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July 7, 2010 8:49 AM   Subscribe

The body of a murdered woman was recently found on the roof of my high-rise apartment building. I'd like to know more, but there wasn't much news coverage. If I call the police, am I going to be added to the list of suspects?

In early April, the body of a woman was found on the roof of my apartment building in Boston, 1 Longfellow Place. The Boston PD tweeted about it at the time, and a local news aggregator picked it up (and some discussion followed) but not much more. At one point, I also found a description of the body (20s, in T-shirt and jeans, Caucasian), but I can't seem to find the post now.

I'd like to know more about what happened, both because it's my building and I'd like to know that my girlfriend is safe, and because, frankly, it's interesting. The roof is accessible only from the fire stairs, and is up a ten-foot ladder to a locked metal trap door. The roof is not accessible to tenants, and I presume that whoever put the body up there either had a key (i.e., staff of the building) or brought tools to cut or pick the lock (which suggests that whoever put the body there knew what would be required, i.e., someone who had seen the roof access previously--suggesting a tenant or staff). Also, how was the body found? The building is something like 40 stories tall, and there are no taller buildings anywhere close. Did a helicopter pass overhead? Did someone working on the roof find the body? Or was it the smell? How long had the body been up there?

As you may be able to tell, I've been spending my summer reading crime novels. But crime novels have told me that the killer often returns to the scene of the crime, or follows the police investigation, so I don't want to call the police and ask questions if that means I'm going to have a file on me. Needless to say, the leasing company has not been posting updates in the elevators.

Any thoughts here? Or by any chance, does anyone happen to know the backstory here?

Anon both because I don't want to have my account come up on Google in connection with this (possibly unsolved) murder, and, in any event, I don't want my home address tied to my account.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, if I were you (and I am a woman) I would be raising hell with my landlord, super and the cops to know wtf happened to land a body on my roof and whether or not my neighbors are suspects and if I'm safe in my own apartment.

If you're not a woman, I think you're still entitled to know the basics about safety and security in your own building. Peace of mind (or curiosity) is worth calling the landlord or an associated detective to ask about the status of the case. I doubt they'll consider it suspicious that someone wants to know about security in their building, especially if the victim was a tenant or friend of a tenant.
posted by motsque at 9:04 AM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are you a blogger? Or are you friends with a blogger? That may be a way to ask questions without immediately getting the hairy eyeball from the fuzz.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:05 AM on July 7, 2010

Here is what I did when there was a homicide in my apartment building. Like most of the residents, I pursued regular updates through the building management, who had no choice but to attempt to get regular updates on the investigation from the police because so many residents demanded it repeatedly. You could try that route, even if updates are not currently forthcoming. Because it's an "official" channel, you're likely to get better results than calling yourself, but you're unlikely to get answers with much detail about the circumstances of the crime or its discovery.

Otherwise, you can try contacting the investigating officer (assuming you can find out his name) for updates. Calling the investigating officer for updates will not turn your life into an episode of the Closer, unless Boston has a very different police force from Chicago and unless you are in some way connected to the victim. Mostly it will result in your leaving lots of voice mails which never get returned. You will have more luck getting updates by contacting your local division/precinct/area's community liaison officer. My experience here (as a citizen, not as a defense attorney) suggests that he or she won't tell you anything substantive or interesting or answer the sort of questions you've posed here, but they will let you know when someone has been arrested and usually the initial court date or trial date. And they will certainly let you know if you need to be watching for a particular person.

If you can get court case information out of the community liaison officer (and you should be able, when it comes to that), many of your questions will be answered either at trial or at the formal entry of a plea. Formal entry of a plea requires a recitation of what the state would prove, if the case had gone to trial, which will include a brief (generally quite dry) account of the last 24 hours of the victim's life, which necessarily includes a description of how & where the murder occurred, how the body came to lie where it did, and how it came to be discovered. Plea hearings will present this much more concisely and in much closer to narrative form than a trial will, although opening arguments will lay some of it out in the same manner.

