In the days following the murder of former nun Mary Greco a year ago, police released a photo of a rosary she owned that had gone missing, looking for help finding it.
According to testimony at a pretrial hearing Wednesday, police have a witness who identified the man now accused of killing Greco as having a rosary following Greco’s death — and trying to trade that rosary for marijuana.
Meanwhile, prosecutors also played a recording of detectives questioning murder defendant Michael Briggs about Greco’s death.
In the video, Briggs said little to investigators. Along the way, he denied ever seeing Greco’s house or car. The car was recovered about a mile from her home, spotted by police about a half-hour after Greco’s body was discovered.
Questioning ended when Briggs asked for an attorney after city police Detective Paul Steele suggested that police could link Briggs to a cellphone found inside Greco’s car.
Briggs, 38, is facing trial in March on charges including first-degree murder. He is accused of killing the 82-year-old Greco in her 1402 Stanford St. home in late December 2012. Briggs is also accused of taking her car and the rosary.
He was taken into custody Jan. 5, 2013, and has been held since. If Briggs is convicted, he faces life in prison without parole.
Greco has been described by neighbors as a kind, quiet and deeply spiritual woman.
Greco’s killing was an opportunistic crime, prosecutors have said, one in which Briggs took advantage of Greco’s kindness. Briggs is accused of killing her sometime between Dec. 28 and Dec. 31, 2012. Schenectady County District Attorney Robert Carney has said the cause of death was asphyxiation.
Briggs has pleaded not guilty.
At Wednesday’s hearing, city police Detective Yonatan Moskow testified that a witness was given a photo array to see if the witness could identify Briggs. In such arrays, witnesses are shown photos of six similar-looking individuals and told the person they saw may or may not be among the photos.
Shown the array, Moskow testified that the witness quickly identified Briggs, saying the man in the photo “came to my house with a rosary and tried to get a bag of weed for it.”
Earlier, Steele took the stand as prosecutors played the video of Briggs’ questioning. Steele took the lead on the interview.
Asked about Greco’s house and car, Briggs told investigators, “I’ve never seen anything.”
Briggs’ attorney, Michael Mansion, attempted to clarify with Steele exactly what Briggs said, suggesting it wasn’t as absolute as it appeared.
“He never denied ever being in the house, right?” Mansion asked.
Authorities believe Briggs came in contact with Greco because of a pair of late-December 2012 snowstorms. After the first, on Dec. 27, 2012, 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, prosecutors have said.
The second storm hit the region Dec. 29, 2012. Briggs returned after that storm, prosecutors have said, and authorities believe Greco accepted his second offer of help. Then, prosecutors believe, she either let Briggs into her home or he followed her in and killed her.
While Greco’s car was recovered shortly after her body was discovered, authorities have said her rosary remains missing. The rosary is described as having 8 mm 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.
The hearing is being held before Judicial Hearing Officer Michael C. Eidens and is to continue next week.