Two gay men in the New York City borough of Queens have been murdered in recent weeks. The first murder took place at 32-23 91st Street on January 26. The victim was 53-year-old David Rangel. The second killing happened on Febuary 9 a mere 7 minute drive away, at the Crown Motor Inn at 74-01 Queens Boulevard. Like Rangel, Joseph Benzinger, 54, had been strangled to death.
In upper Manhattan, Charles Romo, 48, was found tied up and strangled to death in his apartment on January 28. There were no signs of forced entry in any of the three murders, and police believe the victims may have met their killers online. Openly gay City Councilman Daniel Dromm has urged those in the gay community to be careful, warning them to “exercise extreme caution while dating.” However, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne told media yesterday that the slayings are not believed to be the work of one killer, stating, “It appears that the cases are not related with different suspects involved.” Browne said the suspects in the two Queens killings are of different races. Still, Browne’s statement has not quelled all speculation in the gay community that there may be a serial killer on the loose.
In a famous case of an online tryst gone bad, New York radio reporter George Weber was murdered by a young man he met on Craigslist. John Katehis was 16 when he stabbed Weber over 50 times in his apartment. It remains unclear who posted the original ad — Katehis claimed Weber was looking for someone to smother him, while the prosecution maintained that Katehis, a knife enthusiast, posted the ad. In 2010, Katehis went to trial, where he claimed self-defense during an S&M encounter gone awry. The jury couldn’t reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared. A second jury, however, found Katehis guilty of second degree murder in November 2011. A month later, on December 13, a Brooklyn judge handed down the maximum sentence: 25 years to life. After the sentencing, Kathis spoke, “For the death of George Weber, I am sorry,” he said, “I regret it.”