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Judge Orders Independent Inspection of Cleveland Apartments After Deaths, Warnings

GREENWOOD, Miss.—A Bolivar County judge has ordered an independent inspection of the Sunset Village apartments just outside Cleveland, Miss., to ensure no threat of gas or carbon monoxide poisoning remains after two people died there in August. Residents continue to live in nearby motels and many warn that living conditions remain unsafe at their units.

Chancery Court Judge Catherine Farris-Carter issued the ruling on Tuesday, Oct. 25, telling residents from the apartment complex that their safety was her top priority.

“I can assure you that my top concern is to make certain that when you all go back into those apartments, anything and everything dealing with gas has been looked at, inspected and addressed. I would not require you to put your life or your children’s lives at risk,” she said.

University of Mississippi Low-Income Housing Clinic Research Counsel Jordan Hughes speaks with residents of Sunset Village after Judge Catherine Farris-Carter ordered an independent review on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. Photo by Nick Judin

Dozens of families remain displaced from their homes nearly two months after the Aug. 30 deaths of Deshundra Tate and her 5-year-old daughter Kendra following a gas leak on the property. Many residents continue to complain of unsafe, unsanitary conditions in their units. But Farris-Carter’s order will result in many relocating to their units once the independent gas utility inspection is finished.

‘A Rolling, Diminishing, Preliminary Injunction’

Desiree Hensley, director of the Low-Income Housing Clinic at the University of Mississippi, represents the residents of Sunset Village seeking legal protection against relocation back to their units. Joining Hensley was her co-counsel Jordan Hughes and numerous law students from UM, along with four plaintiffs from Sunset Village.

The Mississippi Free Press visited Sunset Village on Oct. 14 and 15, speaking with residents who had already been relocated and some who continued to reside in nearby motels. This reporter witnessed the conditions of units at the complex firsthand; some units remained in a state of disrepair and damage, with swollen, cracked ceilings and visibly growing patches of mold.

Farris-Carter described her order as a “rolling, diminishing, preliminary injunction” that

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