The owner of the boarding house where two people have been found dead was the bassist for funk-soul band the Commodores and counted Michael Jackson as a mentor.

Alabama-born Ronald LaPread, whose Facebook page pictures him with the King of Pop, moved to New Zealand after falling in love with a Kiwi he met on a flight.

LaPread now lives in Remuera, Auckland, and has built a business tenanting rooms to some of the city's most vulnerable people.

He and wife Farideh own the Dryden Lodge near Grey Lynn Park where the bodies of actress Tania Ellwood, 39, and Timothy Kerr Hamilton, 36, were found after police were called at 3.15pm on Tuesday.

Farideh and Ronald LaPread own the Dryden Lodge in Grey Lynn. Photo / Olivia Hemus
Farideh and Ronald LaPread own the Dryden Lodge in Grey Lynn. Photo / Olivia Hemus

They are also long-time owners of Eden Park Lodge on Dominion Rd, another boarding house.

A family member at Dryden Lodge today told the Herald no comment would be given to media, given the sensitive nature of the ongoing police investigation.

The lodge helped give people a place to live during the housing crisis and the media's portrayal that all tenants were down-and-out was wrong, he said. Pensioners lived there, and rules included a ban on drinking.

Tania Elwood. Photo / Supplied
Tania Elwood. Photo / Supplied

The Commodores were one of the biggest-selling groups in the 70s and 80s, and had their first big break as a support act for the Jackson 5. In a previous interview with The Listener, LaPread said the King of Pop had been his mentor.

"He taught me everything about the business. We would play in the hotel, we would watch him laugh and joke like a little kid, and we would watch him get on stage and hold 150,000 people in the palm of his hand."

LaPread met Farideh while flying from Australia to Auckland, and next left New Zealand four years later.

As well as the family boarding house business, he has worked as an occasional producer for local musicians, and reunited with Lionel Richie onstage at his 2014 New Zealand show.

The current police investigation into how Ellwood and Hamilton died isn't the first time a serious incident has occurred at the properties.


In 2010 a man at Eden Park Lodge was left bloodied with serious head injuries requiring surgery after a resident across the hall bashed him with a baseball bat.

The victim told the Herald there was a threat of violence in the lodge, with pushing, shoving and shouting between residents very common.

"I was there for four years. I am a recovered alcoholic now. At the time prior to moving in there I was in big trouble with the bottle … Eden Park Lodge was pretty much the only accommodation I could get at short notice with little money."

He paid $170 a week for a double room, with shared bathrooms and kitchen, and believed the majority of tenants there were on welfare. Many had mental health problems, and drug or alcohol addiction, he said.

"I think your average New Zealander would probably call them the dregs of society. But from a more intimate viewpoint they were a wide variety of very different people. Some of them were exceedingly intelligent, one was a Russian nuclear scientist who had fallen on hard times."

Looking back, the man said he had mixed feelings about such boarding homes. They provided accommodation to people who would otherwise struggle to find it, but made a profit doing so. One concern he had was inconsistency for the reasons people were evicted.

"It could be argued that accommodation for those types of people should be provided by the Government as part of their social welfare package."