ELMHURST, Queens (WABC) -- The case of the 62-year-old grandmother killed after she was randomly attacked with a rock is now being reinvestigated as a possible hate crime.
The 33-year-old suspect, Eliasaul Perez, remains in custody and is set to appear in court on April 12. He had told detectives, "I hit her on the head with a rock."
He was charged with assault in the first degree, assault in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree.
He was not charged with a hate crime, but with the recent developments, those charges could be upgraded.
When Eyewitness News spoke to the family of GuiYing Ma earlier in February, they said it was nothing short of a miracle that she was showing signs of improvement after the attack.
However, on Monday, Eyewitness News learned that Ma had died on Feb. 22. Her cause of death is homicide based on complications of a traumatic head injury.
The once outgoing, friendly and kind grandmother was sweeping her Jackson Heights sidewalk after Thanksgiving last year when she was bashed on the head with a rock. She had been in a coma at Elmhurst Hospital Center until she showed signs of hope earlier in February.
The attack permanently damaged the right side of Ma's brain. But the love between Ma and her husband, Zhanxin Gao, remained. Despite being connected to a ventilator and a feeding tube, Ma responded to Gao by moving her eyes and tearing up when Gao would speak to her at the hospital.
While this attack has not been categorized as a hate crime, the law firm representing the victim's family is calling for more transparency from the NYPD when it comes to hate crimes statistics and investigations.
They are also calling for changes to hate crime laws, so that prosecutions don't rely so heavily on racial slurs being spoken.
"Whether or not they have all been officially categorized as hate crimes or not, the fact is our community is living in fear as we continue to witness incidents every few days for the past few years of senseless violence, like the several in our city alone in just the past few weeks and months," said Congresswoman Grace Meng. "Our community is mentally and physically exhausted from being forced to endure this ongoing violence. We are tired, so tired of living in fear."
Former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is a partner at the firm representing the family.
"As we witness this recent eruption of divisive rhetoric and hateful deeds, I know that many Asian Americans are wondering if they are in danger simply because of what they look like," Lynch said.
According to the NYPD, there was a 367% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes from 2020-2021.
Meanwhile, GuiYing Ma's husband is grieving once again. Speaking through a translator, he spoke about losing his soul mate after they were together for more than 40 years.
"My dear my beloved, please stay on," Gao said. "I want you to be able to stay on. I want you to be able to go back to China with me. I want you to stay strong and be with me."
The NYPD's Hate Crimes Task Force is involved in the investigation.
The Queens District Attorney's office released the following statement:
"We are reviewing the latest development in this tragedy and will add or upgrade any appropriate charges supported by the evidence. In the meanwhile, on behalf of the District Attorney, we extend our condolences to the family."
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