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 that his agency and the Denver Housing Authority are working to try to provide housing assistance to the mother and autistic son of 47-year-old Sandra Roskilly after they were locked out of their subsidized housing.
Brown said federal lease agreements for subsidized housing with communities limit the ability of residents to turn over property to other people, but the rules aren't carved in stone.
"Our rules and guidelines are just that, and we would hope people would use compassion. They have discretion, which is why the city has a board to administer it. There was no notification on our end of an eviction, and we didn't have a say in it," he said.
Police said 31-year-old Daniel Abeyta, a neighbor, killed Roskilly and shot a second woman in her leg on Friday. Abeyta is hospitalized and could be charged with first-degree murder.
The housing authority said it was forced to lock out 70-year-old Doris Kessler under federal law because Roskilly was the head of the household and Kessler wasn't allowed to be on the lease because she lived there as a live-in aide. It also said Roskilly died without a will, requiring the unit to be locked until a public administrator could determine who should inherit Roskilly's belongings.
In a statement, the authority said staffers have "made themselves readily available to Ms. Kessler and other family members to enter the home to retrieve" medications and personal items.
"We appreciated 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," the statement said.
The Denver Housing Authority owns and manages subsidized public housing under an agreement with the federal government. Denver agency spokeswoman Stella Madrid said the property was turned over to the public administrator on Monday.
"We secured all property in the unit yesterday and we secured the unit," Madrid said Tuesday. She refused further comment.
Kessler is now sleeping on a couch at the home of one of her children. Roskilly's autistic 18-year-old son is under state care at a facility in Pueblo, but friends say he often visited his mother. The housing authority said he hasn't lived in the home for a year.
Roskilly's brother, Dennis Campbell, says his mother and nephew were given the boot by the city after 20 years. Kessler had moved in a decade ago.
"She's been living here 10 years and now they're telling her she's just a visitor and she has no rights whatsoever," Campbell said.
Daniel Markin has been friends with Roskilly for 30 years. He said he still has a lot of questions, including how his friend wound up in a gunman's sights.
Markin said Abeyta was upset that his neighbor's rose bushes were growing onto his property.