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Ackerman gets visa for mom to see killer sentenced

The mother of a young woman sexually assaulted and brutally killed in a downtown Flushing alleyway in May will get to see her murderer sentenced next week.

U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) secured a visa for the 23-year-old woman’s mother Guihua Yu, to come to the United States to see Carlos Salazar Cruz, 29, put behind bars for decades, Ackerman announced Monday. The sentencing is scheduled for April 27.

“The approval of this visa will allow Guihua Yu to come to Queens so that she can speak at the sentencing and see justice served to the man convicted of killing her daughter,” he said in a statement. “She remains in our thoughts and prayers during what is still a very difficult time.”

Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard Buchter agreed Feb. 17 to sentence Cruz, of Jackson Heights, to 22 years to life in prison in exchange for his admission that he beat Yu Yao, 23, to death with a pipe in a vicious, unprovoked attack.

Michael Chu, leader of the Flushing Neighborhood Watch Team, which was started two weeks after Yu’s death in her honor and has sent members to each of Cruz’s court appearances, spoke to her mother, Guiha Yu — who was in China — via phone twice on the day Cruz pleaded guilty.

“Me and my father feel so devastated we would rather die than live,” Chu said she told him in Chinese. “They’re just living in hell right now. They feel like they died with her. Their family is torn apart.”

Buchter said during the February court appearance that “the crime is deserving of the death penalty,” but that such a sentence was not available to him in this case. If Cruz, an illegal Mexican immigrant, ever gets out of jail, he will be deported immediately, Buchter said.

Yu 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 was walking with groceries along the 133rd block of 41st Road in downtown Flushing at about 9:10 p.m. May 16 when Cruz struck her in the head with a pipe and dragged her by her hair into a nearby alleyway, removed her clothing from the waist down, raped her with a metal pipe and beat her to death, according to court papers. She was in a coma in the initial days after the attack, but was removed from life support May 21, state Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) said.

Police said Cruz was so drunk at the time of his arrest he did not even know how he got to downtown Flushing and Meng said police told her he had to be taken to the hospital and handcuffed to a bed until he sobered up.

Ackerman is also working to secure a visa for Yu’s brother-in-law, Yanjun Zhu, to accompany her next week.

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

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