GRASS VALLEY (CBS13) — An elderly church volunteer was left in the hospital unable to speak on Monday after she was brutally attacked in front of her church.

Mary Grace Tassone’s family says the 78-year-old is still in the intensive care unit, suffering from brain injuries. She’s unable to speak, so she can’t talk to police about what happened to her on Sunday morning.

Police say the man responsible is Alan Kierkegaard, 50, a homeless man they say attacked her outside her church on Sunday morning.

Her nephew Greg Tassone says a day after the beating, she’s still unconscious and in critical condition.

“Unfortunately we haven’t seen much improvement,” he said. “We’re not taking it for granted that she’s going to survive. So we’re hopeful that she will but they can’t give us any really positive indicators that they know that’s going to happen.”

Grass Valley police say churchgoers told them they had seen Kierkegaard hanging around St. Patrick’s church for about a week before Sunday’s attack. They say as Tassone arrived early to open the doors for Sunday’s service, Kierkegaard struck her on the head and stole her car.

“Whether or not this person actually knew the victim we’re not certain,” said Lt. Alex Gammelgard.

Police say they saw Kierkegaard just four hours before Sunday’s assault, sleeping at Condon Park, just blocks from the church.

Her car is described as a gray 2013 Honda Accord with a license plate 6ZHX462.

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