Dating apps were created to help people meet each other and maybe fall in love. But law enforcement authorities say a Connecticut man used them to prey on women, including a nurse in Queens, New York, he met through Tinder who was strangled to death this month.
Police in New York have also linked the man, Danueal Drayton, to a rape in Brooklyn and they are investigating whether he might be responsible for other rapes and killings involving women he met through dating and ride-hailing apps. Drayton, of New Haven, has a history of arrests involving violence against women dating to 2011, according to the authorities, and he has told investigators he is responsible for several other crimes.
Drayton, 27, was arrested last week in Los Angeles by a regional fugitive task force after the police in New York tracked him to a hotel room there, law enforcement authorities said. When Drayton was found, officers discovered he had raped a woman and was holding her captive after sharing an Uber ride, the authorities said.
He pleaded not guilty today in Los Angeles County Superior Court to charges of attempted first-degree murder, forcible rape, penetration with a foreign object, and false imprisonment by violence. During the hearing, he was restrained in a chair that could not be seen by people in the courtroom gallery, but he could be heard muttering incoherently. A judge ordered him held on $1.25 million bail.
Investigators in New York have begun a deeper investigation into Drayton and are looking for other victims, Dermot F. Shea, chief of detectives, said today.
“If you look at the body of work, what just took place, it’s not much of a stretch unfortunately to think that there are going to be other victims,” Shea said. “We need those victims. We need them to come forward for a lot of different reasons.”
But no other victims have come forward, Shea said.
Police in New York were seeking Drayton in the killing of the nurse, Samantha Stewart, 29, who was found in her apartment in Queens on July 17. Her brother discovered her body wrapped in a blanket in the corner of her bedroom. The medical examiner determined she had been beaten and strangled.
At the same time, the police said detectives in the special victims division were investigating a Brooklyn woman’s report that Drayton had choked her until she passed out and then raped her on June 17 after they met through Tinder and went on a date.
Tinder said today it was cooperating with the investigation. “These heinous acts of violence are heartbreaking,” the company said in the statement.
Four days earlier, on June 13, Drayton was accused of choking an ex-girlfriend during an argument, according to a criminal complaint. The woman fled to her house, where Drayton forced his way in before her brother intervened, according to the complaint filed in Criminal Court in Nassau County.
Drayton was not finished, the complaint said. Three days later, he sent her a Facebook message: “This is just the beginning, first I cut your tires then your brake line, then I set your car on fire or blow it up,” according to the complaint. After receiving the messages, the woman told police that she looked out a window and saw him slashing her tires.
Nassau County authorities charged him on July 1 with strangulation, criminal mischief, criminal trespass and aggravated harassment. He was held on $2,000 bail, but was released July 5 despite the objections of the district attorney’s office, which had not yet received paperwork detailing his previous convictions for similar crimes in Connecticut.
Stewart was remembered as “both empathetic and caring” by Kerri Scanlon, the chief nursing officer at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, where she cared for epilepsy and stroke patients. “She was also clinically superb,” Scanlon said.
Stewart was buried today in Cypress Hills Cemetery, near her two-story house in Jamaica, Queens. Candles lined the stairway to her front door, along with a bouquet of flowers and a balloon attached to a lamppost that read: “A Special Person.”
Margaret Wright Stewart, Stewart’s mother, and her best friend, Margaret Foster, remarked on how the mother and daughter shared the same smile — wide and full of teeth. “It was the most beautiful smile,” Wright Stewart said.
Wright Stewart said her daughter wanted to meet someone and get married, but rarely spoke about dating. Wright Stewart and Foster said they did not blame Tinder for Samantha’s death. Plenty of people, they said, met their soul mates through the platform.
“She just trusted someone who had bad intentions, and now she’ll never be able to recover from it,” Foster said. “But this isn’t the last person that this will happen to.”