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Triple murders bring housing regulations into question
Eagle-Tribune (North Andover, MA) - 1/11/2015
Jan. 11--It has been described as clash of cultures: elderly and disabled populations, many times younger people struggling with mental illness or addiction, living side-by-side in public housing.
Last week's triple murder at 10 Foulds Terrace in North Andover has put concerns about such subsidized living arrangements front and center here.
On Tuesday morning, police found Frank Kort, 68, Walter Hamilton, 78, and George Kettinger, 79, beaten to death inside their apartments. Their neighbor, Salvatore Guglielmino, 57, was charged with the crimes and pleaded not guilty in Lawrence District Court on Wednesday morning.
All four of the men lived in the same building at 10 Foulds Terrace, part of a public housing development for the elderly and disabled.
Though the North Andover Housing Authority has remained silent on the crime, documents suggest that the organization has been in compliance with state standards for the last decade.
Audits covering the period between 2004 and 2007 and the period between 2007 and 2010 found "the Authority maintained adequate management controls and complied with applicable laws, rules and regulations for the areas tested."
Those areas include the procedure the authority uses to select tenants, the condition of the units and various other administrative and financial areas.
In order to be qualified by the state to live in this type of housing, tenants must have a low net income, and be age 60 or older or have "physical or mental impairments ... considered to be long and continued duration," according to the state Department of Housing and Community Development.
In the wake of the slayings, Selectman Rosemary Connelly Smedile promised to ask 'hard questions' about the safety of Foulds Terrace. The place to start, she said, may be revisiting the state regulations on public housing complexes.
"It's a huge undertaking to challenge the state and federal government to come up with a better plan," she said.
Smedile cited the closure of residential facilities for the mentally ill, such as Danvers State Hospital in 1992, as the driving force behind the effort to integrate public housing for the elderly and disabled, some of whom are considered disabled for mental health reasons.
"These are our most vulnerable -- our elderly and our handicapped. We all have to take pause and say what could we have done, if anything, and what can be changed, if anything?" Smedile said.
Smedile said the town at large, including its officials, still are reeling from the tragedy.
"The one thing I really want to make clear is I am not blaming the North Andover Housing Authority, or frankly any housing authority. They are following the rules and regulations that are given to them by the state and federal government, and I think if you asked any of them, they would say that it's challenging," she said. "There's huge social issues that they have to contend with, and it's challenging."
The Foulds Terrace development receives state funding through Chapter 667, along with five other sites in town. It is the largest complex, with 52 units. There are 40 units of elderly/handicapped housing on Fountain Drive, 42 on Bingham Way, and 20 in O'Connor Heights.
Twenty-four units of veteran's housing and four three-bedroom units, one of which is handicap accessible, also fall under Chapter 667, according to the North Andover Housing Authority's website.
Smedile said in the days since the murders, she has heard complaints from Foulds Terrace residents and their family members who would "prefer not to be identified."
"They have concerns about a mixed population. They say things have happened," Smedile said. "I'm not saying that (Foulds Terrace) is not an appropriate placement (for disabled tenants), but I'm saying when you have people with mental disabilities, there is a chance of this extreme violence."
Others say the tension can come from either side.
Foulds Terrace neighbor Francena Sousa said she was shocked by the murders, largely because she felt Guglielmino was "the nicest guy you could ever meet."
Sousa, 70, said Guglielmino doted on the older residents in the public housing complex, often cleaning their car windshields off in snow storms "because he knew we couldn't do it."
She said she feels terrible for Guglielmino and his family. "His mind must have just snapped," she said.
Guglielmino always was polite and personable with her, and checked on her, she said.
Every day, Guglielmino would go to see his mother, Eleanor, who also lives on Foulds Terrace. "And he'd go grocery shopping for his mother," Sousa said.
On Monday, a day before the murders were reported, Sousa said Guglielmino asked her, "Do you need anything?"
At age 57, Guglielmino was younger than many residents of the complex. Sousa said she never spoke with him about his disability. Family members said he suffered from manic depression and bipolar disorder and was prescribed medication.
Sousa said Kettinger was recovering from open-heart surgery and having a pacemaker installed.
"It is a shame," Sousa said.
State Rep. Diana DiZoglio, whose district includes part of North Andover, said she knew Kort as a very kind person and still has a "Merry Christmas message" from him saved on her phone.
"It's very personal to me and I have been speaking with neighbors about the tragedy. Residents have expressed concerns over issues pertaining to what is appropriate regarding the placement of the non-elderly disabled in the same housing complexes as seniors. Local persons with disabilities have also expressed their concerns, hoping that our community not paint with a broad brush when it comes to those suffering from a mental illness," DiZoglio said in an e-mail to The Eagle-Tribune.
She said she will make herself available to meet with members of the community who are concerned, and that she plans to take the issue up with the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee. She became a member last year.
"We have to be careful to take the appropriate time to adequately examine these important issues and hear from the residents themselves so that any policies introduced are effective," she said.
The North Andover Housing Authority did not respond to requests for comment.
Lauren DiTullio can be reached at email@example.com.
Jill Harmacinki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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