Patrisha Clay had been coming to Bethesda House, a day shelter for the homeless, for at least a dozen years.
During that time she battled drug addiction and life on the streets.
Program officials and friends would talk to her about getting help and changing her life, said Margaret M. Anderton, Bethesda House executive director.
But she never did. On Monday, police identified Clay, 51, as the woman found dead Sept. 27 inside a Jay Street apartment closet.
“Part of the conversation is acceptance and understanding that until a person is ready to make that decision, there’s nothing you can say to change their mind,” Anderton said. “You can just offer.”
Clay’s identity was released Monday after investigators were unable to find next of kin. They are asking anyone who knows of relatives to contact police at 382-5245.
Police investigated her death, but found no indication of foul play. The death had gotten extra scrutiny because the apartment wasn’t hers. It formerly belonged to a friend, police spokesman Sgt. Eric Clifford said, and police believe she had a key.
She was found by the wife of the building superintendent as they prepared the apartment to be rented, Clifford said. She was found laying down in the closet, a jacket covering her.
Officials are speculating she died of a drug overdose, though tests to confirm that won’t be back for several weeks.
Clay was already known to police through a string of prostitution arrests dating back to at least 1992, when she was swept up in a prostitution sting at the age of 33.
She would be arrested repeatedly over the years, most recently in 2006. In a 2005 arrest, she was accused of offering a sex act to an undercover officer on State Street in exchange for $20, records show.
On the streets, Clay was known as Sparkle. She was also known as kind and giving, Anderton said, and someone with a strong faith.
Anderton gasped Monday when told of the identification by a reporter. She said a room full of 60 people was in tears when she told them.
She said she expected to have a service for Clay and use the house’s cemetery fund to mark her grave site.
Though police were unable to find relatives, Anderton said Clay had a son who was put up for adoption. She didn’t communicate with the boy, but she did get updates, Anderton said.
She had talked of moving down South, but not until the boy graduated high school, Anderton recalled. If she moved before then, it would be more difficult to get updates on his progress, she reasoned.
Fellow homeless were her family, Anderton said, none more so than Ken Wohrmeier, who died last year. They had met on the streets and became fast friends. Clay even spoke of him as like a brother.
Wohrmeier had made strides that Clay couldn’t or wouldn’t, getting himself into a residential program and a job at an industrial park, Anderton said. He still looked after her.
Wohrmeier’s end was markedly different. He died in February 2008 from lung cancer, his friends around him.
What made Clay’s passing even more upsetting to those who knew her, Anderton said, was that she died alone.
Police Tuesday also released the name of the man whose body was found Sept. 28 on the Mohawk River bank near the Front Street pool.
He was identified as 49-year-old David Herold of Washington Avenue in Schenectady. No foul play is suspected in his death, either, police said. A cause of death was not expected until test results are returned.
Evidence at the scene indicated Herold had been fishing when he died. His obituary described him as an avid outdoorsman and fisherman.