Drugs blamed in beating

Casa Madrona: Minor record didn’t keep suspect out of subsidized housing

jpawloski@theolympian.comOctober 30, 2012 

Olympia police found evidence in a 45-year-old woman’s residence at the Casa Madrona Apartments suggesting she was under the influence of narcotics Friday when she threw a chair over a 76-year-old resident’s head and then smashed the woman’s head into the floor about eight times, resulting in her death, court papers state.

Corrin Kaufman was ordered held Monday at the Thurston County Jail on suspicion of second-degree murder in lieu of $1 million bail. She has a prior criminal record that includes two gross misdemeanor convictions, one for third-degree theft out of Centralia in 2005, and one for first-degree negligent driving in 2004.

Chasu White, 76, was working on a jigsaw puzzle in a common area on the second floor of the Casa Madrona Apartments about 2:45 p.m. Friday when Kaufman, wearing no clothing, assaulted her unprovoked, court papers state.

White died Sunday from her injuries.

The apartments in the 3900 block of Martin Way provide long-term subsidized housing to the elderly and the disabled. The complex is managed by the King County Housing Authority.

White’s family members were in court Monday for Kaufman’s preliminary appearance. They made a statement through Stanley Phillips, a victim’s advocate for the prosecutor’s office.

“This is a tremendous shock,” Phillips said. “It’s a tragedy. They want to make sure that this doesn’t happen again to another elderly person.”

In asking for $1 million bail, Thurston County deputy prosecuting attorney Karen Horowitz said the facts “show an extremely brutal and violent attack that appears to be completely unprovoked.”

Court records indicate that onlookers were terrified, as Kaufman continued to brutally beat White even after she lost consciousness.

“Kaufman was described as having ‘inhuman strength,’ and was seen picking up a large armchair that was in the foyer and smashing the ends of the legs into the victim’s head multiple times,” court papers state.

Eyewitness Michael Ragsdale gave police a recorded statement that he knew Kaufman was high on methamphetamine at the time of the attack, court papers state. Police found evidence suggesting use of narcotics in Kaufman’s apartment, but police officials could not be reached Monday to elaborate.

During an interview Friday, Ragsdale said that Kaufman was behaving erratically in the minutes before the fatal assault, running up and down the halls of the apartment complex naked and banging on doors, yelling “Let me in, let me in.”

On Monday, an official at the King County Housing Authority said the agency will conduct a top-to-bottom review of the incident to determine how something like this could happen and try to ensure that it never does again.

The housing authority has managed the Casa Madrona Apartments since they were built in 1974, spokeswoman Rhonda Rosenberg said. She said that in 1974, Thurston County had no public housing authority, so at that time the City of Olympia asked the King County Housing Authority to help with a project that would bring low-income housing to the elderly.

Rosenberg said that Friday’s assault is the first instance anyone at her agency can recall of a tenant-on-tenant homicide at a King County Housing Authority-managed building.

“We’re reeling from this,” she said. “Our thoughts are with the victim and her loved ones.”

She added that every tenant who applies to live in a residence managed by the housing authority must complete a screening process that includes a criminal background check by the Washington State Patrol. The only types of convictions that would preclude someone from living in a housing authority-managed residence are felonies or convictions related to methamphetamine, she said.

Rosenberg said misdemeanor convictions of the type Kaufman had would not have kept her out of the residence.

Casa Madrona is a type of federally subsidized housing that by definition allows the disabled and the elderly to live in the same building, Rosenberg said. She said that by law, the housing authority cannot request information about what type of disability an applicant for housing might have – including whether a disability is physical or mental.

The housing authority also tries to mitigate any potential for trouble between elderly residents and younger disabled residents who might commingle in a housing authority project, Rosenberg said. The housing authority’s “designation plans,” mandate that roughly 22 percent of any housing project’s population can be “younger disabled” in a building with elderly residents, she said.

Ragsdale said Friday that he had complained about Kaufman’s meth use. Rosenberg said she was unaware of any complaints that came to the housing authority’s attention, but she said that is one aspect of the case that the housing authority will investigate.

The housing authority is making grief counselors available to Casa Madrona residents, Rosenberg said.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 jpawloski@theolympian.com

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