Victims of Dangerous House Calls: Melissa Danielle Jennings
Melissa Danielle Jennings was a young 20-year-old mother of a toddler. She and her child lived in an apartment, and in 1999, an apartment maintenance man employed by TGM Associates, Calvin Oliver, entered the apartment of Melissa Jennings and murdered her. If the complex property managers had done a criminal background check, they would have learned the man had spent more time in prison than out and had a prior rape conviction.
His criminal record included 20 years of violent crimes.
At the time of his employment, he also had a warrant for his arrest due to theft check charges. Because the apartment complex didn’t bother to do a criminal background check on Oliver, he was given far too many opportunities to carry out the crime. Ms. Jennings’ life could have been saved, as well as much hardship faced by the property management company, who had to pay $13.2 million in retribution for their shortcomings. The Georgia Court of Appeals upheld the verdict against TGM Associates Inc., owner of the Ashley Lakes apartment complex in Gwinnett County. (It reduced the original $15.5 million verdict to $13.2 million.)
Residents often assume that their apartment complex has screened all of the maintenance staff. The same rules for homes apply to apartments.
- Ask the right questions- “Are ALL maintenance personnel background screened annually?” “What screens are run on them?”
- Ask a friend or neighbor over for coffee. Often times, apartments won’t allow you to reserve appointment times for service work, so you may not know when the technician will be there, but you can always ask for a time window to expect them. If you’re unable to have someone come over during the service work, it is better to simply remove yourself from the situation. Leave your apartment and come back well after the service work has been completed. You can even call your apartment office to verify that the work is finished the technician is gone. Once you return, make sure everything is as you left it; especially all window latches and door locks.
- Another common issue with apartments is that all staff have access to your apartment. So, when you are home, make sure you always use the deadbolt. Even if you have roommates, it is best to lock the deadbolt and simply unlock it when they need entry.
Previous Posts in this series:
Post: + Intro
Post: Ask a friend over for coffee
Post: Trust is earned
Post: Protect yourself in the workplace
Post: Beware of referral services
Post: Violent crimes can happen in any type of neighborhood
Post: Conducting business with service providers outside of your home