Father Says Airbnb Aid After Daughter’s Death Was Damage Control
Lauren Kassirer, a 35-year-old New York City high school teacher, was found naked, bruised, and near death in an Airbnb rental on the Yucatan Peninsula three years ago this month. Now, with no answers about how she died and no one arrested, her father is looking back at the company’s offers of help and wondering if he got caught up in a damage-control campaign. “They took advantage of our family’s vulnerability to avoid a public relations nightmare,” said Eli Kassirer, 74, sitting at his kitchen table in New Paltz, New York, in late June, surrounded by documents about the case and a box containing his daughter’s ashes. He said he decided to speak publicly for the first time after reading a story in Bloomberg Businessweek last month about how the company handles violent crimes at its listings, providing victims and their families with money and working hard to deflect bad publicity. He said he regrets that he followed Airbnb’s advice to delay talking to the media and worries that other young women may suffer as a result of lax safety practices at short-term rentals. But he doesn’t blame Airbnb for Lauren’s death, and his anger is also directed at what he views as a shoddy investigation by local authorities who didn’t examine the scene and misplaced evidence. Kassirer said Airbnb offered its government connections to assist in the investigation and paid for private investigators and lawyers. The company covered about $250,000 in expenses, including funeral costs, and sent the family a check for an additional $750,000, according to people familiar with the matter who requested anonymity because settlement amounts are confidential. “It was a cynical, calculated, and manipulative attempt to keep us away from the media,” Kassirer said.