SHELTER ISLAND, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – An elderly priest, tied up and left for dead inside his Long Island home nearly a month ago, has succumbed to his injuries.
As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported Tuesday, bells tolled at the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island as word spread the unsolved home invasion on quiet Shelter Island had turned into a homicide investigation. Rev. Paul Wancura, admired and adored by his congregants, died of injuries suffered in the crime.
“Seven days being zip-tied. How a human being can go without food and water for a week – he did. His will to live was just beyond belief,” friend Michael Russell told McLogan.
Rev. Wancura’s arm was amputated, as a result of being tied. His official cause of death was sepsis.
His former parishioners say he had no idea who the intruder was.
“I call it evil personified. And if this person has any conscience at all, he ought to turn himself in,” friend Kevin Lockerbie said.
The 87-year-old priest served the diocese for more than half a century in Setauket, Greenport and Shelter Island, lately helping in Central Islip, where he was late to church and worshipers put out an SOS.
“We were here waiting for him and we called him several times, and there was no response,” one parishioner said.
“Father Paul was loved by everybody. He married my wife and me 40 years ago,” Russell said.
“Just a wonderful, godly man who was a great communicator,” said Lockerbie.
Investigators want to know if the case is linked to an unoccupied residential burglary across the street. They’re offering a $10,000 reward.
“Shelter Island is an extremely safe area. That’s one of the reasons this is so shocking,” Suffolk County Police Chief of Department Stuart Cameron said.
Friends and parishioners want the killer to be caught, unable to comprehend how a life that brought such comfort, joy and peace to so many ended in such a violent way.
Shelter Island has just 2,400 residents in the off-season and is accessible only by ferry.