With regard to the homicide in my building, I never found out much more than who had died and how (he'd been shot in the face when he opened his door. The neighbor called 911. We were never told whether the assailant had been buzzed in or if he had sneaked in behind someone using a key. The doormen, however, became very diligent about who came through the doors after that, however). I moved and stopped asking after updates well before management announced that a suspect had been arrested. I never found more than a single paragraph in the local paper about it.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:07 AM on July 7, 2010

You can always go to the police station and ask for the initial police report, which should be public record. And since you live in the building and you'd presumably know what was required to get on the roof you're on the long list of suspects anyway, along with everyone else who lives there.
posted by dortmunder at 9:17 AM on July 7, 2010

Does your precinct have local community meetings? Maybe a day or two before the next one, call the community liaison officer and let him know you'll be at the next meeting and would like him to discuss the homicide then. And then, of course, show up at the meeting and ask about it.
posted by hhc5 at 10:23 AM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

The Herald had a "News in Brief" mention of it on 4/7/10: "Boston police are reviewing missing persons reports in an attempt to learn the identity of a woman whose body was found Sunday on the rooftop of the 38-story residential skyscraper 1 Longfellow Place after having been dead for several days. The deceased was believed to be about 20 years old, 5 feet 11 inches tall and 160 pounds with reddish hair. She was wearing jeans, a black sweatshirt and a purple shirt. The cause of death is unknown." News Section, Page 14.
posted by jwells at 10:34 AM on July 7, 2010

I would not count on the building management to keep you updated. This is something that they are going to want to disassociate themselves (and their property) from as quickly as possible so as not to freak potential renters/buyers. I'd go to the police and explain that you live in the building and are concerned for both your safety and your girlfriend's. I sincerely doubt that alone would make you a suspect. I'm sure you're not the only person from your building who has or will contact them wanting to know what happened.

Why I doubt that the property managers are going to keep you informed? Someone was shot coming out of my apartment building a couple of years ago. At first the manager acknowledged it, although it was always referred to as an "incident." The words killed, dead, or murder were never used. He promised updates which never occurred. A few days later two residents were discussing what happened in the lobby and were reprimanded like school children not to discuss the "incident" in the lobby.
posted by kaybdc at 10:44 AM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to add: consider that it may have been determined to be a suicide, which would explain why you haven't heard anything about it.
posted by peep at 11:08 AM on July 7, 2010

Our police department has a "community relations" officer assigned to our neighborhood. It's his job to field calls from us on what is going on in the neighborhood. The last time I spoke with him he told me exactly how many times the police had been called to the neighborhood in the last 90 days, and what initiated the visits (Eight 911 calls, Three saw something suspicious while on patrol, etc) He even maintains an email list where he sends out regular updates when there is something he thinks we might want to know about, such as reported vandalism and that sort of thing).

Call the police. They aren't going to think you are a suspect because you want to know what is going on in the neighborhood. In fact, they would very much prefer that the residents be engaged and involved. It only makes their jobs easier.
posted by COD at 11:39 AM on July 7, 2010

You've actually got a gentle way to enter the conversation too. Boston PD's website points here for crime reports but there are absolutely no reports for Longfellow Place this year at all. Ask why, giving this example and say you're concerned and would like more information on this and why it isn't recorded up there. Everything else seems to be.
posted by jwells at 11:44 AM on July 7, 2010

Adding to jwells mention of the account in the Herald, there is this comment on the story, presumably from her family. If the comment is sincere, then it appears to have been a suicide :(
posted by raztaj at 12:39 PM on July 7, 2010

I used to work in that market and I can tell you that pretty much the only possible reason for no follow up story to a dead young white woman on a downtown rooftop is that it was a suicide.
Also, you have every reason to ask the cops for more info and no one is likely to think you are a suspect. (Though actually *getting* any information from the cops is a whole 'nother story.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 3:19 PM on July 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Based on the comment linked by raztaj, you don't need to be concerned about your safety from murderers, but maybe your safety if you ever go missing in a more isolated area of your building and your landlords won't bother looking carefully for you when your family calls! How sad. :-(
posted by ishotjr at 3:59 PM on July 7, 2010

Her name was Evelyn M. Callahan.
posted by Sallyfur at 7:58 AM on July 8, 2010

God, that mother's letter is heartbreaking. Devastating. Who knows if that poor girl could have been saved if the property management had just let her parents on to the roof. How awful for them.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 4:59 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

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