San Jose

‘You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down': Vigil Celebrates 88-Year-Old Attacked in East San Jose Home Invasion

On Friday, Ms. Flo opened her eyes and spoke for the first time since the brutal home invasion.

Dozens flocked to a candlelight vigil filled with songs and prayers Friday, in solidarity with an 88-year-old San Jose woman who was brutalized during a home invasion robbery earlier this week.

Speaking in front of Flo Douglas' Cragmont Avenue home in the Alum Rock district, her family shared the good news with well-wishers that she had opened her eyes and spoken for the first time since Monday's attack. 

Douglas' neice Angela Culp told attendees, "You can't keep a good woman down."

An hour before the vigil, a car parked directly across the road from Douglas' house was towed away, and sheriff's deputies went door to door, interviewing neighbors. Deputies declined to comment, saying only that they were following all leads. 

The elderly woman sustained severe trauma to her head and face on Monday in her home. Although Douglas is still in critical condition, and unlikely to leave hospital anytime soon, her responses Friday gave her family hope.

"My grandmother is a peaceful, loving woman who has lived there since 1964,"  Jocelyn Wallace Lewis, the victim's granddaughter, said earlier this week.

At the vigil, family members and friends said Douglas, lovingly known as Ms. Flo, changed lives. Having owned Sisters Salon for 40 years, she gave hundreds of young stylists their first break.

"It was like an eagle's nest," said Michael Wallace, Douglas' nephew. "They learned from her, then left and started their own business, which she was elated about."

In church, Douglas volunteers non-stop, some said, commended her for never slowing down, even though she is a senior citizen.

"She was always on the go," Culp said. "Even at 88."

Others said Douglas is full of life and appreciated her sense of humor.

"She has a wonderful spirit, a kind heart, and she would do anything for you," Douglas' friend Diane Lowe-Epps said. 

On Wednesday night, deputies arrested 19-year-old Zachary Cuen in connection with the home invasion during which he is accused of repeatedly assaulting Douglas. He is expected to be charged on Sept. 19. Efforts to reach him or his attorney have not been successful.

Undersheriff Carl Neusel in a news conference this week called Douglas a "beloved and cherished" community member, and thanked her "wonderful neighbors" who sensed "something was amiss" and acted on it.

Neighbors told NBC Bay Area that surveillance footage turned over to investigators included what sounded like threatening shouts coming from Douglas' house. However, the sheriff's office declined to comment on whether that led to Cuen's arrest.

Cuen was on probation in connection with a February vehicle theft and hit-and-run. Sources say he also attempted to burglarize an 85-year-old woman, who lives in the same neighborhood as Douglas. 

"It's unthinkable, but I really suspected it was someone in the neighborhood, only because they left and then came back," said neighbor Laurie Martinez-Baja.

Douglas told police that two men broke into her residence using a side door, before beating her and ransacking her home.

Neusel assured the San Jose community that they are safe, now that Cuen is in custody. But he added that investigators are still looking into whether he had an accomplice.

Neighbors, meanwhile, are keeping Cuen's arrest in perspective.

"I don't think it has put all the fear at ease because a lot of people do believe there's still a second suspect," said Darlene Tenes.

Douglas' family has created a GoFundMe page to help raise funds for her.

Contact Us