Police have arrested Lleuyel Garcia in connection with the murder of Joseph Benzinger, whose body was found at the Crown Motor Inn in Queens on February 9. The February 14 arrest comes in one of three cases of gay men, two in Queens and one in Manhattan, found murdered between January 26 and February 9. Published reports noted lack of forced entry in the three cases and that the apparent cause of death in two was strangulation. The other two victims were murdered in their homes.
The New York Post, citing police sources, said that Garcia, 23, who lives in the Inwood neighborhood of Upper Manhattan, is alleged to have strangled Benzinger after the two men argued and to have then stolen his wallet and other possessions. One source told the Post, “The two had known each other for several years, and it was not a random attack.”
Garcia has been charged with second-degree murder, robbery, possession of stolen property, and evidence tampering.
The Post account contradicts a narrative that had emerged earlier that the three killings may have been linked to online hook-ups. The New York City Anti-Violence Project along with out gay City Councilman Daniel Dromm made statements in the days following the murders about the safety of gay men who meet strangers online or in bars. After the NYPD’s apprehension of Garcia, Dromm released a statement saying, “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 someone online or in person.”