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By Devin Rose
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.