Hotel Room Plagued by Death, Hotel Owner Plagued by Problems

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by Morgan Fogarty
Bio | Email | Follow: @morganfogarty by Photographer Terrence Walker

BOONE, N.C. - On Friday, the toxicology and autopsy reports were released for Jeffrey Williams.  The now-resigned Watauga County Medical Examiner says the carbon monoxide level found in Williams' body was more than 60 percent.  The poisonous gas is what killed the 11-year-old Rock Hill boy. 

He was found dead - and his mother unresponsive - in hotel room 225 at the Best Western Plus in Boone on June 8th.  Investigators say a previously cited and poorly maintained pool heater, just below the room, is to blame.  In the 911 call, the operator says, "Don't hang up, OK?"  The caller says, "I'm not hanging up, ma'am.  This just happened to us last month, so please come help us."

In April, Daryl and Shirley Mae Jenkins died in the same room in April.  The caller in that 911 recording says, "I think they're both, I think they're both pretty bad."  The operator asks, "OK, and this is at the Best Western?"  The caller replies, "Yes, it's at the Best Western, room 225."

WCCB News has confirmed that the Best Western Plus is owned by AJD Investments Inc.  A Watauga county employee tells us tax records show Ashok Patel purchased the hotel in May 2007.  Patel, 54, died in January.   

It is unclear who is running AJD Investments now, but an attorney for the company sent WCCB a statement, saying in part, "We are cooperating fully with authorities who are investigating this truly tragic incident.  The hotel will remain closed as we work closely with authorities to address any issues identified and authorities declare the hotel cleared for occupancy."
     
Business problems plagued Patel. In 2010, the Red Carpet Inn, which he described in a public letter to the Boone Town Council as one of his family's companies, was cited after a seven-year-old boy drowned in a drainage pipe.  In 2011, Boone leaders condemned the Patel family's Scottish Inn Hotel, after it had been cited for safety violations, including chemical contamination from a meth lab found in one of the rooms.  Patel said his family also lost the Hampton Inn to the bank and was being sued by the hotel chain for more than half a million dollars.

Patel also claimed ownership in Boone's La Quinta Inn, Sleep Inn, Country Inn, Super 8 and Highland Hills.  We have reached out to his widow, his ex-wife and some of his children, many of which are involved in the family businesses, but have not yet heard back.
 

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