Sign up For DC 37 News


Public Employee Press

DC 37 News

To catch a killer

OCME’s Christina Aligizakis is one of 134 authorized to interpret DNA results.
L. 420 Morgue Techs and L. 768 death investigators remove Samantha Stewart’s body from the Queens crime scene. DNA evidence points to the Tinder Serial Killer, says NYPD.


A highly trained forensic scientist in Local 3005 helped police catch a brutal misogynist suspected of at least seven murders and other violent assaults in New York, Connecticut and California.

“We made the connection here,” said Christina Aligizakis, a Criminalist 3 at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Manhattan who interprets DNA samples.

She analyzed forensic evidence left at different crime scenes that positively identified suspected serial rapist and murderer Danueal Drayton, dubbed the Tinder Serial Killer.

“All the data presented in the DNA profile matched,” said Aligizakis, a member of New York City Health Department Technical Professional Employees Local 3005. “When I looked at the samples, the numbers matched up.”

New York City Health Department Technical Professional Employees Local 3005 represents 203 criminalists at the medical examiner’s office in Manhattan. They are scientists, many have advanced degrees. They work in three forensic departments at the city’s 34,000 square-foot state-of-the-art DNA training laboratory, examining 13,500 cases a year. They developed new investigatory procedures while identifying WTC victims.

In addition to identifying the dead, OCME Criminalists perform toxicology studies to determine causes of deaths, intoxication levels in DWIs and reviews DNA from robberies, rapes, homicides, and weapons possessions. They may be called on to testify in court as independent witnesses.

Their impartial scientific reports inform prosecutors, defense attorneys, and detectives in the justice system and bring closure to grieving families.

In a gruesome discovery July 17, death investigators represented by Local 768 and morgue techs represented by Local 420 removed the lifeless body of Samantha Stewart, 29, from her apartment in Springfield Gardens, Queens. The killer had knocked out all her teeth and left Stewart, a nurse, battered and strangled in a pool of blood.

Evidence found at the scene was compared to DNA in a sex assault kit from a June 17 rape of a woman in Brooklyn. These samples landed on Aligizakis’ work station; her findings were spot on.

Two weeks later, an NYPD special task force extradited Drayton from California, where LAPD arrested and charged him with kidnapping, rape and strangulation of a woman he met through a ride share app.

“Drayton used dating apps like Tinder and Plenty of Fish to meet the women he victimized,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said at a July press conference. “Dating websites were the common denominator.”

Interpreting DNA test results

Once in custody, Drayton admitted to committing other murders in the Bronx and Connecticut, including at least three rapes in New York City. All are under investigation. “It felt pretty good that I had a part in taking another criminal off the street,” said Aligizakis. “The link leads to higher charges and longer jail time.”

“Christina is one of our top Criminalists and is often the go-to person to analyze DNA in sexual assault cases,” said Samantha Rappa–Giovagnoli, Local 3005 vice president and grievance rep. Her work helped end a heinous spree that cast a pall over the sultry New York City summer.

An energetic mother of three, Aligizakis joined OCME in 2006. She advanced to Criminalist Level 2 in 2008, and Level 3 in 2014, with on-the-job training she gained clearance to access the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s DNA databank. She is one of 134 Criminalists authorized to interpret DNA test results.

OCME Criminalists upload DNA samples into CODIS, the combined index system of DNA samples from local, state and federal databases. Their entry salary starts at $47,000 and they can advance to earn $87,000 as Criminalist Level 4. Sixty five percent of OCME Criminalists are women.

A union salary review in 2015 revealed New York ranks 48th in the nation with the lowest paid criminalists, said Rappa-Giovagnoli, who compiled the data. “The pay disparity issue is on our radar.”

“Because New York City has the largest, most comprehensive DNA training laboratory available in the world, it is highly respected as the industry standard bearer,” said Local 3005 President Jeff Oshins. “Our members earned a reputation for efficiency and quality work.”