Police probe whether three victims consumed poisonous substance at Roslindale elderly housing complex

Boston police are investigating whether the deaths of two men and a life-threatening illness that left a woman hospitalized are linked to something the victims consumed in the past few days inside a Roslindale elderly housing development, officials said.

Police were summoned late Wednesday to the Roslyn Apartments to investigate what appeared to be an isolated incident, the sudden death of a man, on the second floor of the six-story building, which houses elderly and disabled residents.

Boston Housing Authority personnel this morning found the body of a man on the third floor of the Cliffmont Street building and then found a woman suffering “system failure in her body,’’ authorities said.


The woman was rushed to Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Detectives were at the scene this morning. Commissioner Edward F. Davis also went to the scene.

“Right now these are sudden deaths that are unique in that they occurred at the same period in time and similar symptoms presented, so we want to see exactly what we have here, see whether … somebody might have consumed something,’’ Boston Police Superintendent-in-chief Daniel Linsky said at the scene.

Linsky said the woman was found in a state of distress this morning, after a well-being check at her apartment. He said she was alive and was able to talk with authorities when she was rushed to the hospital.

Rita Arisme said she went to pick up her grandmother Thursday afternoon and was overwhelmed by a pungent smell similar to onions, wafting through the vents and hallway.

Authorities would not release information on the identities of the two men, but did say their deaths are not currently being treated as homicides.

Lydia Agro, spokeswoman for the Boston Housing Authority, said the agency had checked the Roslyn apartment building’s systems, including carbon monoxide detectors, and had found no reason to evacuate the residents.

“There is nothing indicating that there is anything in this building that is a cause for concern,’’ Agro said in a telephone interview. “We have done a well-being check of the whole building with the police.’’


The Roslyn has 119 units and about the same number of residents living in the six-story building off Hyde Park Avenue, according to the BHA.

Agro said grief counselors are being brought into the complex to speak with residents and a building-wide meeting may be held later today in a common area. BHA managers may provide some food as they “reassure them that the building is safe and everything is OK,’’ Agro said.

She said police are investigating whether the two men are BHA tenants. Agro referred questions about the deaths of the two men to police.