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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Cottage Where Star Died: Owner Had Been Warned

SOUTHAMPTON, New York -- Tennis star Vitas Gerulaitis died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty heating system under a poolside cottage, the owner of which had promised Southampton Village officials he would not use it as sleeping quarters.


Hours after an autopsy found high levels of the deadly gas in Gerulaitis' bloodstream, police returned Monday to the Southampton estate on Long Island where Gerulaitis was found dead and tested the heating system under the pool house -- a bungalow the owner had acknowledged in a June 1990 written statement was uncertified for occupancy.


"A level of carbon monoxide found inside the cottage was so high that investigators were forced out," Southampton Village Detective Sergeant David Betts said, attributing the death to a faulty and inadequately ventilated heating system that allowed the odorless and lethal gas to accumulate.


Gerulaitis, 40 -- a flashy tennis star once ranked No. 3 in the world -- was a longtime friend of the oceanfront estate's owner, Martin Raynes, a high-profile Manhattan real estate mogul. Gerulaitis stayed in the house often, and dropped in Saturday after playing in a nearby charity tournament.


But village records show the pool house was never meant to be a living quarters -- and Raynes was well aware of that. Southampton Village building inspectors informed Raynes in June 1990 that the "guest house" -- as he had touted it in a magazine advertisement putting the estate up for sale -- was in fact a poolside cottage that lacked a certificate of occupancy and under the village code the structure could not be used as sleeping quarters. Raynes then signed a statement that he was aware of village law barring such use of the pool house.


Since the structure was not intended for use as sleeping quarters, an inspection that might have been able to turn up the fault had not been performed, village officials said.


Tuesday, Raynes attended Gerulaitis' wake in Syosset, New York where he declined to talk to a reporter about his friend's death.