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Murdered In a Motel

Was M.V. Man’s Killing Tied To Another?

A Middle Village man was found murdered inside a hotel room in Elmhurst last Saturday night, Feb. 9, law enforcement sources stated, and there are concerns among community activists that the death may be connected to a recent, similar homicide in Jackson Heights.

City Council Member Daniel Dromm held a press conference at the Crown Motor Inn on Tuesday, Feb. 12, to speak about the recent murders of two gay men. Also present was Ejeris Dixon, director of Community Organizing and Public Advocacy at NYC Anti-Violence Project.

Police identified the victim as 54-year-old Joseph Benzinger of 64th Road.

According to published reports, Benzinger-who recently retired from the Department of Sanitation- was found dead inside a room at the Crown Motor Inn located at 74-01 Queens Blvd. at around 11:40 p.m. last Saturday.

Members of the 110th Precinct and EMS units responded to the location after receiving a 911 call.

Upon their arrival, police sources said, the officers discovered the un- conscious and unresponsive Benzinger, who had an object wrapped around his neck.

Paramedics examined the victim and pronounced him dead. His body was then transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to determine the exact cause of death.

Police classified the case as a homicide, and a canvass of the surrounding area and the hotel was conducted. Despite their efforts, authorities noted, no immediate arrests were made.

The case was presented to the 110th Precinct Detective Squad and the NYPD Queens Homicide Squad for further investigation, police said.

During a press conference outside the Crown Motor Inn on Tuesday, Feb. 12, City Council Member Daniel Dromm said it is undetermined if the incident is related to the Feb. 3 murder of a man at a location on 91st Street in Jackson Heights, but the openly gay politician did not dismiss the possibility.

That case is being investigated by the 115th Precinct Detective Squad.

“I don’t know if there is a connection or not but that is something I asked the police department to consider,” Dromm said. “It is a possibility but there are many possibilities.”

According to police sources, while the victims in both murders were homosexual, the cases themselves do not presently appear to be connected.

Dromm noted that he learned from various media reports that both homicides may have stemmed from online dating services. The growing popularity of these websites have many members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community concerned that they are being targeted, according to Dromm.

“They think we are a vulnerable community and the shame that is involved keeps people from reporting it,” Dromm stated. “In these cases, it was worst case scenarios. In these cases, two people were murdered. There have been other violent incidents that have gone unreported.”

Ejeris Dixon, deputy director of Community Organizing and Public Advocacy at New York City Anti-Violence Project, urged caution when using online dating services during the press conference.

Dixon said to meet at a public place and inform someone else of the arrangement before going.

Police have video of the victim of the Jackson Heights murder entering the building but never leaving. The hotel also provided the police with video, Dromm added.

“My biggest concern is that people need to be safe,” said Dromm. “There are still two murderers on the loose. I dont want anybody else hooking up with these guys who committed these two crimes.”

Anyone with any information regarding the murder cases that could prove helpful is asked to call the 110th Precinct Detective Squad at 1-718-476-9303, the 115th Precinct Detective Squad at 1-718-533-2039 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.

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