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Christina Yuna Lee’s killer gets 30 years to life

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg today announced the guilty plea of Assamad Nash, 27, for fatally stabbing Christina Yuna Lee, 35, inside her Chinatown apartment two and a half years ago.

The grisly crime, which shocked the city, cast a harsh spotlight on nearby, drug-infested Sara Delano Roosevelt Park, plus helped fuel community backlash to a nearby planned homeless shelter.

Nash pled guilty in a New York State Supreme Court to one count each of murder in the second degree and burglary in the first degree as a sexually motivated felony. He is expected to be sentenced July 30 to a promised sentence of 30 years to life in state prison. Initially, he had been deemed not mentally fit to stand trial.

“Today Assamad Nash was held accountable for senselessly taking Christina Yuna Lee’s life after he followed her into her own home,” Bragg said. “Ms. Yuna Lee’s family and loved ones were deprived of a daughter, sister and friend. My thoughts are with her family and our community as they continue healing from this tragedy.”

According to court documents and statements made on the record in court, and as admitted in the defendant’s guilty plea, on Feb. 13, 2022, around 4:20 a.m., Yuna Lee entered her apartment building on Chrystie Street near Grand Street. Nash followed her into the building and up six flights of stairs to her apartment. As Yuna Lee entered her apartment, Nash ran up behind her, pushed his way inside and attempted to sexually assault her.

Around 4:22 a.m., Yuna Lee’s neighbors called 911 after hearing sounds of a struggle and Yuna Lee screaming for help. A few minutes later, police officers arrived at Yuna Lee’s apartment and heard her screams but were unable to breach the door — which had been reinforced by the landlord for safety — to gain entry. Nash tried to flee the apartment through the fire escape but went back inside after spotting a police officer on the roof above him.

Around 5:40 a.m., officers broke down the apartment door and found Nash hiding under the mattress of Yuna Lee’s bed and a bloodied kitchen knife, which was hidden behind the dresser. In the bathroom, officers found Yuna Lee with at least 40 stab wounds, including to her head, neck and torso. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Bragg thanked the New York City Police Department, particularly Detective Caballero of the 5th Precinct Detective Squad, the other members of the 5th Precinct and the Emergency Services Unit for their assistance with the investigation.

According to news reports, prosecutors said that when Nash murdered Yuan Lee, he was “out on supervised release on three open cases,” including one for allegedly punching a man in the New York City subway, after which, critics say, he should have had a psychological evaluation. Nash, who was homeless, was reportedly a “transit swiper,” letting people through the turnstiles in return for a fee. He is also said to have a lengthy arrest record in New Jersey. He allegedly admitted to frequently using K2, synthetic marijuana, which can cause unpredictable behavior.

After the brutal killing, Brian Chin, the Chrystie Street building’s landlord ripped Bragg, saying Nash should not have been out on the streets.

“This guy, his rap sheet is a mile long, he should have been behind bars,” Chin said. “Assault? Menacing? How is he out? This is outrageous.

“As landlords we have a responsibility to protect tenants. I’ve done everything,” he said. “That door, it’s solid steel, double-walled steel that kept the SWAT team out for five minutes. We can’t protect against monsters like this. No matter how much we invest, it comes down to our elected officials.”

In June 2023, Yuna Lee’s family sued the city and New York Police Department over responding cops’ alleged “failure to intervene” to save her, in that it took them more than an hour finally to break into the apartment.

The murder also cast a glaring spotlight on the problem of open drug use in S.D.R. Park, plus helped fuel the resistance to a “harm reduction”-style (hard drugs allowed), drop-in homeless shelter by Housing Works slated for Grand Street and Bowery. Rising up in protest against the plan, outraged neighbors cried that the city kept making Chinatown a “dumping ground” for homeless shelters. Ultimately, the Housing Works plan was scrapped. But the hotel’s owners still got a profitable deal from the city as the building was quickly converted into a shelter for newly arrived migrants.

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