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Federal housing officials condemn Denver Housing Authority's decision to evict family

9:26 PM, Aug 20, 2013   |    comments
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  • Doris Kessler, 70, had less than 6 hours notice to vacate that house on the 2200 block of South Irving

DENVER - Federal housing officials are condemning a decision by the Denver Housing Authority to evict the relatives of a mother killed by a rampaging gunman three days after her slaying, saying there is room for compassion in federal law.

Housing and Urban Development spokesman Jerry Brown said Tuesday his agency hopes Denver will reconsider after the victim's mother and autistic son were locked out. The personal property of 47-year-old Sandra Roskilly was also seized and turned over to a public administrator.

Doris Kessler, 70, had less than 6 hours notice to vacate that house on the 2200 block of South Irving, the scene of a standoff with Denver police on Friday.

The Denver Housing Authority said it was forced to evict Kessler under federal law because Roskilly was the head of the household.

Roskilly's brother Dennis Campbell says his sister barely scraped by, living in public housing on a fixed income.

"She was disabled," Campbell said. "So I mean the house was everything."

She lived in the house for almost 20 years, the last decade with her mother.

Police say 31-year-old Daniel Abeyta killed Roskilly and shot a second woman in her leg on Friday. Abeyta is facing a first-degree murder charge.

The Denver Housing Authority released the following statement regarding the eviction on Tuesday:

Sandra Roskilly was shot and killed on her front porch, which is a public housing unit owned and managed by the Housing Authority of the City and County of Denver ("DHA"). Ms. Roskilly's mother, Doris Kessler, has lived with Ms. Roskilly as her live-in-aide since 2002. Because of her status as a live-in aide, Ms. Kessler is not a party to the lease and does not have tenancy or survivorship rights under state or federal law. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") rules and regulations covering live-in-aides are clearly explained to our residents and are included in their lease agreements. In addition, all live-in-aides are required to sign an agreement acknowledging their status and understanding that they will not be able to live in the unit if the tenant ceases to live there for any reason.

DHA has offered our condolences to the family of Ms. Roskilly and has offered to assist them during this transition. We appreciate that Sandra Roskilly's death has been traumatic for the family. We will continue to work with them, the Denver Police Department, and the Public Administrator as the family navigates through these very difficult times.

DHA was not in the process of evicting Ms. Kessler. DHA staff had contacted Ms. Kessler and informed her that because the sole tenant of the property was deceased, DHA was required by state law to secure the unit, including all of the personal property inside. DHA staff made themselves readily available to Ms. Kessler and other family members to enter the home to retrieve personal items, medications, etc. DHA staff had been informed yesterday that Ms. Kessler was in Pueblo where she had gone to visit the only surviving child of Sandra Roskilly, Greg Roskilly. Mr. Roskilly is an adult under state care in Pueblo due to a mental disability, has not resided in the unit for over a year, and was not on the lease.

During this same time period, the Public Administrator for the City and County of Denver became involved in the case, after being notified of the death of Ms. Roskilly. Their review of the situation led them to the conclusion that because Ms. Roskilly did not leave a will, the son of Ms. Roskilly was the rightful heir to her estate (any personal property and financial assets) and that because he is currently under state care, the Public Administrator was assuming legal responsibility and authority over Ms. Roskilly's estate, including her public housing unit and its contents. The Public Administrator contacted DHA and formally instructed us to secure the property, which they now have jurisdiction over, and to restrict entry to anyone not authorized by them. The public administrator indicated that the process of settling the estate could take 10 days or more.

At this point in time, the decision to allow or deny entry to the unit rests solely with the Public Administrator. We notified the family of the current state of affairs and provided them with contact information for the Public Administrator in charge of this case.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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