AA sponsor recalls finding Mary Kennedy's body
VideosDispute erupts over Mary Kennedy's final resting place Funeral held for Mary Kennedy in Bedford Wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. found dead
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The Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor who found Mary Richardson Kennedy hanging in the garage on the grounds of her Bedford mansion said Thursday it was a call from the dead woman's estranged husband, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., that brought her to the estate.
"He was concerned something had happened to Mary," Shannon White told News12 and Newsday.
As the son of the late senator searched the property, White and a male groundskeeper went to the old barn that had been converted into a four-car garage.
It was about 1:30 p.m. on May 16 and no one had seen Mary Richardson Kennedy in almost 24 hours.
White opened the second bay of the garage, walked in and found the 52-year-old mother of four hanging from a beam, a heavy, white rope around her neck.
"That's her," White recalled telling the unidentified groundskeeper, who asked what they were looking at.
White called out to Robert F. Kennedy Jr., 58, and he arrived quickly at the scene.
"He knew," she said of his reaction, declining to elaborate.
White said she went over to the dead woman, touched her and began to pray.
"He said, 'We need to call the police,'" she recalled.
Despite Mary Richardson Kennedy's longtime battle with depression and drug and alcohol abuse, White said she was "shocked" to find her dead.
During an interview with Newsday and News12, she declined to describe Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction, saying she wanted to keep certain details of the incident private.
White, an ordained Presbyterian minister and freelance reporter for News12, said she had been Mary Richardson Kennedy's "spiritual adviser" for about five weeks and that during that time the mother of four was clean and sober.
She declined to detail the conversations she and Mary Richardson Kennedy had during those five weeks, saying only that they had spoken often, in person and on the telephone. She also declined to describe Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s emotional state during that time period. He had filed for divorce in 2010 and had begun dating actress Cheryl Hines.
"She was clean and sober," White said of Mary Richardson Kennedy. "I was very gratified about that."
No suicide note, drugs, or alcohol was found with Mary Richardson Kennedy, according to a death report prepared by the Westchester County medical examiner's office. An autopsy found that Mary Kennedy Richardson had not been drinking at the time of her death but had three anti-depressants in her system.
Mary Richardson Kennedy and White had been friends for 19 years, White said. White recalled that she had used Mary Richardson Kennedy as an example of "positive parenting" for a book she wrote.
"She was a lovely, lovely person," she said.
White declined to describe any changes she may have seen in Mary Richardson Kennedy over the years or what led Mary Richardson Kennedy to seek out her counsel shortly before taking her own life.
Mary Richardson Kennedy and White last spoke two days before her body was found, talking on the phone for about 30 minutes, White said. White declined to give details of the conversation.
But, she said, she wasn't expecting what she saw in the garage.
"I was worried. I was concerned," she said.
Mary Richardson Kennedy's suicide came during a heated custody battle that was part of the ongoing divorce from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He had gained temporary custody of the couple's four children and was seeking permanent custody of Conor, 18; Kyra, 17; Finn, 15; and Aiden, 11.
Her family requested that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. not be involved in the removal of the body or funeral arrangements, according to the death report.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the Richardson family went to court over the matter, and in the end a Westchester County judge ruled in favor of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who finally had her body interred near the fabled Kennedy Compound in Hyannisport, Mass.
The trouble between Mary Richardson Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. went public in 2010, when he filed for divorce and she was arrested twice -- once on a drunken-driving charge and a second time for allegedly driving under the influence of prescription medicine.
Her depression and alcohol use spiraled out of control as her estranged husband began appearing in public with Hines, well known for playing Larry David's wife in the HBO series "Curb Your Enthusiasm."
The conflict continued after Mary Richardson Kennedy's death as lawyer's battled over funeral arrangements, the burial site and Mary Richardson Kennedy's property and debts.
It continued Thursday, when her family said it was blindsided by the news that Mary Richardson Kennedy's body had been dug up and moved from one part of St. Francis Xavier Cemetery in Centerville, Mass., to another part of the cemetery.
"The Richardsons weren't asked," said Peter Bienstock, a lawyer for the Richardson family. "The Richardsons weren't informed. The reasons he did it are known only to him."
Bienstock said the release of the additional death report Thursday still did not answer all questions about her death.
"The biggest question is what moved her to do what she did," he said Thursday evening. "I don't know, don't know," he said when asked if he expected that question ever to be answered.
Bedford police said they are still awaiting a final toxicology report before completing their investigation.
Lawyers for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. did not return calls seeking comment. His personal assistant did not to respond to emails and calls seeking comment.
Those who knew Mary Richardson Kennedy have been saddened by the controversy following her death, White said.
"It's been devastating for people that knew and loved her," she said.