By Justin A. Rice, Town Correspondent
Three people have been summonsed to court for allegedly moving the body of a man who died at a rooming house called Hilltop Manor in Salem, according to Salem Police Detective Peter J. Baglioni.
Baglioni declined to identify the suspects who allegedly moved the body to cover up the fact that the person died at the house at 179 Boston St. in November. He also declined to say when they will be arraigned in Salem District Court.
The body of the 30-year-old man was allegedly moved to another lodging house in Salem on Nov. 9. The body of a 40-year-old man was also found at Hilltop Manor on Dec. 4. The medical examiner is still determining the cause of death in both cases.
For months, city officials have complained that rooming and sober houses are unregulated facilities that encourage drugs and alcohol abuse.
"In last year there been 29 calls for police service at that address," Baglioni said during last night's Salem Licensing Board meeting. "Within the last five weeks there have been two sudden deaths of two young men. In one occasion one body was moved to a truck and brought to another location in Salem on Federal Street.
"The police department finds that very disturbing. Three people will be summonsed into court in regards to moving that body."
A sober house is a substance-free rooming house where people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol are often ordered to live at by a judge.
Baglioni said the trustees of the house, Paul Dacey of Salisbury and E. James Gaines of Newburyport, had no knowledge of the death or the body being moved. Appearing in front of the licensing board last night, both men said that while they advertise Hilltop Manor as a "sober-living environment" but they are not licensed as a sober house and don't commonly seek court referrals.
Gaines and Dacey, who own an actual sober house in Amesbury, described the Salem facility as a "rooming house with a sober condition." They said the man who died on Nov. 9 was a visitor to the house and since they bought the property two years ago they have cleaned it up and kicked out some of the most troublesome tenants.
"Nobody puts a gun to your head and says "You have to live there," they are not assigned to go there by the court or forced to go there," Gains said. "The only thing we say is we don't tolerate drugs and alcohol use on our property. And that is desirable to a lot of people, especially to people who have a lot of problems."
After the meeting, however, the mother of the man who died on Dec. 4, Karen Rivers, said her son was referred to Hilltop Manor by the Lynn District Court in October.
"I am distraught," she said in an interview. "We were told by the court my son was being sent to a sober house; that there were rules and regulations for a sober house.
"He was not there voluntarily."
The board said it will bring Dacey and Gaines back for its February 13 meeting in order to put conditions on their license.
The board chided the owners for trying to cater to drug and alcohol addicts without offering the proper support those tenants' needs.
"You're not giving any education, you're not giving any drug testing daily that is required of a sober house," board member John Casey said. "I would suggest you no longer represent yourself as a sober house or whatever term you want to use. Just say you are a lodging house. You're licensed by the city as a lodging house.
"You are not a drug or alcohol free environment. I think they are confusing prospective tenants that they might get services and that's a disservice to them."
In a separate but related agenda item, the potential owner of another lodging house at 6 Munroe St. appeared before the board. The board approved Roger Tyler's application to have the lodging house's license transferred to him pending several stipulations, including inspections from the fire department and board of health.
Tyler, who is poised to purchase the 14-room property from the former owner Orille L'Heurex for $495,000, met with Monroe Street neighbors to discuss other conditions on Saturday night, such as posting the house rules, his license and a book listing the names of each tenant in the house
"We feel right now, the neighbors, that we made some serious progress to help this one particular address straighten out,'' City Councilor Michael Sosnowski, who represents Ward 2 and created a subcommittee to try to regulate the facilities, which are variously called rooming houses or sober houses, told the licensing board last night.
Joan Fix, who lives next to the Munroe Street, rooming house agreed.
"It's been a long time coming," she said, "and we look forward to having a new owner and going in another direction."
Justin A. Rice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.