The daughters of a woman fatally stabbed at an Atlanta senior apartment building say their mother lived in an unsafe “war zone” overrun by prostitution and drug abuse.
The family of Mary Oliver is suing the owners of Baptist Towers, saying her death was preventable.
“A lot of people there don’t feel safe,” Jan Jacobs said of the residents of the facility her mother called home for six years.
Oliver, 75, was stabbed to death June 17 by tenant Geary Otis after he forced his way into her apartment, police say.
Otis is in jail on murder and multiple aggravated assault charges after allegedly attacking Oliver and Emmanuel Surry, Jr.
Jacobs and her sister, Ellen Hall, said that the staff of Baptist Towers in southwest Atlanta failed to prevent a criminal and dangerous atmosphere from taking over the building their mother called home for six years.
“There is prostitution there and drugs,” Hall said. “Mom would call and complain all the time about loud noise and people being there who weren’t supposed to be.”
Karen Twinem, a spokeswoman for the Ohio-based National Church Residences, disputed Jacobs’ claims. “We are not aware of any issues with prostitution or drug abuse at Baptist Towers,” Twinem told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Our average resident is a 79-year-old woman. We have staff or security on-site 24/7.”
National Church Residences has owned and managed the facility since 2007, and officials say background checks are done on all residents applying to live there.
But Jacobs’ and Hall’s attorney Chris Chestnut said at a Tuesday press conference that more should have been done.
“We think that, had there been a psychological assessment of Mr. Otis, he would not have attacked Mrs. Oliver,” Chestnut said.
Twinem declined to discuss the civil complaint filed Tuesday in Fulton County State Court. “We mourn the death of this poor woman and we are cooperating with the authorities in this investigation,” Twinem told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “But we have not seen the lawsuit, so it would be inappropriate to discuss it at this time.”
On the evening of June 17, Otis entered Oliver’s apartment at the 300-unit building and stabbed her with one of the knives from her kitchen while she was in bed, police said.
This was after Otis had allegedly attacked Surry. Surry’s relatives told the AJC that Otis stabbed Surry multiple times on an elevator in the building.
Surry fought back to save himself, he told his relatives.
Chestnut said about an hour passed between the two attacks.
“Mr. Otis had time to go to his room, take a shower and change clothes before looking for Mrs. Oliver,” Chestnut said.
Hall said Otis wasn’t among one of her mother’s friends, but that the two were likely acquainted.
Twinem said that there are cameras trained on common areas in the building, but Chestnut complained that there were fewer than when Oliver moved in and that they weren’t in a place where the facility’s staff could readily see them.
“The cameras were inoperable, and those that weren’t inoperable weren’t monitored,” Chestnut said. “It’s a bait and switch. This is not the same place these ladies moved their mother into. No one would move into a war zone.”
Oliver’s daughters said they began seeing services go downhill after National Church Residences took over the building.
Jacobs said their lawsuit is being filed to protect the remaining residents of Baptist Tower.