A 25-year-old homeless man was charged with murder and burglary Monday after he allegedly followed a woman into her New York City apartment and stabbed her to death with a knife from her kitchen, authorities said.
Assamad Nash was being held without bail after police say he was arrested early Sunday in the Chinatown apartment of Christina Yuna Lee, who was found in her bathtub with multiple stab wounds. The Korean American creative producer had gotten out of a cab near her home about 4 a.m. and was trailed into her building and followed up six flights of stairs, authorities said.
Her attacker forced his way into her residence when she opened the front door, police said.
“He followed her up all six flights, and she never knew he was there,” said Brian Chin, the building’s owner, CBSNewYork reported. “She did not do anything wrong. She did not deserve this,” he said.
Neighbors who heard her screams called 911, and police responded within minutes, authorities said. The Emergency Services unit was summoned when officers discovered her attacker had barricaded himself in the apartment.
“That door is solid steel, double-sided steel. It kept the SWAT team out for five minutes,” said Chin, who added the building has surveillance cameras on every floor and is heavily secured.
The suspect was found hiding under the bed, police said. As he was led from a police precinct on Monday, Nash shouted to reporters that he hadn’t killed anyone.
Nash was out on bail for several misdemeanor arrests, according to court records, The New York Times reported, including a subway incident near Lee’s apartment in September, when a 62-year man told police Nash had punched him in the face.
“We can’t protect against monsters like this, no matter how much we invest,” Chin said. “It comes down to our elected officials.”
Lee was a Rutgers University graduate and was a senior creative producer at Splice, an online digital music platform. According to her website, she had also helped create photo and video campaigns for brands including Marriott International and Equinox.
Her employer posted a tribute to Lee on Twitter.
Mayor Eric Adams again pledged to crack down on increasing violence in the city. “I and New Yorkers across the city mourn for the innocent woman murdered in her home last night in Chinatown and stand with our Asian brothers and sisters today,” he said in a statement Sunday.
At a vigil on Monday, community leaders expressed outrage and sorrow over Lee’s attack, noting that Chinatown has experienced a drastic rise in anti-Asian crimes since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“I’m scared to walk out on the street. I’m scared to walk around with my daughters,” said resident Grace Lee.
In December, the New York Police Department reported attacks against Asian Americans were up 361% from the previous year. In January, Michelle Alyssa Go, a 40-year-old Asian American woman, was shoved to her death in a Times Square subway station.
Authorities said it did not appear Lee knew her attacker, or had any previous contact with him. The investigation is ongoing, and detectives have not said the killing is a hate crime.
Brianna Cea, president of Organization of Chinese Americans-Asian Pacific Advocates in New York, took to Twitter to mourn Lee’s death and to comment on the fear felt by the Asian American community.
She also told Inside Edition Digital, “Christina’s murder has once again reminded us that our communities are not immune to violence, and has put a spotlight on the continued violence against Asian American women and elders. We are exhausted, but we will not forget those who we have lost. We are calling on our community leaders to invest in mental health resources and immediately address the real fears that have plagued the most vulnerable in our communities for over a year.”