Schenectady County

Hearing held in elder assault case

The elderly Scotia woman attacked in her home in November has made some progress, family said Tuesda

The elderly Scotia woman attacked in her home in November has made some progress, family said Tuesday, but she is still nowhere near the woman she once was.

Elisabeth Gelber, 83, had been left unconscious after the Nov. 8 attack at the Sunnyside Road home she shared with her husband, Julius Gelber.

Arthur Gelber, one of their sons, said Tuesday in a phone interview that although his mother has come out of a coma, she is not the woman they knew.

She does not recognize everyone. At times, they believe she recognizes some family members, Gelber said. But she still has great difficulty communicating.

“She has a tremendously difficult time really with just about everything,” Gelber, of Houston, said by phone. “The whole family is just in complete emotional shock over the injuries and how her life and our lives changed in such a quick moment.”

Gelber spoke by phone the day the man accused of attacking his mother, Juan S. McCray, appeared in court for a pretrial hearing. The hearing was on statements McCray allegedly made to police as well as an identification performed with a witness.

McCray, 45, of Michigan Avenue, was indicted in December on a total of 16 counts, including first-degree assault, first-degree burglary and first-degree robbery.

In addition to attacking Elisabeth Gelber, McCray also allegedly attacked Julius Gelber, 93, who was in a wheelchair because of a hip injury. But Mrs. Gelber took the brunt of the attack. Julius Gelber was choked but otherwise uninjured.

The motive for the attack, prosecutor Philip Mueller has said, is believed to be drugs. McCray is accused of taking cash and a laptop from his own son that morning, then taking electronics from the Gelbers’ Sunnyside Road home in the attack that evening.

Authorities quickly zeroed in on McCray after learning that he earlier had visited the home with his wife, who was one of the Gelbers’ home health aides.

Prosecutors played the beginning portion of a two-hour-long video showing McCray’s questioning by police. Such questioning is now routinely recorded.

McCray had been picked up on a parole violation the day after the attack. He was a suspect in the Scotia home invasion but hadn’t been told that, according to testimony and officials.

McCray was placed in the Schenectady Police Department interview room as detectives prepared their questioning. But McCray twice tried to summon them, first by yelling, then by opening the door, which was within arm’s reach.

Both times, McCray told officers he wanted to speak with the detectives about a Scotia incident.

Three minutes after the second request, detectives came in. McCray started talking almost immediately. Detectives had to slow him down so they could read him his Miranda rights, prosecutor Mueller said.

McCray then made accusations against his wife. Investigators, however, don’t believe the accusations. Mueller has said she is cooperating and has said there is no evidence to support charges against her.

McCray told in the video of the prior visit to the home.

McCray’s wife, whose name has not been released, allowed McCray to accompany her to the home of Julius and Elisabeth Gelber two weeks before the attack as the wife made a home health aide visit, authorities have said.

Allowing her husband to join her on the visit was against the health agency’s policy and the Gelbers complained, authorities have said.

McCray told investigators that Elisabeth Gelber let them inside and said she would check with her husband to see if McCray could stay. McCray even said she gave him a soda.

Family members have disputed that account, saying Elisabeth Gelber was clear about having him leave and making the complaint to the health agency, Buffalo-based Rely Health Care Services.

The rest of the video was not played in court. McCray ultimately declined the rest of the hearing, dropping any challenge to the video being used at trial.

Acting Schenectady County Court Judge Richard Giardino also ruled that an identification from an unnamed witness can be used. The witness picked two photos out of a photo lineup of six. One of the photos selected was McCray.

The Gelbers, married in 1946, are the parents of nine sons. They’ve lived in the Sunnyside Road home for all but 10 years of their marriage.

Before the attack, Arthur Gelber said his mother was an active and vibrant woman. She skied, she jogged, she did crosswords and puzzles and she played bridge.

Now, she can only stand with great assistance.

“It’s been a very slow process,” Arthur Gelber said. “Nothing has been fast.

“Everything from coming out of a coma, to being able to breathe on her own, to swallowing food, has been a slow process taking place over days and weeks. Nothing at all has been fast.”

Gelber also said his father is emotionally traumatized.

“He was expecting to have his wife by his side to help him as he grows old,” Arthur Gelber said. “He was not expecting a home invasion to take that away.”

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