NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Police say they finally caught up with a man wanted in connection with the death of a nurse in Queens, discovering the suspect on the other side of the country with another woman held captive in a Los Angeles hotel room.
Danueal Drayton, 27, of New Haven, Conn., was taken into custody Thursday.
The hunt began after 29-year-old nurse Samantha Stewart was found dead inside her bedroom at her family home in Springfield Gardens, Queens, on July 17. Police say Stewart suffered trauma to her head and neck.
“A lot of sorrow is in my heart,” her aunt, Ruby Dixon, told CBS2’s Tony Aiello after learning about Drayton’s arrest. “My niece was the best you ever could find in a human being.”
Police had been searching for the person responsible for Stewart’s murder and also another incident involving the rape of a 23-year-old woman that happened the month before in Gowanus, Brooklyn.
Both investigations led them to the same suspect, when the joint New York/New Jersey Police Task Force caught up with Drayton.
“There was a separate woman in a hotel room in California that was being held against her will,” said NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea.
“Right after he commit a gruesome murder here and destroy my family, he went to California and just almost did the same thing,” Stewart’s father, Kenneth, said. “Thank God they catch him before he could destroy another family.”
Authorities believe Drayton met both of those women on Tinder and their first meeting was in a public space. They say he also may have used other dating sites to meet potential victims.
“The common denominator in these two cases – one being a murder, one being a rape – is dating websites,” said Shea. “So this individual is known to us and it is believed by us that this individual uses dating web sites to meet women and then victimize these women.”
Police say Drayton was well known to police. He was arrested in June for allegedly choking an ex-girlfriend at Inwood Park in Nassau County. One July 1, his bail was set at $1,000. On July 5, a judge dropped the bail requirement, over the objection of the district attorney, and Drayton walked free.
He also has five prior arrests in his home state of Connecticut, including a strangulation arrest in 2011.
“I’m devastated by my loss of my daughter, but hearing this news now it really, really shocks me, throws me over the edge,” said Kenneth Stewart.
Police believe there may be more victims out there and are asking for anyone affected or who has information to come forward.
“Be careful. If you meet up with someone, tell somebody,” Dixon said. “Tell a family member, tell a friend. You don’t know who these monsters are.”
Stewart’s funeral is set for Saturday.