Update: A previous version of this article states that Drayton met the woman in Los Angeles on the dating app Tinder. According to a New York Times report, they met when they shared a ride from Uber.
Last week, Los Angeles County prosecutors charged Danueal Drayton, 27, with sexually assaulting and attempting to murder a woman who shared the same Uber ride — a crime that might have ended more tragically if not for the arrival of police, who charged into the victim’s home mid-assault.
Drayton had been tracked all the way to North Hollywood by a New York-New Jersey Police Task Force investigating the murder of Samantha Stewart, a 29-year-old nurse who was found strangled to death, with all of her teeth knocked out, in her Queens, New York, apartment on July 17th. Police allege that Drayton killed Stewart after arranging a date through Tinder. Drayton is due in court in Los Angeles today to face charges for attempted murder, rape, false imprisonment and sexual penetration with a foreign object. He is expected to be extradited to New York sometime next month, where he’s due in court on August 27th.
“The common denominator in these two cases, one being a murder and one being a rape, is dating websites,” the NYPD’s Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said during a press conference last Thursday. “So this individual is known to us, and it is believed by us that this individual uses dating websites to meet women and victimize women.”
There’s a possible third rape victim as well; the NYPD says they used DNA from the murder scene to connect Drayton to a sexual assault one month earlier in Brooklyn. The victim in that case says she also met her assailant through the Tinder app, alleging that after their June 17th date, he choked her unconscious, and she awoke to find him raping her.
A few weeks later, on June 30th, Drayton was arrested for choking his ex-girlfriend, but was released by a judge without bail against the objection of prosecutors on July 5th. Drayton was accused of strangulation in 2011, and two years later, was convicted and sentenced to three years in jail. More recently, in March, he was found guilty of second-degree harassment, but his jail sentence was suspended in favor of one-year probation.
But that’s not all. According to the New York Daily News, when Drayton was interviewed by investigators in Los Angeles, he reportedly claimed responsibility for at least six other murders — two in Connecticut, one in the Bronx, one in Suffolk County, one in either Queens or Nassau County, and possibly another California homicide — but police, thus far, have been unable to find proof of his claims.
At least two of those victims don’t appear to fit Drayton’s alleged pattern of sexually assaulting and strangling female victims targeted via dating apps. For example, according to the Daily News, Drayton claimed responsibility for the killing of a Bronx man, who died after reportedly being attacked by two men five months ago. The NYPD have already charged a homeless man in connection to that crime, but released him on his own recognizance until his next court date in October. Drayton also identified an Indian man found murdered in Connecticut as another one of his victims. Serial offenders, and in particular serial killers, commonly exhibit a pattern of recurring violent behavior targeting victims with one or more shared attributes. While the investigation is ongoing and it’s possible detectives could still find evidence linking Drayton to these other murders, he also would not be the first suspect in custody to confess to crimes he didn’t commit, either under the duress of extensive interrogation, a desire for further infamy or for psychiatric reasons.
While doubt swirls around all his confessions, police don’t believe they’re done uncovering all of Drayton’s alleged crimes.
“There are potentially more victims out there,” Shea said. Detectives are looking to subpoena records from Tinder and other dating sites Drayton may have used in hopes of tracking down other victims and witnesses.
“These heinous acts of violence are heartbreaking,” Tinder told Rolling Stone in a statement. “Our thoughts are with the victims’ families and loved ones and we will continue to offer any assistance we can to law enforcement with its ongoing investigation.”