By Diane Anderson-Minshall
Originally published on Advocate.com February 14 2013 1:36 PM ET
Police think they have the man who killed at least one of the three gay New York men who have been killed in recent weeks. According to CBS New York, 23-year-old Lleuyel Garcia was arrested today and charged with second-degree murder, robbery, criminal possession of stolen property, and tampering with physical evidence related to last weekend's killing of Joseph Benzinger, the 54-year-old sanitation worker found dead at Queens' Crown Motor Inn.
New York Police Department investigators told CBS and the New York Daily News that they aren't sure if this murder has any connection to the two other cases, but so far they believe they are looking for different killers in each case.
Benziger is the latest victim. In late January, 53-year-old junior high school teacher David Rangel was found dead, stuffed below his own sofa, in his Jackson Heights, NY apartment. Two days later, 48-year-old Charles Romo was found bound and beaten, in his underwear, with a bag over his head in his Manhattan apartment. All three men were white, gay, middle aged, but beyond that were no links between cases, at least as reported.
In recent days, police and gay City Council Member Daniel Dromm urged the area's gay men to not go home with strangers and to use caution when meeting other men for sex online.
Turns out that advice may not have saved Benziger. The Daily News' Rocco Parascandola reported that Benziger and Garcia had known each other and had sexual contact on prior occassions. Parascandola writes that police were able to track down Garcia because he had stolen Benziger's cell phone, and investigators used cell phone records to trace the phone to him. In addition, Garcia allegedly "implicated himself in the crime by admitting he was at the motel."
“I commend the swift action taken by the NYPD to make an arrest in the murder of Joseph Benzinger,” City Council Member Daniel Dromm told CBS. “Despite the arrest, it is vitally important that we continue to remain vigilant. The other murders committed against gay men remain unsolved but I am hopeful that the NYPD will capture the perpetrators. Again, I want to urge everyone that it is always important to practice safety whether meeting people online or in person.”