NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – An arrest has been made in connection with the murder of a gay man at a Queens motel.
Lleuyel Garcia, 23, has been charged with second-degree murder, robbery, criminal possession of stolen property, and tampering with physical evidence in the death of 54-year-old Joseph Benzinger.
Benzinger, of Middle Village, was found dead at the Crown Motor Inn on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst on Saturday night. The medical examiner will determine the cause of death.
The NYPD has not determined if the murder is connected to the deaths of two other gay men in recent weeks. However, police have said that it appears the three cases are not related and different suspects are involved.
On Jan. 26, David Rangel, 53, was found dead in his Jackson Heights apartment. Rangel was killed in his own apartment and was found stuffed under a couch, officials said.
Two days later, Charles Romo, 48, was found by his housekeeper in his Hamilton Heights apartment. He was found in his underwear and was tied up and beaten, officials said.
“I commend the swift action taken by the NYPD to make an arrest in the murder of Joseph Benzinger,” said City Council Member Daniel Dromm. “Despite the arrest, it is vitally important that we continue to remain vigilant. The other murders committed against gay men remain unsolved but I am hopeful that the NYPD will capture the perpetrators. Again, I want to urge everyone that it is always important to practice safety whether meeting people online or in person.”
Dromm has said the Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating each case.