By Dakin Andone and Samantha Maldonado, CNN
A man arrested in connection to a bi-coastal crime spree that involved murder, rape and holding a woman captive used dating websites to connect with some of his alleged victims, police say.
Danueal Drayton of New Haven, Connecticut, was wanted in connection with the killing of a woman in Queens, New York, according to New York Police Department Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea, and was eventually linked to a rape that occurred several weeks earlier in Brooklyn.
He was arrested this week in California, where authorities accuse him of sexually assaulting and attempting to kill another woman he was allegedly holding against her will after they went on a date, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
“The common denominator” in the murder and rape cases in New York “is dating websites,” Shea said at a press conference this week.
“This individual is known by us and it is believed by us that this individual uses dating websites to meet women and then victimize these women,” he added.
It wasn’t immediately clear what dating websites or applications Drayton used in his alleged crime spree, or if he used one to meet his alleged victim in California. Shea said the suspect had used “multiple websites.”
Investigators in New York have asked any other possible victims to come forward and share information.
Separate investigations converged
Drayton came to the NYPD’s attention while they were investigating the murder of 29-year-old Samantha Stewart in Queens after her body was discovered by her brother on July 17, Shea said Thursday.
“As that investigation went forward it came together with a separate, uninvolved, unrelated investigation from the 78th precinct in Brooklyn from several weeks earlier involving a rape case,” Shea said.
In both cases, investigators were led to Drayton, he said, who was “tracked across the country.”
Authorities say that when they located Drayton they discovered another alleged victim — a 28-year-old woman — being held captive.
According to a news release from the Los Angeles County District Attorney, Drayton allegedly strangled and assaulted the woman on July 22 and 23 after he refused to let her leave her apartment following a date.
“Right after he commit a gruesome murder here and destroy my family, he went to California and just almost did the same thing,” Samantha Stewart’s father, Kenneth, told CNN affiliate WCBS.
“Thank God they catch him before he could destroy another family.”
“My brother and I were at home when the detectives stopped by to inform us,” Stewart’s aunt, Ruby Dixon, told CNN. “My family and I just want to congratulate the detectives, NYPD police, for their tireless work and effort in capturing that maniac, getting him off the street.”
Dixon said Stewart worked as a registered nurse on Long Island before her death.
“She was the most beautiful person you could ever know: loving, kind caring, everything, so gentle, so peaceful,” she said. “Friends, she has friends, but she wasn’t really going to parties and stuff. She would go to church and study.”
Suspect has a history of violence
Drayton was also arrested in June for allegedly choking his ex-girlfriend in Nassau County, WCBS reported.
Online court records show Drayton was released without bail on July 5 in connection to a case in Nassau County, New York, where he was charged with aggravated harassment and strangulation in the second-degree.
In a statement, the Legal Aid Society of Nassau County, which was representing Drayton in that case expressed its condolences to Stewart’s family, but declined to comment on the latest developments.
“However, I cannot emphasize enough that the attorneys who handled Mr. Drayton’s matter did so appropriately and extremely competently, as they are required to do,” said Attorney in Chief N. Scott Banks.
“Likewise, the Court certainly acted appropriately and within the law when it rendered its bail decision, after considering all the information that was made available at that time.”
Drayton also has a record of prior arrests in Connecticut. Between 2011 and February 2018, he was arrested and found guilty on a number of different charges, according to court records, including strangulation in the second-degree.
Shea said Drayton will eventually be extradited to New York.
In Los Angeles, Drayton faces charges of attempted murder, forcible rape, false imprisonment by violence and sexual penetration by a foreign object, the LA district attorney’s release said.
Drayton faces a maximum sentence of more than 23 years to life in prison if he’s found guilty. His bail has been set at $1.25 million, according to a release from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.