Assamad Nash, 25, was charged Monday with murder and burglary in the death of 35-year-old Christina Yuna Lee. He stayed silent during his first court appearance on Monday. Prosecutors allege he committed the crime while out on supervised release for three other cases.
Police said Nash stalked and followed Lee to her sixth-floor apartment on Chrystie Street. Sources told CBS2's Ali Bauman that Lee likely didn't even realize she was being followed.
"He followed her up all six flights and she never even knew that he was there," said building owner Brian Chin.
Neighbors said they heard screaming and called 911.
According to the criminal complaint, when officers arrived, the suspect imitated a woman's voice and called out that they did not need police.
About an hour later, officers knocked down the door. Prosecutors allege they found Lee's body in the bathroom, with 40 stab wounds, naked from the waist up, and they allege Nash was hiding under the bed, a knife tucked behind the dresser.
As CBS2's John Dias reported, police said there did not appear to be a connection between Nash and Lee prior to her death and the attack could have been random.
Eli Klein owns an art gallery in Manhattan. He said he hired Lee soon after she graduated from Rutgers, and before she left the gallery four years later as an associate director, she gifted Klein a painting.
"There was nobody as glorious and amazing in all aspects of life as Christina," Klein said. "Just a nice, sweet, cool, great human being. Everyone loved her."
Lee's co-workers at Splice described her as a champion of AAPI representation.
"She was a leader within her company, leading diversity causes, leading inclusion causes," said Ben Wei, a community activist.
On Monday, flowers adorned caution tape at the crime scene where dozens rallied to speak out against this crime and others like it.
"She has done nothing wrong. Only mistake she made, was to move to New York City... but our city allowed her life to be taken away by violence," said Justin Yu, president of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association. "Crime has no consequence in this city."
"Today, we are mourning, we are crying, we are trembling in fear. We are terrified. Do something New York City!" Yu added.
Members of the Chinatown community were protesting against hate crimes and violence.
"The list is getting longer and longer. We can't see an end," said Jacky Wong, a member of Concerned Citizens of East Broadway. "We know the Lee family lost a loved one, and we share their pain."
"I don't want to jump to the conclusion that Christina is also a victim of hate crime because it's still pending, the investigation," Wong said. "But this is another Asian-American who was brutally attacked and what's worse is that she was killed in her own apartment. It just shatters our community."
"How many more people have to die before they change the policy, before they do something?" said protester Mary Wang.
Asian victims who shared stories of being punched on sidewalks and shoved inside subway stations now fear for safety in their own homes, CBS2's Christina Fan reported.
"Attacks on women actually bring back the trauma of what happened," said Susan Lee.
Many at the rally said they worry about becoming a victim.
"I'm scared to walk out on the street. I'm scared to walk around with my daughters," said Grace Lee.
Nash, who is homeless, was being held at Bellevue Hospital to undergo an evaluation, police said. Prosecutors say Nash was also found with a stab wound to his torso, and cuts on his hands and shoulders. Investigators believe Lee was trying to fight him off.
"I didn't kill nobody," Nash said while being led to his arraignment Monday.
Nash has been arrested multiple times for assault, possession of drugs and harassment over the last two years, including a September arrest for assaulting a man on the subway. He was due back in court for the case next month, Bauman reported.
Community activists wondered why Nash had been released in the first place.
"Many of the crimes in our community are committed by homeless individuals who are mentally distressed," one person said.
For that reason, neighbors have been protesting a sixth homeless shelter the city is trying to open in Chinatown. Hundreds spoke out at last week's public hearing and called the proposal insensitive while the neighborhood is under attack.
"We do nothing but warehouse people, sweep them under the rug, and call it service. That is not enough," Don Lee, a community activist, said.
CBS2's John Dias, Christina Fan, and Ali Bauman contributed to this report. This story first appeared on Feb. 14.
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