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Man charged in murder of New York gay man at Queens motel

Thursday, February 14, 2013
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NEW YORK — A 23-year-old man has been charged with the murder of Joseph Benzinger, a 54-year-old gay man who was found strangled on Saturday in a Queens, N.Y. motel.

Crown Motor Inn, Elmhurst, N.Y.

Police arrested Lleuyel Garcia, charging him Thursday with murder and robbery in connection to Benzinger’s death, reported the New York Daily News.

Police believe Garcia and Benzinger had a sexual relationship before the murder.

A police source told the Daily News that Garcia stole the victim’s wallet and cell phone and that detectives use cell phone records to track the suspect down. Garcia implicated himself in the crime by admitting he was at the motel, the source said.

Benzinger was found at the Crown Motor Inn in Elmhurst on Saturday with a shirt wrapped around his neck — he is the third gay man strangled in recent weeks, although police said they do not think the murders were related.

Last month, David Rangel, 53, was killed in his Jackson Heights, Queens, apartment Jan. 26, and Charles Romo, 48, was slain in his Hamilton Heights apartment two days later.

Both those murders remain unsolved.

On Tuesday, openly gay City Councilman Daniel Dromm urged the LGBT community to use caution when meeting someone for the first time, and to use online dating services cautiously.

Police said that at least two of the victims may have met their attackers online.

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