Local Residents Stunned 52-Year-Old Felt She Had No Other Means Of Dealing

BEDFORD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The Westchester County Medical Examiner’s office has confirmed the estranged wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. committed suicide.

An autopsy conducted Thursday found Mary Richardson Kennedy died of “asphyxiation due to hanging,” according to the medical examiner.

The fragile walls of privacy Kennedy worked so hard to build in life came crashing down a final time in death.

The 52-year-old mother of four, the oldest 17 and the youngest 11, was found dead inside an outbuilding of her stately Bedford mansion around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Kennedy’s estranged husband released a statement saying: “Mary inspired our family with her kindness, her love, her gentle soul and generous spirit. Mary was a genius at friendship.”

Shortly after her husband filed for divorce in July 2010 after 16 years of marriage, Mary Kennedy had a very public struggle with drugs and alcohol. She was arrested for DUI when police spotted her driving over a curb outside a Bedford school.

Weeks later, she was busted again for driving under the influence of drugs. A judge later dismissed those charges, saying the evidence showed she didn’t know the medications she had taken would impair her ability to drive.

Family biographer Lawrence Leamer said life as a Kennedy came with a special set of challenges.

“The overwhelming celebrity, the attention, the obligations, the expectations that you’re supposed to do something with your life, it’s very, very hard,” Leamer said.

Local residents were stunned such a young mother felt she had no other way to cope with her problems.

“It’s crazy. When I heard it first thing this morning I said to myself I can’t even imagine leaving my child, I can’t,” Jackie Cardarelli told CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu.

“I just feel for the children, how this will affect their lives from now on,” Sharon Levy added.

Family Therapist  Dr. Jane Greer told CBS 2’s Hsu the apparent suicide is not a reflection on how she felt about her kids.

“It’s not a measure of not loving her children or not caring about the children, it’s simply a matter of not being able to take care of herself, let alone her children,” Dr. Greer said.

“When you’re dealing with divorce and someone who is not equipped to cope with that, to manage that, who’s handling it through alcohol or drugs, it can lead to a kind of depression which is insurmountable for which there is no way out.”

Police are tightly guarding the home as Robert F. Kennedy’s family asks for privacy in honor of Mary’s memory. There was no immediate word on funeral plans.

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