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Flushing rape victim mourned by family

Guihua Yu, the mother of Yu Yao, the 23-year-old Chinese immigrant who was raped and beaten to death in a Flushing alley May 16 just two months after she arrived in America, is headed back to China to await the trial for the man police accuse of committing the heinous crimes.

Yao was put to rest during an emotional funeral June 3. As mourners sang the rousing alleluias of the Christian hymn ‘The Strife is O’er, the Battle Done’, Yu, 55, was in the throes of utter despair at her daughter’s tragic fate, caressing her face in her open casket and wailing her final choked farewells in Mandarin.

The Rev. Paul Xie, Yao’s priest at St. George’s Church in Flushing since she joined it Easter Sunday, led a moving service during which Yu never left her daughter’s side. When the coffin was to be closed, Yu refused to let go of her hand.

Yu was torn away from her daughter’s body for the last time and six men carried the coffin out to a waiting hearse, slowly marching in lockstep, while a cadre of women held the grieving mother back.

Her moans intensified into gut-wrenching screams as she doubled over, then fell in the street in agony out in front of Chun Fook Funeral Services before being ushered in a car to follow the hearse to St. Michael’s All Souls Crematory in East Elmhurst, where Yao was cremated immediately following the services.

After returning to Beijing, Yu will remain in China, as she knows few people in America, said Linda Sun, an aide to state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing), but will return for the substantive parts of the trial of Carlos Salazar Cruz, the man accused of killing Yao.

The assemblywoman or one of her staffers had been with Yu and other members of her family nearly every moment since the accident, Meng said.

Xie offered a positive message in an attempt to offer some hope to Yao’s family and the other people who attended her funeral.

“Her death is not the end. Her life is changed, not over,” he said in Mandarin, then repeated in English. “God did not close the door, he has opened the door to eternity.”

Sister Esther Wang of Praising Life Ministry made the trip from Belleville, N.J., to Flushing, even though she has stage 4 breast cancer, in order to pay her respects and offer Yu her words of compassion.

“It’s a very sad day today, and we are witnessing a very sad experience,” she said through a Mandarin translator. “There’s only one hope in this world. It’s full of evil days, but the one God will take us to the day we expected, a day of hope.”

The community has come together in the wake of Yao’s death, hoping something good can come out of a crime so wretched, said Meng. Though Yao screamed repeatedly for help as she was being attacked feet from busy 41st Avenue, police said only one man called the police for assistance, a fact that has galvanized local leaders and community members.

Michael Chu, president of the Council for Chinese American Associations, an organization comprised of groups of immigrants from various Chinese towns and cities who welcome and help new emigrés from their respective municipalities when they arrive in America, has been working to ensure that people act or call if they see something to prevent another tragedy from occurring. Yao was in contact with the group representing her hometown of Heilong Jiang.

“Something like this happened because there wasn’t enough police presence on the streets and no one cared enough,” he said. “Because something like this happened, we can’t let it happen again.”

Yao was raped and beaten to death with a metal pipe allegedly by Cruz, 28, in an alley next to 133-23 41st Road, according to police. He has been charged with several crimes, including second-degree murder.

After the attack, Yao was rushed to New York Hospital Queens, where she remained in a coma until she was taken off life support May 21.

Yao had only been in the United States for two months at the time of her murder and she had found a home on Maple Avenue just 20 days before the attack, according to police.

She had been grocery shopping and was walking toward Main Street on 41st Road with bags of groceries when a drunken Cruz allegedly dragged her into an alley, removed her clothing from the waist down, raped her with the metal pipe and beat her to death, according to court papers.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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