A 37-year-old parolee has been indicted in the late-December killing of former nun Mary Greco, a killing described as an “opportunistic crime” that took advantage of the woman’s kindness.
Michael Briggs was arraigned Tuesday morning before acting Schenectady County Court Judge Richard Giardino on a multiple-count indictment that includes one count of first-degree murder.
Briggs is accused of killing the 82-year-old Greco in her 1402 Stanford St. apartment sometime between Dec. 28 and Dec. 31. He pleaded not guilty.
Briggs robbed Greco of her car and a rosary and in the process killed her, Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney said. The cause of death was asphyxiation.
“I think it was an opportunistic crime on his part, to take advantage of a woman who had been very kind to him,” Carney said after Tuesday’s arraignment.
Greco has been described by neighbors as a kind, quiet and deeply spiritual woman.
Briggs apparently came in contact with Greco because of a pair of late-December snowstorms. After the first, on Dec. 27, Briggs went around Greco’s neighborhood offering to shovel snow, authorities said. Greco is not believed to have known Briggs, but she accepted his offer and paid him.
“He dug out her car and she was nice to him,” Carney said.
A second storm hit the region Dec. 29. Briggs returned after that storm, Carney said, and authorities believe Greco accepted his second offer of help.
“We think he was shoveling her out again,” Carney said. “Either she let him in or he followed her into her apartment, where he killed her.”
Authorities are unsure exactly when that was, but believe it happened Dec. 29.
Briggs is accused of taking her car, a rosary and cash. Authorities found her car in a parking lot about a mile from her home shortly after her body was discovered New Year’s Day. The rosary, though, remains missing.
The rosary is described as having 8mm Swarovski Amethyst crystal beads with a sterling silver crucifix and center. The crucifix measures 2 inches. It was given to Greco less than a week before she was killed.
Carney declined to detail the evidence against Briggs but said there are witnesses who saw the two interact. There is also forensic evidence.
“It was a case in which the police did a very thorough job, and it was excellent police work that led to his identification,” Carney said.
He said the forensic evidence included some that could be processed quickly and other items that took longer to be examined.
If convicted, Briggs faces life without the possibility of parole.
In court, Briggs appeared surprised when advised of the possible maximum sentence.
Briggs has been in custody since early January on a parole violation. He was on parole for a 1997 burglary and robbery conviction from Nassau County, a crime for which he was sentenced to 7 1⁄2 to 15 years in prison.
Briggs was represented by assistant conflict defender Demostene Romanucci. Afterward, Romanucci said his client denies all charges against him.
“He’s categorically denying it,” Romanucci said.
Greco, who had worked for the state, was discovered New Year’s Day in her apartment by her landlord. After discovering Greco’s body, the landlord also reported her car missing.
Police quickly got the vehicle’s description out to officers, and within a half-hour, the car was spotted in the parking lot of St. John the Evangelist Church on Union Street, about a mile from Greco‘s home.
Authorities believe Briggs parked it there, intending to continue using it. He lived about three blocks down, on Eastern Avenue.
In all, Briggs faces one count of first-degree murder, two counts each of first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary and one count each of fourth-degree grand larceny, fourth-degree and fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property and petty larceny. He remains held without bail.
Greco was born and raised in Schenectady, entered the missionary community in 1956 with the Daughters of Mary, Health of the Sick, staying with them until the community disbanded in 1972. She then worked for the state until retiring in 1996.
Tuesday’s arraignment was attended by several of Greco’s relatives, including two sisters, a brother, a sister-in-law and great-nephew, Carney said.
The group met with Carney afterward but declined comment.
“They’re a very strong family,” Carney said. “She was a very spiritual, religious person and had a huge heart.”