Hours before city codes officials were planning to do a surprise inspection of the Pajama Factory on Park Avenue on Thursday, a young South Williamsport woman was discovered dead in a bed inside a second-floor studio, city police said.
As of Thursday night, authorities had no evidence that foul play was involved, police Capt. Tim Miller said.
The woman was identified as Regina Lapp, 21, of South Williamsport, according to Lycoming County Coroner Charles E. Kiessling Jr.
“She died there sometime during the night” after entering the factory at 1307 Park Ave. about 1 a.m., Kiessling said investigators were told. There was evidence that she was under the influence of intoxicants, he added.
Surveillance video of the complex shows the woman staggering as she came into the building, investigators said.
Lapp retreated to a bed in a studio that is rented by a man whose son sometimes sleeps there, police said.
The identities of the tenant and his son were not released.
Lapp and the son were close acquaintances, police said, and the son also was sleeping in the studio overnight Wednesday.
Police, paramedics and firefighters were called to the complex about 9:45 a.m. for an unresponsive person, investigators said.
“The father had stopped at the studio while on his way to work, and that’s what woke the son,” police Chief Gregory Foresman said he was told. The son then tried unsuccessful to rouse Lapp, he added.
The woman already was dead when emergency responders arrived, Foresman said.
An autopsy on Lapp’s body is scheduled for later this morning, Kiessling said.
While Kiessling is looking into the cause of Lapp’s death, city fire and codes investigators are trying to stop what they see is a growing problem of people sleeping in a complex that is to be used solely for commercial use.
The Pajama Factory, the former Raytowne complex, is a place for business, not a place to sleep, officials said.
“We have received complaints of people sleeping in the building in recent weeks,” city Fire Chief C. Dean Heinbach said on Thursday afternoon.
As a result of the complaints, city fire and codes officials went through much of the complex, inspecting the studios Thursday afternoon. The inspection was scheduled before Lapp’s death.
What investigators believe to be happening is that “in some of these studios, there have been people actually sleeping, residing overnight, and that’s clearly not allowed,” said Joe Gerardi, the city’s codes administrator.
During their inspection, investigators found “alarm clocks, bedrolls, mattresses and beds” in some of the studios, Heinbach said.
“A number of occupants were told that they were not permitted to sleep in the studios,” Gerardi said. He did not release any specific numbers, only saying that the investigation is ongoing.
Gerardi did say that the only person allowed to sleep in the building is a maintenance-security employee, whose quarters are equipped with smoke alarms.
Mark Winkelman, the owner of the 300,000-square-foot complex that is eight connecting buildings, said in a written statement that “none of the tenants were evicted because they were living in the building or, for that matter, for any reason at all.”
Gerardi and Heinbach said the city has been working with Winkelman for several years in an effort to bring the buildings up to code.
“We have nothing against the studios and the artists that rent them. It’s a great thing that is happening there. We just want to make sure it’s a safe place for those working there,” Gerardi said.
In his statement, Winkelman said “our sincerest condolences go out to the family and friends of the deceased. It is unbearable to lose someone who is so young.”
Winkelman said the factory “has a growing roster of about 80 tenants, including manufacturers, software developers, gas-industry related companies, commercial designers, writers, photographers and, of course, fine artists.”
He went on to say that the factory “currently offers strictly commercial leases. We operate a secure, creative environment in which tenants have 24/7 access to their work studios. As a result, lights can often be seen at all hours of the night.”