her car's brake lines, set it on fire or blow it up, according to court documents. The same day she received the message, the woman said she saw Drayton outside of her home slashing her tires, the documents said.
Prosecutors asked for Drayton to be held on $7,500 bail but the judge overseeing his arraignment set bail at $1,000, said Brendan Brosh, a spokesman for the Nassau County district attorney's office. During a second court appearance, Drayton asked to be released — over the objection of prosecutors — and Nassau County District Court Judge Erica Prager agreed to release him without bail.
Prager did not know about Drayton's prior arrests in Connecticut and a document that was presented to the judge during the hearing indicated that Drayton had no other criminal history, court spokesman Dan Bagnuola said.
"In this particular case the judge carefully considered the facts before her and made her determination based on all the current, relevant and factual information that was provided to the Court at that time," Bagnuola said. "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."
The name of his attorney in California was not immediately known and the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County, which represented Drayton in the New York case, did not immediately comment.