Negligence by the Charlotte Housing Authority led to an elderly woman’s 2007 death at the hands of a crack cocaine addict, a jury ruled Tuesday.
Attorneys sued the agency on behalf of the estate of Eva Dunlap Green, 63. She was strangled three years ago in her ninth-floor apartment at Charlottetown Terrace, a public housing complex for the elderly and disabled near uptown.
Her 46-year-old neighbor Kenneth Cyrus – a man attorneys said has a history of violence, drugs and mental illness – was convicted of her killing.
Jurors awarded Green’s sons a total of $132,000 – far less than the $10.4 million in damages they were asking for. Jurors said they couldn’t agree on a monetary amount, and the final figure was a compromise.
At issue in the two-week trial was whether the Housing Authority properly screened Cyrus before it let him live in the Charlottetown Apartments on Baxter Street.
“There were so many signs along the way that Kenneth Cyrus should not have been living in public housing,” said Green’s attorney Harvey Kennedy.
He argued that the Housing Authority violated its own procedures by doing only an N.C. background check – not nationwide – on Cyrus.
That check missed violent crime and drug convictions in Maryland that would have prevented him from living at Charlottetown, according to Kennedy.
The jury agreed. “We feel like (Green’s killing) could have been prevented,” said foreman Brian Henry.
Charlotte Housing Authority officials wouldn’t say Tuesday what, if any, changes might be made to the tenant screening process. A spokeswoman said officials are meeting with their legal team to determine whether to appeal the verdict. They plan to issue a statement today.
Green’s relatives declined to comment Tuesday.
Kennedy said he hopes the judgment will make the Housing Authority do more comprehensive background checks.
Said Kennedy: “We should not lose sight of the fact that a good woman, who was a nurse in Charlotte for 40 years, died here.”