The neighbors of Tonia and Tavielle Kigas said they were threatened with eviction by the Bangor Housing Authority after issuing a complaint about Tonia Kigas 1 1/2 years ago — a warning they said tempered later decisions about whether to report to police their suspicions about the woman.
Housing Authority officials denied the charge Thursday.
The issue stemmed from a spring 1992 fight between Laurie Stratton and Kigas in Stratton’s next-door apartment, which began after Kigas allegedly accused Stratton and her boyfriend, Steve Davenport, of engaging in satanic rituals. According to Stratton, she placed her hand on Kigas’ shoulder and asked her to leave the apartment when Kigas struck her with a fistful of keys, gashing Stratton’s forehead.
Kigas was summoned by Bangor police on an assault charge, but the case was dismissed by Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy, who suspected it was Stratton who actually initiated the fight.
Before the confrontation, Stratton and Davenport had been on cool but cordial terms with Kigas for about 1 1/2 years, and they often waved to Kigas’ 5-year-old daughter, Tavielle, who died last month after allegedly being starved by her mother.
An attempt to interview Kigas at the Penobscot County Jail Wednesday night was unsuccessful. Her attorney, Perry O’Brian, did not return telephone messages Thursday.
After the fight, Stratton and Kigas met with Elsie Coffey, executive director of the Bangor Housing Authority, a meeting that allegedly included Kigas ranting about her neighbors’ supposed satanic activities.
“I’m just thinking to myself, `I’ve never done nothing to this woman, nothing,”‘ Stratton said during an interview Wednesday morning at the Pine Tree Legal Association, which represents the couple. The couple declined to disclose why they had sought legal counsel.
It was near the end of the meeting, Stratton said, that Coffey allegedly told both Kigas and the couple they would be evicted if any more complaints were issued.
“Absolutely not,” Coffey said Thursday when asked if she had threatened them with eviction.
“What I told them — this is what I usually tell two neighbors having a dispute — you don’t have to like each other, but you do have to live near each other. If you can’t get along, ignore each other,” Coffey said Thursday.
“There is a process for eviction. If we tried to evict someone because of that, it’d never get off the ground. I certainly don’t consider two ladies having a disagreement a lease violation,” she said.
The couple also charged that the Housing Authority ignored repeated requests to move them to another apartment both before and after Tavielle’s death, although Coffey said she was aware of only the latter request.
Davenport said that last winter he called 911 to report that Tavielle had been left alone, although he said he feared eviction and hesitated for about 15 minutes before making the call.
Bangor police arrived soon after Kigas returned, and the officer said he would forward a report to the DHS. Officials since then have speculated that the report was somehow lost or not followed up.
Both Davenport and Stratton, each of whom has a small child, said that afterward they became increasingly scared of Kigas, who at least once allegedly taunted them.
“(Kigas) was doing things, just to see if we would call,” Davenport said. “I don’t know what was going through her head.”
During the days after Tavielle was found dead, Davenport and Stratton called the Housing Authority and asked that someone be sent over to counsel neighbors, but again no one from the office returned their calls.
“Their priority should be the children,” Davenport said, adding later, “Our children have lost a friend of theirs they knew only through the window.”
“This has been extremely stressful for us,” Stratton said.
Coffey, however, said counseling is not the role of Housing Authority officials.
“One thing I want to emphasize is we are not counselors, we are housing providers,” she said. “I would be very upset if one of my staff attempted to counsel, because we are not counselors.”