One dead, one wounded in stabbings at southwest Atlanta senior high rise

One dead, one wounded in stabbings at southwest Atlanta senior high rise

Mary Oliver was just hours away from celebrating her 76th birthday.

Emmanuel Surry Jr. was just going back to his apartment where he cared for his 105-year-old uncle.

That was before police say Geary Otis stabbed the two septuagenarians multiple times in an Atlanta senior residential tower where all three live, killing Oliver and wounding Surry.

Shortly before 11 p.m. Monday, police said Otis went after Surry, 71, who escaped after a struggle with multiple stab wounds.

Then Otis turned his sights on Oliver’s apartment and “kicked my mother’s door in,” Oliver’s daughter, Ellen Hall Varner said, citing police reports.

Police found her dead in her bed with a deep gash to the back of her head, a cut under her left eye and several stab wounds to the chest.

Surry remains in stable condition at Grady Memorial Hospital, and Otis, whom police said suffered non-life-threatening injuries, was treated at the hospital and transferred late Tuesday to the Fulton County Jail.

Otis was covered in blood and carrying two large kitchen knives when he was located, police said.

Atlanta police Capt. Tim Peek said officers “were able to apprehend the suspect near the scene and were able to recover two knives that did have blood on them.”

Otis, who police said is in his mid-60s, was charged with murder and aggravated assault. He waived his first court appearance at the jail late Wednesday morning, and will face a judge for a preliminary hearing on July 10, jail spokeswoman Tracy Flanagan said.

Officials for Baptist Towers, the senior residence on Myrtle Drive in southwest Atlanta, said Oliver and Otis “had a relationship,” the extent of which was unknown.

Surry’s sister, Sandra Surry, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution her brother said he only knew his alleged assailant’s face from seeing him around the facility.

She said the two encountered one another Monday evening on the elevator, but no words were exchanged.

“When he got ready to get off the elevator, the man attacked him,” she said, recounting what her told her from his hospital bed. “He said he kicked him in his privates… that’s how he got away.”

Emmanuel Surry stays with his uncle Charles Surry and is a caretaker for the centenarian and the man’s younger, 95-year-old brother, she said.

“Uncle Charlie said he left the door open for Junior to come back last night, but he never did,” Sandra Surry said. “That man could’ve gone back in there and hurt my uncle.”

Varner said, citing police reports, that Otis, who lives on the fifth floor, left Surry on the seventh floor, then “went home, took a shower, changed clothes and stuff.

“Immediately when you come in the door, her kitchen is to the right,” Varner said, describing her mother’s apartment, and again referred to police reports. “He got one of her butcher knives out of there and went in and started stabbing her. She was in bed.”

“We’re unclear on the actual motive,” Peek said. “We don’t know why the person chose to do whatever he did.”

Peek said the facility’s on-site security guard was apparently making rounds outside the tower when the stabbings occurred.

Built in the early 1970s, Baptist Towers has about 300 units in the 11-story building. A newer three-story building — it opened in November — stands next door with 100 units.

While there were some residents who expressed fear for their safety, few saw it as an indication that the gated community, with its coded entry and 24-hour security staff, is a dangerous place.

“I don’t feel any less safe,” resident Cleve Kates said. “It could happen anywhere.”

Elizabeth Gresham, though shocked by the incident, said it didn’t shatter the impression of safety and security about Baptist Towers that prompted her to move there earlier this month.

“This wasn’t random,” she said. “I would still move here after this.”

Emmanuel Surry’s sister doesn’t think this incident creates an ongoing problem.

“All of us can move into a place thinking it’s safe,” Sandra Surry said. “It’s the mind-set of the person living next to you. That could happen on Bankhead or in Buckhead.”

The complex has been operated by National Church Residences since 2007 and is described on the organization’s website as “an independent senior living community.”

The facility leases one-bedroom and studio apartments to residents age 55 and above, with rent ranging from $501 to $1,078 a month, according to the website.

National Church Residences spokeswoman Karen Twinem said the company requires a background check of all potential residents, including a check of criminal records and whether a person is registered as a sex offender.

Of the Upper Arlington, Ohio-company’s 330 properties across the country, Twinem said there have been only two other killings in 52 years.

Otis will be moved to the Fulton County Jail when he is released from the hospital. The investigation is ongoing.

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