New Jersey sisters claim no one notified them of mom’s death in senior housing

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

ORANGE, N.J. — Two sisters from New Jersey are very grateful.

Governor Christie signed a new law after their mom died inside an apartment building for seniors, and no one notified told them — even when one of them showed up for a visit.

“I have a mix of anger and sadness,” said Lawanna Burks. She spoke to PIX11 alongside her sister, Cherelle C. Tolor, Esq. The sister asked to meet outside of their childhood home.

“When we were living here, this tree to our left, was growing the branches out,” said Cherelle Tolor.

Their mom called city hall, and refused to take no for an answer. You can still see where the city cut back those overgrown branches.

Today, the sisters see the tree as an early lesson about the power of perseverance.

“She taught us, if we’re not sure, ask questions. And if the answer doesn’t sound sufficient enough, continue to ask questions.”

The apple doesn’t fall far form the tree.

Before her death, Sheila Tolor was living in the Washington Manor Apartments for seniors in Orange, New Jersey. The sisters took turns making weekly visits.

Lawanna showed up there in early April 2014. She told security who she was there to see, went upstairs, and knocked on her mother’s door.

“Her TV wasn’t on. I knocked. I heard no noise.”

It wasn’t until she ran into her mother’s friend, that she got the news. Her mother had been dead for nearly a week.

“He says, she passed last week. They didn't tell you?"

The sisters say that’s when the finger pointing began. But the sister’s say that the Orange Housing Authority maintained a form with emergency contacts on it.

The Director, Walter McNeil, maintains today that a police officer and a security guard called Sheila Tolor’s emergency contacts. He stated that Tolor’s brother did not respond and that a number listed for one of her daughters was incorrect.

This week, Governor Christie made it law — senior housing staff must notify next of kin that their loved one has died within 24 hours.

“Once I found out that the bill was signed it’s like a calm, a calm, a real came over,” said Lawanna.

The Orange Housing Authority Director said they are profusely sorry.

“No family should have to go through this,” said Cherelle.