By Devin Rose
Oak Park police say they are still investigating the death early Tuesday of a 17-year-old girl from Sheboygan, Wis., from an apparent heroin overdose at an apartment building.
Emergency personnel found Kimberly Ciotola, whose family had reported her missing to Sheboygan police on Monday, in the hallway of a building at 855 Lake St. She was pronounced dead about 5:40 a.m. upon arrival at Rush Oak Park Hospital.
Oak Park Police Chief Rick Tanksley said Ciotola previously had been traveling alone by bus for three weeks, visiting New York and several other places before she returned home to Sheboygan.
She arrived on a Greyhound bus in downtown Chicago at about 8:30 p.m. Monday and was picked up by a 22-year-old man she'd met online, Tanksley said. They came to the five-story Lake Street building and were able to enter the apartment he lived in until the end of September, when police said he had stopped paying rent.
Police said the building was in poor condition with stains on the carpet and broken windows. The former hotel, constructed in the 1920s, has been a concern to police for decades.
The man called 911 at about 5 a.m. He was questioned by police but released without charges pending further investigation, police said.
"We want to make sure if her demise came at the hands of someone else, they are held accountable," said police commander LaDon Reynolds, adding police will continue to follow up all leads.
Police are still investigating whether the man supplied drugs to Ciotola. Tanksley said there was no evidence of past drug use in her belongings, but results from the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office to confirm her cause of death will determine if it was the first time she had used heroin.
The incident illustrates the danger of meeting people online as well as the availability of drugs to young people, Tanksley said. Deputy Chief Anthony Ambrose added drug users come to Oak Park because it's a safe community.
Tanksley and Ambrose said calls have increased at 855 Lake St. over the last couple years. There have been calls for burglary and noise complaints, Tanksley said, and people have been arrested there with a history of drug use.
The building came up at a drug forum last year at Oak Park and River Forest High School, and police located a single shell casing near the building after someone reported shots were fired in an alley south of the 800 block of Lake Street last summer.
An eyewitness to the shooting said at the time that two men had come running down the third floor fire escape of an adjacent apartment building.
The building at 855 Lake St. was sold to Leonard and Sara Stann in 1977, and the Stann family currently owns the property. Attempts to reach Sara Stann were unsuccessful.