It’s a genuinely heartbreaking story. Last November a 61-year-old woman named GuiYing Ma was beaten in the street for no reason. She died in the hospital from her injuries three months later. Today the NY Times has a story about Ms. Ma and her husband Mr. Gao. They moved to New York from China in 2017 so they could work and help support their grandchildren back home. With no ability to speak English, Mr. Gao found a job cleaning grease filters in restaurants and Ms. Ma stayed home and cooked and took care of their small apartment. She also helped out her landlord by sweeping up trash around his property.
It was the bond between them that softened the landing. Mr. Gao had always liked how Ms. Ma was gentle but spirited. She had been the kind of girl who preferred sledding with the boys over jumping rope. In turn, she admired his humility and honesty, and how he cared for his younger brother and sister. They saw each other as equals, co-conspirators in a simple life.
Last fall, they had begun to talk about heading home.
On the morning after Thanksgiving, after her husband left for work, Ms. Ma headed down three flights of stairs and out onto 103rd Street in the Corona neighborhood. She had taken to sweeping the sidewalks around a nearby vacant building owned by her landlord, a kind man whom she often plied with steamed buns and noodles. Tidying an area often strewn with trash was another way to show appreciation.
Ms. Ma set off on her usual six-block journey, past the pawnshop and the laundromat with the blue awning and the Dominican restaurant and the Greek Orthodox church.
She arrived at around 8 a.m. at the building on 38th Avenue, which was bordered by a green wooden fence inked with graffiti.
Ms. Ma began sweeping and that apparently set off 33-year-old Elisaul Perez, a homeless man who was known to sleep in the area.
Residents in the area said Perez sleeps in the streets near the victim’s apartment building, and has been known to act out at people in the area.
“He have a lot of problems. We have a lot of people around here. He’s screaming a lot,” one resident said.
Perez started some kind of verbal argument with Ms. Ma and then picked up a rock and threw it at her head. She collapsed on the sidewalk and Perez picked up the rock again and threw it at her head a second time. She was taken to the hospital in a coma. Doctors had to remove a piece of her skull to attempt to save her life. Mr. Gao was told that if she woke up she would be paralyzed on her left side from the injury. Ms. Ma remained in a coma for almost three months. She finally opened her eyes in February and seemed to be improving.
But on the night of Feb. 22, Mr. Gao was preparing for bed when he got a call. Ms. Ma’s heart was beating too fast. The doctor said to come right away. Mr. Gao rushed to the train that could get him to her in 15 minutes.
He was two stops away when his phone rang again.
His wife, the girl of his childhood, the accomplice in his American escapade, had died.
The fact that Ms. Ma’s attacker was homeless isn’t mentioned by the NY Times. The story does report that Perez had a record but only offers vague outlines: “Mr. Perez had multiple prior arrests, including for robbery, public lewdness and assault.” Here’s the other part of Perez’ record that didn’t make it into the NY Times. Perez had attacked an Asian woman just weeks earlier but the misdemeanor charges in that case meant he couldn’t be held on bail.
Records show Perez, who also goes by Yose Claro, has 14 prior arrests dating back to 2009. In the last year across Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan, several have been for public lewdness, drug possession and larceny.
Back in September, he allegedly struck another Asian woman in the back of the head with a piece of wood in Queens. He was charged with third degree assault, a misdemeanor, which means a judge could not hold him on bail, and he was released.
This is the first offence that could potentially keep Perez in jail.
So Perez had been arrested weeks earlier for a very similar attack, apparently one of several arrests in the past year. And yet, he was back out on the street and literally stoned an elderly woman to death just weeks later. Had he been sitting in jail for the previous attack maybe this wouldn’t have happened.
Ms. Ma’s death has now been ruled a homicide so hopefully Elisaul Perez will finally go to prison for a long, long time.
— CeFaan Kim (@CeFaanKim) March 2, 2022