Dating App Murder Suspect: Convenient Madness?

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A murder suspect who is believed to have met his victims through online dating apps says he has mental issues, but his ex-girlfriend says it’s ruse.

“It’s mind control,” said suspected rapist and murderer Danueal Drayton in an exclusive interview with the New York Daily News. “They use direct-energy weapons on me to control my mind.”

The “they” in question, according to Drayton, 27, are a series of voices in his head that he claims force him to black out and commit acts of violence, such as the murder of 28-year-old nurse Samantha Stewart. Found dead in her apartment in Queens, New York, the official cause of death for Stewart was reported as strangulation.

Police eventually found Drayton in a hotel in Los Angeles. When he was apprehended, police discovered that he was holding another woman hostage in his room. She was alive, but a victim of sexual assault.

The “common denominator in these cases — one being a murder and one being a rape — is dating websites,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said last week. “This individual is known to us and believed by us to be using dating websites to meet women and victimize women.”



Drayton pled not guilty to charges of sexual assault and attempted murder, presumably due to his alleged mental illness. He says that he isn’t in control of his own actions and that voices in his head lead him into a fugue state of which he has no memory.

“I’m a passenger in my own body,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.

While Drayton says he suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar II disorder, police have stated that they have found no history of mental illness. In addition to these claims, Drayton has admitted to seven murders, though police sources see those allegations as dubious.

Zynea Barney

Zynea Barney during an interview with ABC News

Drayton’s ex-girlfriend Zynea Barney, 26, has her own version of his claims. The two dated after meeting on Tinder, and while she thought of him as “cool guy,” their six-month relationship ended with Drayton attempting to strangle Barney in her car after she broke up with him. Police arrested Drayton, but he was eventually freed without bail a mere 12 days before his murder of Samantha Stewart.

“He was trying to impress me,” Barney said in an interview with the New York Daily News. “He would say, ‘Yeah I already know how to play the system.’ I was like, ‘What?’ He was like, ‘Yeah if you just sit there and act like you didn’t have any control over stuff, you could get off the hook with anything. I got it done before.”

Barney’s assessment was that Drayton wasn’t mentally ill, but deceptive and cunning. “He’s very, very, very smart,” she said. “I just hope the judge sees the game he’s trying to pull over their eyes. He’s very smart.”

According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 percent of all felony defendants attempt an insanity plea, and only a fraction are successful. For some, an insanity defense is a way to avoid general prison populations or escape death row. This, Barney claims, is exactly Drayton’s plan.

“He wants the judge to eat right from his hands and let (Drayton) claim insanity,” she said. “So he won’t be with the regular (prison) population.”

Detectives are still looking into Drayton’s claims of six murders in addition to that of Samantha Stewart, and it remains to be seen whether his assertions of mental illness will hold water with either trained psychologists or the courts.

Regardless of the outcome in California, Danueal Drayton will still need to face murder charges in New York some time in the future.


Online editor for Hers magazine.

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