Though hundreds live in the Park Place Apartments in north Coeur d’Alene, tenants describe it as a tight-knit community run by strict but good-hearted people.
“This is a small community. It’s not just an apartment complex,” Sally Davis said.
Davis and her neighbors spent a somber Wednesday afternoon trying to come to grips with the slaying of their apartment manager and friend, Bette Fears.
“She wasn’t just the lady that you gave your rent to on the first of the month,” said Davis, who has lived at the apartments at 3825 Ramsey Road for more than a decade. “It was more than that. She made it more than that.”
Police say the 67-year-old long-time rental manager, who lived at the apartments with her husband, Lonnie, was shot and killed by Evelyn Botto, a disgruntled tenant who planned the shooting.
Botto had complained about noise and parking issues before, and a suicide note found in her apartment indicated “she was unhappy and that she was going to take matters into her own hands,” Coeur d’Alene police spokeswoman Christie Wood said.
Shortly after 11 a.m., medics responded to a call of an unconscious woman outside the manager’s office. They saw Botto inside, “acting a little erratically,” and called police, Wood said.
Officers entered the office and heard a woman tell them to leave. They then heard gunshots, took cover and secured the building, treating the situation as a barricaded suspect, Wood said.
The Kootenai County Special Response Unit used a battering ram to gain access to the office about 1:30 p.m., Wood said. They found Botto dead from a gunshot to the head, apparently self-inflicted.
Botto had barricaded herself in a back room behind two closed doors and filing cabinets, police said. She called at least two people from the office to tell them she had shot Fears, Wood said.
Police did not release the identities of the people Botto called.
Wood said Botto’s complaints to management focused on things as minor as the sound of a toilet seat hitting the toilet bowl in an upstairs apartment.
“Some people’s breaking point is out of the norm,” Wood said.
Corey Shover, who lives at the apartments, made the first 911 call. He said he saw Fears lying in the bushes outside the apartment office and thought she had suffered a stroke.
He followed a trail of blood into the office and tried opening a back-room door. “It wasn’t bravery – I just didn’t know what was going on,” Shover said.
The door was locked. He later learned Botto was behind it.
“Thank God I didn’t get in, because she probably would have shot me,” he said. “If I was there, like, a minute earlier, it’d be a different story,”
The 911 dispatcher instructed him to move Fears from the bushes. Outside, he asked people passing by for help, but medics and police were soon on the scene. He heard gunshots and was told to take cover by police, he said.
Wood said Botto used a .38-caliber handgun.
Tenants at Park Place, a complex with about 150 units in 30 buildings, described Fears as generous and loving.
“She’s very much liked by everyone here,” said Lydia Miller. “She invited everyone into her heart.”
Fears and her husband are excellent apartment managers who pay attention to details, said Amalia Kocsis. Fears and her assistants would tour the grounds in a golf cart throughout the day to make sure nothing was out of the ordinary, Kocsis said.
“You feel safe here,” she said.
Spokane’s Tomlinson Black Management Inc. owns the apartments. A representative did not return phone calls Wednesday.
Sharon Ford said she moved to the apartments about six weeks ago and immediately found a friend in Fears.
“She’s done a lot of great things for me personally,” Ford said. “It’s the best place I’ve ever lived.”