Nassau County judge released suspect weeks before murder, kidnapping

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Nassau County judge released suspect weeks before murder, kidnapping
Danuael Drayton (Photo courtesy of New York City Police Department)

A Connecticut man who was charged with strangling an ex-girlfriend was released without bail by a Nassau County judge two weeks before he is suspected of strangling a North Shore University Hospital nurse and kidnapping a woman in Los Angeles.

Danueal Drayton, 27, of New Haven, Connecticut, was arrested in Nassau County on June 30 for allegedly strangling his ex-girlfriend, who survived, and charged with felony second-degree strangulation and third-degree trespassing, Nassau County court records show.

According to a Nassau County police complaint, Drayton also sent a Facebook message to the ex-girlfriend saying, “This is just the beginning, first your tires, then I cut your break line, and then I set your car on fire or I blow it up.”

Nassau County Judge Scott Fairgrieve of Mineola ordered that Drayton be held on $2,000 bond at his July 1 arraignment, but Nassau County Judge Erica Prager of Great Neck released him on July 5 despite objections from county prosecutors.

Daniel Bagnuola, a spokesman for the Nassau County courts, said Prager was not informed of Drayton’s past criminal history through either attorney in the case or through a New York State ID, or NYSID, which provides background information for the judge while considering things like bail.

“A judge has broad discretion when determining whether to set bail; many factors are to be considered, including the views of other agencies involved within the process,” Bagnuola said. “In New York state, the purpose of bail is to ensure a defendant’s return to court; Mr. Drayton did not have a prior criminal record and had not been indicted.

“In this particular case, [Prager] carefully considered the facts before her and made her determination based on all the current, relevant and factual information that was provided to the court at that time. It would have been impossible for the judge at that time to foresee the allegations that are presently unfolding and coming to light with regard to this defendant.”

Efforts to reach Prager were unavailing.

Drayton was arrested last week in North Hollywood, California, while allegedly holding a 28-year-old woman captive in a hotel room.

Samantha Stewart, 29, was found strangled in her Queens apartment on July 17. (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

He is charged with attempted murder, forcible rape, false imprisonment and sexual penetration with a foreign object in the Los Angeles arrest.

He remains a suspect in the murder of 29-year-old nurse Samantha Stewart, who was found naked and wrapped in a blanket in her Queens apartment on July 17, New York City police officials said.

If convicted in the Los Angeles case, he faces 23 years to life in prison, Los Angeles officials said.

New York City police said Stewart suffered from trauma to her neck and head and was pronounced dead in her apartment.

“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 said at a news conference.

According to the Hartford Courant in Drayton’s home state, he was arrested five times between 2011 and February 2018, including on a second-degree strangulation charge in 2011, and is on probation for second-degree harassment in Connecticut.

Drayton is currently being held in Los Angeles on $1.25 million bail.

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