Village to inspect Oak Park apartment building where girl died of apparent overdose

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By Devin Rose

Staff Reporter

The village's Building and Property Standards Department will inspect a Lake Street apartment building where a 17-year-old Wisconsin girl died last week from an apparent heroin overdose.

Oak Park police say they are still investigating the death of Kimberly Ciotola, from Sheboygan, Wis., who was found by emergency personnel in the hallway of a building at 855 Lake St. The building, which has about 60 units, has been a concern to police for years.

Ciotola's family had reported her missing to Sheboygan police on Nov. 7. She was pronounced dead about 5:40 a.m. the next day 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 returning home to Sheboygan.

She arrived on a Greyhound bus in downtown Chicago about 8:30 p.m., Nov. 7, 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.

The man called 911 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 that police will continue to follow up all leads.

They 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 confirming her cause of death will determine whether 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 that drug users come to Oak Park because it's a safe community.

Police said the building, a former hotel constructed in the 1920s, was in poor condition with stains on the carpet and broken windows. Tanksley and Ambrose said calls have increased there over the last couple of years. There have been calls for burglary and noise complaints, Tanksley said, and people have been arrested there with a history of drug use.

Many units in the building have been in violation of building code over the last several years, according to building inspection records. Violations included lack of smoke or carbon monoxide detectors, deteriorating wood, outlets with paint buildup and holes in walls.

Village Manager Tom Barwin said one-third of each multifamily building like this one, plus the building's common areas, are supposed to be inspected every year. 855 Lake St. was last inspected in March, but the village has authority to conduct additional inspections if there are indications that maintenance is slipping, Barwin said.

The Building and Property Standards Department has spoken with the building's owners, Leonard and Sara Stann, and it appears they will fully cooperate, Barwin said, adding that inspections should be completed by the end of the week.

855 Lake St. - Building inspections

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Q from Oak Park  

Posted: November 17th, 2011 10:15 PM

Why doesn't the W.J. ask Barwin what method of communication the building and proerty standards department used to talk with Leonard Stann. The building if renovated would make an excellent hotel.

OP Rez  

Posted: November 17th, 2011 7:57 PM

This would be an ideal situation for managed affordable housing. The problem is that its not overseen in any way to ensure druggies and riff raff dont apply. The free market and the law doesnt hold any one accountable for renting to drug addicts unknowingly. This demonstrates why the Interfaith project will be so good in that it will have some oversight and much more interactions with its residents.

sad state of affairs  

Posted: November 17th, 2011 7:24 PM

@OPRez - only a few 1 bedrooms at the front of the building, all the rest are studios. When first acquired by Stanns and Sara's cousin from Rockford, before Len died, riff-raff was already there but there were some decent folks. This would be the place for OP to experiment with affordable housing before they get into the business any more. @Paul, the building always provided the perfect climate for trouble, that's why the building is an issue. No one wants another child to die there or anywhere.


Posted: November 17th, 2011 2:41 PM

OP Rez do you even bother to read the articles? A lot of your questions have already been answered for days.

OP Rez  

Posted: November 17th, 2011 1:17 PM

I recall this building having murphy beds in the wall that fold out . Does anyone know the % of layouts? Studios? 1 Bedrooms? My guess is that there are alot of studio efficiencies that people with less means or folks not wanting much need. Those types of rooms tend to cater to riff raff. Not sure how to handle that. How much sec 8 in this building? Did the guy who was with her live in this building now? If not, how did he get in? Whose apt were they in?

No Paul  

Posted: November 17th, 2011 12:06 PM

...if any property is known for trouble and unpredictable nuisances lets say, you start looking at other ways to put the pressure on them to persuade them to ensure changes. Remember AL Capone went to prison for tax evasion, not being a murderer. You get them on what you can and hope it works it way to the real problem.


Posted: November 17th, 2011 10:29 AM

It seems like you're pushing two unrelated stories together here. Surely no one believes that a girl died of apparent overdose *because* of building code violations... If she had died of an overdose in a park, would you run out and check the trees for dutch elm disease?

Murder Misdirection from VMA  

Posted: November 17th, 2011 5:06 AM

No one ever dies in Oak Park. You must be mistaken.

Sheboyganite from Sheboygan, WI   

Posted: November 16th, 2011 11:20 PM

This stoty isn't about a building. This still needs to be about a 17 year old whose life was cut tragically short.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: November 16th, 2011 2:19 PM

The March 2011 inspection of this building would have cited broken windows, torn carpeting and any issues that needed to be brought up to code. The annual building inspection requires that all common areas are examined plus a percentage of the dwelling units. The inspector is charged to make certain that the property is compliance. Building owners are allowed a period of time to make corrections and the property is reinspected. Citations are issued if there is no progress. I personally inspected 855 Lake St. about a dozen years ago and cannot recall any significant problems. It probably could have used an upgrading in the common areas and new appliances for the units but it was in compliance and no tickets were issued. There are small number of problem buildings in Oak Park and owners who fail to comply with the code. They are fined and the property is required to be in full compliance before the certificate is issued. Oak Park's law department is very aggressive in making sure that all multi-family buildings are up to code. There's no middle ground and no free passes.

Professor Peter Van Nostrand   

Posted: November 16th, 2011 1:39 PM

@ OP Rez. It will never get done because it makes too much sense. Talk to River Forest cops and ask them how much they love the camera they installed last year at the River Forest Town Center. Tanksley is a JOKE !! Downtown Oak Park has become the new Skid Row

rethinking the focus of the Village Board  

Posted: November 16th, 2011 9:53 AM

It would be great to see Village President Pope and the Board, get their heads out of the clouds and stop pushing for yellow brick roads and the tower of Babel. This building/incident demonstrates that they are not handling a simple mid-rise building well. And yet, they would introduce an unneeded high rise? Forget the brick streets and unnecessary bluestone sidewalks, concentrate on handling what we've got here well. Focus public funds to make public safety more of a priority, it's needed.

OP Rez  

Posted: November 16th, 2011 9:12 AM

If there has ever been a reason to have a camera perched high up on a light pole, this area is it!The camera should be able to see activity by the library entrance, along Lake St where the Scoville Park buts up against, and along the part of library along Grove. This seems to be an area where "crap" is happening almost everyday. OPPD is there on a regular basis. The camera would start to work as a deterrent and people would get the clue that this isn't a good place to do mischievous things!

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: November 16th, 2011 8:43 AM

I'm glad the Village is taking action. If the local park where drugs allegedly are routinely sold is in Oak Park, I hope the police and Parks District are increasing security at that park and not just for a few days. Oak Park should be a community that is safe for all children, wherever they come from. The availability of drugs in local parks is not conducive to child safety, to put it mildly.

anonymous from OP  

Posted: November 16th, 2011 12:01 AM

ps - a working doorbell/buzzer/intercom would be nice

Accuracy of Village's Account of Inspection  

Posted: November 15th, 2011 11:09 PM

Is the accuracy of the Village's account of inspections as flawed at this last statement "The Building and Property Standards Department has spoken with the building's owners, Leonard and Sara Stann, and it appears they will fully cooperate, Barwin said..." Len Stann has been dead for YEARS!!!

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