Deaths and a Single Hotel Room

best western in Boone

Boone, North Carolina, is a quiet mountain community.  When an elderly couple died in a hotel room of ‘undetermined causes,’ and two months later an eleven year old boy died in the same room last Saturday, locals were concerned, and wanted answers.  What happened in the single room to end the lives of three people?

The boy’s mother, 49-year-old Jeannie Williams, was found unresponsive in the room, but is now in stable condition.

The Charlotte Observer story wrote; “Mystery surrounds Boone motel deaths,” it brought on reader comments punctuated with words such as “terrifying,” “bizarre,” “really weird,” “incredibly creepy.”

“Bates Motel in Boone?” offered one reader.

“If it’s the same cause for all three deaths, this is ridiculous,” Betty Austin, owner of the Mountain House restaurant near the hotel, told CNN Monday.

“Gotta be something going on,” said Chuck Style, a manager at Idol’s Tire & Auto Services also near the hotel.

“It’s a real nice hotel. That’s kinda what’s so shocking about it,” said Style, who added that the talk in town was focused on an unseen yet quite tangible probable cause: carbon monoxide.

The mysterious deaths occurred in Room 225.  Police said the boy likely died of asphyxia.

On Monday, investigators confirmed the locals’ speculation.

Boone is a town filled with diversity.  The old ways of the Blue Ridge Mountain people exist alongside homes built with enormous wealth.  In addition, Appalachian State University is there, and it is a popular tourist destination.    Residents of Boone took what happened at the Best Western Plus Blue Ridge Plaza hotel personally.

So, when Jeffery Lee Williams, of Rock Hill, South Carolina, was found dead in the room, locals wanted answers.

When tests were done, and elevated levels of carbon monoxide were discovered, authorities believed they had their answer.  They are focusing on the pool area.  Room 225 is just above the pool.

Daryl Dean Jenkins, 73, and Shirley Mae Jenkins, 72, both of Longview, Washington, died two months ago in room 225.  Their family and friends are asking why the toxicology reports have taken so long to determine their exact cause of death.

The Observer asked to meet with North Carolina Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Deborah Radisch to have their questions answered.  A spokesperson told the Observer that she was not available.

Documents obtained by the Observer Monday show the Watauga County Health Department inspectors found deficiencies at the Best Western’s indoor swimming pool earlier this year.  The pool has a natural gas heating system.

A March 6 inspection showed the pool’s pump was not approved by an industry standards group. The report also found the pool’s chemical and equipment room needed better ventilation.

“This needs to be corrected ASAP,” wrote the county health inspector.

Although North Carolina is one of 27 states that require carbon monoxide detectors in new homes, there is no requirement for hotel rooms.

Jeffrey’s mother has awakened from a medically induced coma but is still “a little groggy,” said Darrell Williams, Jeffrey’s uncle.

“She has no memory of what happened,” he said. “But she’s alive.”  Fortunately, she did not add to the total of three deaths in a single room.

Darrell Williams said the mother and son left Rock Hill on Friday to pick up his niece from a camp in the mountains the next morning.

James Turnage

The Guardian Express

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