Slain woman’s mother arrives in Flushing

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Yu Yao’s mother knew only that her daughter was in the hospital when she arrived from Beijing at Newark Liberty Airport Monday afternoon on a visa arranged by state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside).

Yao, a 23-year-old Chinese immigrant, was allegedly raped and beaten to death by Carlos Salazar Cruz, 28, with a metal pipe on a populated Flushing street the night of May 16, according to police.

Her mother has a heart condition, so Yao’s uncle thought she should not hear the news that her daughter had been brutally murdered all at once, Meng said.

When she arrived in America after a 15-hour flight, she asked to be taken to New York Hospital Queens, where her daughter was rushed from the crime scene, but Yao — who was brain dead after the attack — had already been taken off life support and died Friday, Meng said. It was not clear how the decision was made to remove her from life support.

The body was no longer in the facility, so her family informed her of what had happened to her daughter and she became inconsolable, according to Meng.

“She couldn’t say a word to anyone, she was just crying and crying,” Meng said.

It was too late to take the mother to the morgue Monday, so she went Tuesday morning as the body had yet to be identified, according to Meng. She fainted at the morgue and refused to leave the body Tuesday afternoon, according to Meng.

New details about the circumstances of the crime emerged in recent days as community outrage grew over the fact that only one passerby called police about the beating despite the fact that Yao’s screams were thought to be audible from the street, according to police. Meng said she was angered by surveillance video that showed at least three people passed by without calling.

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 she died, according to police. She had been grocery shopping and was walking toward Main Street on 41st Road with bags of groceries when 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.

The man who reported the crime called first at 9:27 p.m., then at least once more, according to police, who said a short foot pursuit took place before Cruz, who has no criminal record, was arrested. The pipe was recovered a block from the alley, police said.

Police said Cruz was so drunk at the time of his arrest he did not even know how he got to Main Street and Meng said police told her he had to be taken to the hospital and handcuffed to a bed until he sobered up. Police eventually booked Cruz at 2 p.m. Monday, according to court papers.

Flushing’s leaders were crying out for the community to do more to report and prevent crime in the days following the murder.

Martha Flores-Vazquez, Democratic district leader for the 22nd Assembly District in Flushing and executive director of the Community Prevention Alternatives for Families in Crisis Nature Counseling Center, a domestic violence awareness and counseling group, held a candlelight vigil and press conference to draw attention to the issue Monday afternoon at the site of the crime.

“We’re here to express our condolences to the family,” she said. “And to send out a strong message to the neighbors that ... if you see something, say something. It doesn’t matter what your immigration status is. It’s up to you to help stop crime.”

A number of members of her domestic violence group attended and spoke out against violence toward women as did a number of local community leaders.

“If you see something abnormal, if you see someone who is intoxicated walking with a pipe, please let the police know,” Terence Park, president of the Our Flushing Political Coalition, said. “We need to have the spirit of vigilance.”

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

Updated 5:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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