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Elderly sisters found dead in a Fresh Meadows home

Frances O'Rourke, 84, and Margaret O'Rourke, 80, who lived together on the ninth floor of the Cherrywood building at 188-04 64th Ave., were as close as sisters could get, said Linda, one of their neighbors.

"I used to see them on Sunday. They got dressed up and went to church," said Linda, who preferred not to give her last name. "They were very charming. They took care of one another. They were as close as a married couple."

A spokeswoman for the city medical examiner said Monday that an initial autopsy had been done to try to determine the cause of death for the women, but further study would have to be done before a conclusion could be reached.

Police said they saw no signs of trauma or foul play that might have caused the death of the sisters, whose bodies were discovered Dec. 22 after building management called police.

Open medicine bottles were found at the scene, and it is possible that at least one of the sisters may have committed suicide, possibly after finding her sister dead, police said.

"I never thought of asking those two if they needed anything, because they had each other," said Linda, who has lived in the Fresh Meadows building for 12 years.

Yvonne McColl, another neighbor, said the deaths of the sisters did not make her feel unsafe or uneasy.

Deaths in the building are not uncommon, said McColl, because many residents are elderly.

Two years ago, another elderly woman who lived on the floor was found dead in her apartment after a foul stench led neighbors to call the police, said Linda.

"It's just that people get old," said Linda. "Maybe this will give some other elderly people in this complex a wake-up call so they'll reach out a little bit."

Linda and McColl said they had not seen any family member or friends visit the sisters, and the two women appeared healthy as far as they could tell.

Neighbors on the ninth floor are not very close and often do not see each other for long periods of time, said Linda.

"They probably had no family," said McColl. "It's a tragedy. We're all very unhappy about it, especially three days before Christmas."

Linda said she cried when she learned about the sisters' deaths, and the first thing she did after walking into her apartment was call her own sister.

"What a sad story," she said. "That's sweet that they died together. One didn't want to live without the other."

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, ext. 155.

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