The death of 82-year-old former nun Mary Greco is being treated as a homicide, Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney confirmed Wednesday.
Carney said the decision is based in part on the condition of her body, though he declined to elaborate.
The cause and time of death are still under investigation, Carney said, with investigators hoping an autopsy set for Wednesday afternoon would help pinpoint both.
Carney said investigators have some idea on the time of death from talking to neighbors and others. Results of the autopsy were not available later Wednesday, however.
Greco, described by neighbors as kind and quiet, was found dead Tuesday afternoon in her home at 1402 Stanford St. Police initially called her death suspicious.
Greco’s car, which was missing, was quickly found by police after her body was discovered. The car was located in the parking lot of St. John the Evangelist Church on Union Street, about a mile from her home.
Greco was a deeply spiritual person, those who knew her said. She regularly attended church at St. Luke’s Roman Catholic Church on State Street. She also showed her faith through the sponsorship of children and adults in the Central American country of Guatemala, as well as trips there to support that work.
The Rev. Dominic P. Isopo, her pastor at St. Luke’s, remembered Greco on Wednesday as someone who “really brought a sense of peace and serenity to people that she knew.”
Isopo said he’d known Greco for 15 years. He recalled her often speaking of her trips to Guatemala to teach children to read and to share her faith. When she did talk about her trips, though, Isopo said, she talked about them in her own style.
“It was never about her. It was about what she was doing and how she felt that God was using her to bring the word of God to many people,” Isopo said.
Greco went on those trips through the Kansas City-based Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, the group confirmed Wednesday. In all, she went on six trips, called awareness trips, with the organization, paying her own way with other volunteers to see the work there and the people she sponsored firsthand, foundation CEO Paco Wertin said.
A photo in an online album shows Greco on one such trip in 2008, reading to children at a table. The caption identifies those at the table with Greco as a mother and her two young children. That trip was the most recent she had been on, Wertin said.
Greco was currently sponsoring three aging friends and two children with monetary commitments, Wertin said. She also had sponsored eight additional children over the years. She would then meet the children and people she was helping on her trips.
The foundation doesn’t normally talk about individual sponsors but felt it had to after hearing what happened, to tell of the good she did, Wertin said. She became a sponsor in 1996 through The Evangelist, the weekly newspaper of the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese, he said.
Wertin said everyone with the organization was devastated to hear of Greco’s death, and their thoughts are with her family and friends.
“We join all of them in giving thanks to God for Mary and the way Mary gave her life for others,” Wertin said in an email, “in particular for the way she loved the children and elderly that she sponsored through CFCA.”
Those who knew Greco in Schenectady could only speculate on why her car was left in the parking lot of St. John the Evangelist Church. Isopo believes it to be simply a coincidence — that whoever took the car may just have chosen that spot as a place to abandon it.
Isopo not only spoke of his parishioner’s life of service, but also of how that life of service may have ended.
“Here’s a woman that really lived so simply, lived out the gospel message in such a powerful way, and to have it end like this is tragic,” he said.