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The Building Was Home to Seniors—and a Serial Killer

A deep dive into what happened at Brooklyn's Woodson Houses
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 16, 2021 2:15 PM CDT
In a Building of Seniors, a Murder. Then Another
Stock photo.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – "How many people can say they know a serial killer and everyone that he killed?" It's a chilling question that a resident of the Carter G. Woodson Houses in Brooklyn poses in a lengthy piece by New York Magazine about the killings that took place there over a series of years. As Greg Donahue explains, the block-long complex is tough to get into: It's one of just 38 public-housing developments in NYC open only to seniors, but that doesn't mean it's a particularly safe place. The Woodson Houses were in a rough neighborhood; security was lax, and there were no surveillance cameras. At first, their absence didn't seem problematic after Myrtle McKinney was found dead in her apartment on Nov. 9, 2015: Police suspected she had fallen and hit her head and deemed it the result of natural causes.

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Her children disagreed. Though there was no sign of forced entry, the body was positioned far enough under the table that a fall seemed improbable. They urged the NYPD to take another look, with no results, and they didn't have the $15,000 an autopsy would cost (the city wouldn't pay since she wasn't considered a crime victim). Roughly a month later, McKinney's body was finally moved to a funeral home to be prepared for burial—and that's when the long gash on the back of her neck was discovered. After a call to police, that autopsy finally took place and confirmed she had been stabbed in the neck. The investigation went nowhere—her apartment had long since been cleaned out. Ditto the calls for a CCTV system or better security. Then in early 2019, Jacolia James was found strangled to death. (Read the full piece for more on the third murder, the suspect who lived among them, and the residents' uphill battle with NYC for protection.)

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