Columbus, Ga– Wednesday, June 26, 2019, the civil wrongful death case of a Ralston Towers’ resident in 2017 turned to the financials of the company that owns the low-income housing apartment building.
Testimony resumed in State Court Wednesday morning with Dr. Joshua Brooks, a Columbus State University business professor, telling the jury the company that owns the Ralston redirected nearly $4 million in the first few years it owned the building. Most of that money went to a Brooklyn NY nonprofit, School House Road Estates, which had the same address as the ownership group. School House Road then gave the money away.
By taking it out of the corporation, it was not available to properly maintain the building. Charles Hart, 62, died on July 6 2017 in a Ralston room that was more than 98 degrees.
Attorney Charles Gower, who is representing Hart’s estate, was attempting to use Brooks’ testimony to show that the owners were moving money for uses other than maintaining the downtown Columbus building.
Defense attorney James Budd, on cross examination of Brooks, asked a number of questions trying to show that these types of business deals are not unusual.
Tuesday June 25, 2019 marks the second day of testimony in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against Ralston Towers owner PF Holdings.
Muscogee County Deputy Coroner Freeman Worley took the stand to testify on his evaluation of Charles Hart’s body when he was called to the scene on July 6, 2017 after Hart’s body was discovered in his apartment in Ralston Towers.
During testimony, when asked about the state of Hart’s body Worley said, “It was probably one of the hottest bodies I’ve ever touched.” Worley went on to say, “Your body cannot maintain life in a room like that. It’s just entirely too hot.” Worley said he took photos of the thermostat in Hart’s room, where the air conditioning unit was malfunctioning. Worley says the thermostat was set at 67 degrees but would not reach below 98 degrees. WRBL News 3 reported in July 2017 that more than two dozen apartments in Ralston Towers were declared unsafe by the Columbus Consolidated Government due to malfunctioning air conditioning units.
Worley was then cross examined by Jim Budd, attorney for PF Holdings. The defense attorney questioned Worley about whether an autopsy could have been done on Hart’s body. Worley testified, “Anything could happen, but I don’t usually call them on a natural cause death.”
Charles Hart’s sister-in-law, Regina Draut also took the stand on Tuesday.
ORIGINAL STORY–PF Holdings, owners of the Ralston Towers, are in court right now facing a lawsuit centered around the death of a resident. Attorneys are currently in the process of questioning potential jurors who will hear the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of 62-year-old Charles Hart. As News 3 reported back in July 2017, Hart was found dead in his apartment at the Ralston in a room the coroner’s office tested as unable to reach a temperature below 98.6 degrees.