Samantha Stewart wasn’t answering her phone, and she missed her night shift as a nurse at a hospital. Her father, Kenneth Stewart, went to check on the 29-year-old at her home in the Springfield Gardens neighborhood of Queens on July 17. In his daughter’s second-floor bedroom, he discovered Samantha’s lifeless body wrapped in a sheet.
“I turned her over trying to shake her and say ‘Samantha,’ ” Kenneth Stewart told ABC 7. “No response. I realized when I turned her over, she was dead.”
She lay in a pool of blood. All her teeth had been reportedly knocked out. Police would later determine that Stewart had been killed by trauma to the neck and head.
The investigation into her death eventually pointed authorities across the country. In Los Angeles last Tuesday, police busted in on 27-year-old Danueal Drayton, who they said was holding another woman captive in a North Hollywood hotel room, CBS New York reported. Police say he is also the suspect in an unsolved Brooklyn rape.
No lawyer representing him could be located.
The common denominator in the cases appears to be Tinder and other online dating websites, which Drayton allegedly used to contact his victims.
“It is believed by us that this individual uses dating websites to meet women and then victimizes these women,” New York Police Department Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea told reporters at a news conference last week.
According to the New York Daily News, Drayton said he’s behind at least six other killings. While police weigh those claims, authorities suspect he’s involved in other crimes.
“I believe that there will be more victims,” Shea told the paper.
Law enforcement sources told the Daily News that Drayton has cooperated in interviews with investigators.
“My body did this, not my mind,” Drayton allegedly told police, according to the paper. “I didn’t want to do this. My body made me do this.”
Between 2011 and February 2018, Drayton was arrested five times in his home state of Connecticut, including on a second-degree strangulation charge, ABC 7 reported. He is on probation in that state for second-degree harassment, according to the Hartford Courant.
On June 30, he was also arrested in Nassau County, N.Y., for allegedly choking his ex-girlfriend during an argument. Despite the objections of the prosecuting attorney, Drayton was released without bail on July 5.
“It would have been impossible for the judge at that time to foresee the allegations that are presently unfolding,” a representative for the Nassau court told ABC 7.
After Stewart’s murder, police say they connected the victim with Drayton via Tinder. According to the Daily News, facial recognition technology also linked the suspect to the June 17 rape of a 23-year-old woman in Brooklyn. As with Stewart, the unnamed rape victim also allegedly knew Drayton from Tinder.
The Daily News also reported that Drayton’s white Ford was traced from Stewart’s murder site to John F. Kennedy International Airport. The vehicle was located, and inside police found paperwork related to Drayton’s Nassau County court case, as well as Stewart’s AAA card.
The suspect, in the meantime, had already flown to Los Angeles on a one-way ticket. While in California, he jumped back on Tinder, police say.
He was arrested last Tuesday in California. According to CBS LA, Drayton was discovered with a 28-year-old woman he had allegedly sexually assaulted and refused to let leave a hotel. He’s being charged in Los Angeles with attempted murder, rape, false imprisonment by violence and sexual penetration by a foreign object.
Drayton has yet to make a court appearance because he has refused to leave his cell in California. His court date was rescheduled for Monday morning. Last week, a judge signed an extraction order allowing jailers to forcibly remove the suspect from his cell.
“I will fly over there and volunteer to take him out of the cell,” Kenneth Stewart told the Daily News.