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Family of woman found slain sues manager of apartments

The Baltimore Sun

The family of an elderly woman who was found slain in her Reservoir Hill apartment in June is suing the building's management for lax security they say contributed to her death.

The suit against S.H.N.I.R. Apartment Management Corp. and E.T.G. Associates '94 LLP suggests that an unknown intruder may have committed the crime. But police said last night that the investigation had been closed because the main suspect, who lived in the victim's apartment, was a homicide victim himself two weeks later.

Shirley Cooper, 72, was discovered June 2 with multiple stab wounds in her chest and back in her apartment in the historic Temple Gardens building at 2601 Madison Ave.

Homicide detectives indicated that the case was "closed by exception," said Agent Donny Moses, after the body of Cooper's boarder, Riley Pettus, 43, was found June 17.

The family alleges that a side door to the building was often left open and that security officers at the front door frequently let nonresidents enter, according to the $14 million suit, filed yesterday afternoon. Also, surveillance cameras were not working, so police could not see who had entered or exited the building, it said.

Relatives were unaware that police had concluded their investigation upon Pettus' death, said their attorney, David Ellin.

"That information has never been shared with the family," he said. "What the family was told was that they did not believe this person did the crime, and it was another individual."

Israel Roizman of S.H.N.I.R. declined to comment yesterday because he said he had not seen the lawsuit.

Detectives did not determine anything was missing from Cooper's apartment, Moses said.

Two weeks later, a man walking in Gwynns Falls Park in West Baltimore discovered Pettus' decomposed body, the spokesman said. An autopsy revealed that he had been shot three times in the head and multiple times in the rest of his body, Moses said.

Police have no suspects or motive, he said.

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