Three women who were found dead at a senior living facility in Rogers Park on Saturday have been identified.
They are: 76-year-old Delores McNeely, 72-year-old Gwendolyn Osborne and 68-year-old Janice Reed, according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
All three women were found unresponsive over a 12-hour span at the James Sneider Apartments, 7450 N. Rogers Ave., where residents started complaining of oppressively hot conditions days earlier. Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) said she thinks that a lack of air conditioning in the building likely caused the deaths.
The medical examiner’s office reported Sunday that autopsy results for McNeely and Osborne were pending “further investigation and toxicology.” An announcement related to Reed’s autopsy was expected Monday afternoon.
Paul Roldan, the president and chief executive of the Hispanic Housing Development Corporation, said his team was “deeply saddened” by the news.
“The safety and security of our residents has always been our highest priority at HHDC,” he added. “We are working with the city of Chicago and conducting our own investigation into the incident.”
A longtime developer of affordable housing who carries considerable clout, Roldan is the board chair of the Cook County Housing Authority and previously served as co-chair of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Housing Transition Committee after her election in 2019.
In a statement, a Lightfoot spokesperson said: “We will continue taking the necessary measures to make sure the residents of the buildings are safe, and we will make sure that building management owns responsibility for the care of its residents.”
Cathy, a 75-year-old woman who has lived at the James Sneider Apartments for 18 years, said residents began complaining on Tuesday, when the heat inside the complex became “unbearable.” Yet the conditions only grew “worse and worse,” according to Cathy, who said her apartment on the fifth floor got as hot as 91 degrees on Wednesday.
Hadden said she went to the building on Thursday and learned no one had air conditioning.
That’s when a facilities manager told her the company was still running heat to avoid potentially being cited by the city for shutting it off too early. A city ordinance requires rental properties to be at least 68 degrees during overnight hours between Sept. 15 to June 1, with landlords facing fines of up to $1,000 per day for failing to comply.
Hadden said it’s “infuriating” that those tasked with managing the 10-story building apparently didn’t “put the life and safety of their residents first,” especially at a complex that gets public money. She noted the building’s air conditioning system only started effectively circulating throughout the apartments after the three women were found dead.
She now plans to propose changes to city rules “around cooling and especially around seniors.”
“If we can’t trust these companies to use their common sense, to use their logic and to uphold their responsibility to their tenants,” she said, “then we’ll come up with some new legislation to make them do so.”