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Salem Apartment Building Mystery

October 2, 2005, 10:40 PM by Matt Belanger

Investigators still don't know what substance caused four people from Salem to go to the hospital, and killed one of them. Eighty-one-year-old Irene Schock died yesterday in a Sioux Falls hospital after breathing in a gas that filled her apartment.

Two others have been released from the hospital, and the third is expected to be released soon. Authorities have identified the substance they think produced the gas. The apartment building is still surrounded by barriers and caution tape and neighbors are still talking about what happened there on Friday.

"I didn't know when it first started because I was at work," said Alberta Townsend, who lives in the building next door.

"It's making quite a stir here in town, but til we get the information we won't know," said Perston Parmelee, who lives just down the street from the closed-off apartments.

Investigators still aren't sure what, exactly, sent four people to the hospital and killed one of them.

"I didn't know at the time how sick they were," Townsend said.

"We were nervous, without the information we didn't know what was going on," Parmelee said.

Townsend has lived in the apartment complex for ten years. During that time, she's gotten to know her neighbors. In fact, she personally knew the woman who died.

"I talked to her just the morning before, she was over at my place and she was feeling good then. So this came on her very suddenly," she said.

Townsend's aunt was also one of the people taken to the hospital after being exposed to the mysterious gas. She's been released and is expected be okay. But even for people with no personal connection to the incident, its hard "not" to notice what's been going on down the street.

"They had the chemical suits out yesterday afternoon," Parmelee said.

Most people in Salem just want the the investigation to end, so the town can get back to normal.

"We're a very quiet community we never have anything exciting going on," Townsend said. "But this has been enough."

The Salem police department is treating the apartments as a crime scene. That's standard operating procedure, until police can find evidence to prove the incident was not the result of a crime.


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