The Crosby Hotel, a 125-unit SRO building at 516 O'Farrell Street in the Tenderloin, has seen an arguably unusual number of deaths among its residents so far this year, and it made headlines last month after news emerged that one corpse was left to decompose in a unit for two months before it was found by building staff in April. Now, following on the potentially suspicious death in early August of 48-year-old Crosby resident Sheldon Smith, another body was discovered in the building on August 22, which the Medical Examiner's Office confirms was that of Kim Colburn.

Colburn was found in a bathtub in a friend's unit on a different floor from her own, and her death remains under investigation.

Across-the-hall neighbor Mel Malvar tells SFist that he filed an incident report with Episcopal Community Services, which manages the Crosby as well as other SROs in the neighborhood, after seeing one of Colburn's friends emerging from her room late on the night following her death. He also says he saw a friend named Charles carrying Colburn's dog Rusty following her death, and this is coincidentally the same person who cared for the dog of Julie Mann, the 56-year-old woman who died on or around February 17, but whose body, apparently concealed by belongings in her room, was not discovered by building staff until April 17.

When reached for comment on the Julie Mann situation, Episcopal Community Services Executive Director Ken Reggio told SFist, "The criticism of ECS is justly directed toward our failure to discover Ms. Mann's body in a timely way," and he says he's "apologized for [his staff's] having missed the clues that, in retrospect, were so obvious."

He explains that the staff conducted three separate well-being checks after Mann was reported missing in February, but they attributed the growing stench in her unit, which may have been kind of a hoarder situation. "Julie had many possessions, which we didn't disturb," Reggio says. "She also had a dog, and there was pet waste as well as food and garbage strewn about the unit. Staff mistakenly assumed that the odor was from those sources only."

Further he adds that the inability to discover Mann's body was an exception, and a regrettable one that ECS hopes never to repeat.

ECS serves 1,100 formerly homeless people in housing currently and we've been doing this work for 20 years. Of course, we've had deaths, but Julie's was the first that went undiscovered for any significant period of time, and it will be the last. We have tightened our well-being check protocol to include a fuller team response in cases where an overload of possessions may obscure discovery to ensure that the unit search is complete.

In the case of Sheldon Smith, while the death has not been ruled a homicide, the case remains disturbing for tenants, and Malvar goes so far as to say, "There's fear among residents because there may be a killer living with us."

Malvar, who has continued to blog and speak to journalists about the cases in an effort to bring attention to them, also says that he believes there was no guard at the front desk during one period before Smith died — a death which may or may not have occurred due to blunt force trauma. Malvar pointed to an unknown "outsider" seen by a fellow resident on surveillance footage entering the building on the afternoon of August 3 when the regular clerk on duty had left early, and a cleaning person was supposed to be covering the desk. Police say that Smith's was discovered within 24 hours of his death, however, which would put the death on August 5.

There may, in fact, be little or no foul play involved with any of these deaths, as they could all be attributable to drug or alcohol abuse. And this is not to say that the Crosby is necessarily an outlier among Tenderloin SROs when it comes to having deaths among an often addicted, often formerly homeless tenant population. But it remains a sad snapshot into the management of such a building that the unfortunate case of Julie Mann brought to the fore.

Below you can watch a short documentary made by Crosby neighbor Vinton Frost which depicts the beginning of the July meeting held by ECS with residents of the Crosby, as well as interviews with Crosby residents about the Mann's death, and the subsequent odiferous evidence of her death.

In response to the claims about lack of support services made in the video, Reggio says, "ECS staffs the Crosby with four full-time and one part-time social service personnel (in addition to property management staff), whose roles extend to providing supportive counseling, crisis counseling, and conflict resolution; providing and/or making referrals for food, clothing, and household items; referring for physical and mental health services and for substance abuse treatment; advocating with and on behalf of tenants for Social Security, SSI and other benefits; exploring and encouraging employment and/or job training opportunities; engaging residents in social activities for the development of community."

And in response to claims of lack of security, Reggio says, "Our buildings are locked and visitors must be buzzed in day or night by a desk clerk," and "The Crosby, like all of our buildings, have security cameras throughout."

He also adds, "With neither death [Mann's or Smith's] is there a question of ECS's action or inaction being a cause of death."

Expect more on this story if and when either the deaths of Smith or Colburn are ruled homicides.

Previously: Dead Bodies Keep Turning Up In Tenderloin SRO No One Should Have To Live In