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Four found slain at troubled Charlotte apartment complex

CHARLOTTE -- Residents say drugs and prostitution are frequent problems at a southwest Charlotte apartment complex where police discovered four bodies Monday.

Three men and a woman were found shot to death at the Tree Top apartments near Interstate 77 and Nations Ford Road. Police have made no arrests and named no suspects or motive.

The neighborhood is one of 40 high-crime areas Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have targeted as "hot spots" by increasing patrols and working with neighbors to make arrests.

Several months ago, officers raided the same apartment, seizing drugs and arresting several people, officials said.

"The police are over here 24-7," said one resident, a 25-year-old mother of two who said she was too afraid to give her name. "It's crazy over here."

Just before 6 a.m. Monday, a man called police and said two people might be dead in an apartment, police spokeswoman Julie Hill said. When officers arrived, they found four victims in a third-floor apartment.

Police have not identified the victims and could not confirm whether they lived there. They also could not say when they died. Monday, members of the department's SWAT team swept the sprawling complex, which has 286 units in 16 buildings. They found no other victims. About 30 percent of the apartments are vacant, and the complex has multiple owners.

It can be a frightening neighborhood, said another woman, who lives in the same building as the victims but said she didn't notice anything unusual before police arrived.

The woman said she lives with her grown son in a one-bedroom apartment she rents for $400 per month. She said she often sees women walking into and out of the building, standing outside on the street or lawn and on occasion being picked up by men in cars.

"That's why there are so many vacant apartments," the woman said. "People don't want to live here."

This is the second multiple homicide in Charlotte since Feb. 4, when someone killed a couple, then burned their house on Patricia Ryan Drive. An 18-year-old woman who lived with them also was shot to death and found on a Huntersville, N.C., road eight miles away. Police have made no arrests in that case.

In the past year, about 300 crimes were reported within a quarter-mile of Tree Top apartments. The most common crimes have been assaults, car thefts and residential burglaries, police records show. Armed robberies and drug sales are also on the list.

Tree Top is a collection of three-story, rectangular gray buildings, each with about 20 apartments. The building where the shooting happened is near the base of a horseshoe formed by three streets. Late in the day, members of the police crime lab, dressed in white protective suits, carried evidence down from the third floor in brown paper bags.

A note on Tree Top's office door said the office was closed for the day. A man who answered the door refused comment.

Stanley Bowden said he's lived on the building's third floor, in apartment X, for about a year. Two men have lived down the hall for about six months in apartment V, where the bodies were found, he said. He's exchanged hellos with them but didn't know them by name.

Bowden, 34, said he's noticed men and women shuttling into and out of the apartment at night, especially on weekends. He said he's also had to replace light bulbs in the stairwell near their apartments because someone keeps breaking them, leaving the stairwell in darkness.

One of the men who lived there drove a Nissan Xterra, Bowden said. This weekend, he said, he noticed two women in a black Chevrolet Camaro who appeared to be moving into apartment V.

On Monday afternoon, police towed away a gray Xterra and a black Camaro.

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