by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Staff Writer
Hooking up has never been easier. These days, Gay men can turn to a number of online dating websites where they are a couple of clicks away from quick connect sex. In fact, you don't even need a computer to access these social networking sites; there's an app for it on your cell phone. Unfortunately, say police, social networking sites for Gay men have turned into a playground for criminals, who log on to find unsuspecting victims for encounters that end up in theft and intimidation - and, in some cases, murder.
Last month, Hermosa Beach, California detectives arrested the alleged "Gay Prey" bandit for kidnapping, car jacking, and robbery. According to detectives, Angel Ayala, 24, allegedly preyed on Gay men he found on social networking sites and has an "extensive history of violence."
Ayala found his latest victim through Craigslist. According to detectives, Ayala met the victim at the man's apartment, where he allegedly drew a gun and forced him to load his car with a television, computer, and camera. Then, Ayala forced the man to drive him to an ATM, where he made the victim withdraw an undisclosed sum of cash. Ultimately, Ayala dropped the man off in El Segundo and drove off with his car.
Detectives said that fingerprints left behind at the most recent victim's apartment and his vehicle led to Ayala's location and arrest.
Hermosa Beach detectives say that Ayala has committed similar crimes in Bell Gardens and West Hollywood, but to an unknown extent, because his victims may have been too embarrassed to call the police.
Ayala's latest victim faired a lot better than Mark G. Woodland, 54, of Phoenix, Arizona.
Last week, Phoenix police say that Woodland was found dead at his apartment from a beating and stabbing that could be traced back to a social networking application used by Gay men to meet each other.
Police say Woodland's roommate returned home to the apartment the men shared and noticed the place had been ransacked. The roommate called the police, who, after searching the apartment, found Woodland's body, beaten and stabbed, in a downstairs bathroom.
According to the Phoenix New Times, the roommate told police that Woodland had sent him a text message saying he was going to pick up a male date. He sent a second text to make sure the roommate had left the apartment.
After finding his body, police tracked down a friend of Woodland's in California, who told them Woodland had met the man using an unidentified social networking application.
The application uses a GPS to locate potential dates based on a person's proximity with other users.
According to police, they were given Woodland's date's username for the app by his friend, as well as a description of the man last seen with Woodland by one of his neighbors. They tracked down a suspect whose iPhone arranged the date with Woodland and matched the description of the man.
Tommy Reed, 19, was arrested and taken to police headquarters for questioning. He made certain admissions, which, combined with other evidence, gave police probable cause to make an arrest. Reed was booked on charges of second-degree murder.
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