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Coroner: RFK Jr.’s estranged wife died from hanging

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BEDFORD, N.Y. (AP) — The estranged wife of Robert Kennedy Jr. died of asphyxiation due to hanging, a medical examiner in suburban New York said Thursday.

Mary Richardson Kennedy, 52, was discovered dead Wednesday on the family's property in this New York City suburb. An autopsy was performed Thursday morning.

Mary Kennedy's life had both highlights and troubled moments, and they played out publicly because of the famous political family she married into in 1994. 

The former Mary Richardson wed Robert Kennedy Jr., a prominent environmental lawyer and the son of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Kennedy and nephew of President John F. Kennedy, aboard a boat in the scenic Hudson River Valley. The couple had four children, the youngest born in July 2001. Robert Kennedy Jr. also has two children from a previous marriage.

She was an architect and designer and had overseen the renovation of the couple's home into an environmentally advanced showpiece.

In a statement issued by Mr. Kennedy's chief of staff, the family said Mary Kennedy "inspired our family with her kindness, her love, her gentle soul and generous spirit.

"Mary was a genius at friendship, a tremendously gifted architect and a pioneer and relentless advocate of green design who enhanced her cutting edge, energy efficient creations with exquisite taste and style," the family said.

Her family cited her devotion to her children in remembering her.

"We deeply regret the death of our beloved sister Mary, whose radiant and creative spirit will be sorely missed by those who loved her," the family said in a statement issued by attorney Kerry Lawrence. "Our heart goes out to her children who she loved without reservation."

Mary Richardson had known the Kennedys for years, through her friendship with Robert Kennedy Jr.'s sister, Kerry Kennedy, whom she met at boarding school when they were teenagers. She was Kerry Kennedy's maid of honor at her wedding in 1990 to now-Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The couple later divorced.

But recent years saw darker moments.

She had trouble with drugs and alcohol and had two high-profile arrests around the time her husband filed for divorce in 2010.

Mary Kennedy was first arrested May 15 of that year on a charge of driving while intoxicated after a police officer reported seeing her drive her car over a curb near the family's Bedford home. Her only passenger was a dog, and police said she had a blood-alcohol level of 0.11 percent; the legal limit is 0.08 percent. Her license was suspended.

At the time of her sentencing, famous family and friends spoke in support of her.

Her mother-in-law, Ethel Kennedy, wrote in a letter that she "is a caring, nourishing mother who has nursed her four children through lifelong bouts of debilitating allergies," according to an account in the local newspaper, the Journal News, at the time.

Kerry Kennedy, in her letter, said, "When I look at my three daughters, my wish for them is that they are as blessed as I have been to have a companion, a confidante, a friend, like Mary Richardson."

Mary Kennedy was charged later that year with driving under the influence of drugs, but that charge was dismissed in July 2011 when a judge said the evidence showed she didn't know the medications she had taken would impair her ability to drive.

There were indications her troubles started earlier. In 2007, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. drove his wife to a hospital for treatment, but she resisted and ran from the car, according to the Journal News, which cited Mount Kisco police records.

"I remember she was acting kind of out of it, kind of crazy," a witness, Rae Kesten, told the Journal News in 2007. "She was running into the street and flailing her arms around. He was trying to restrain her. I didn't know if they were fighting or not, but I was concerned."

The unexpected death of another person connected to the storied Kennedy clan brought to mind the other sorrows the famous family has suffered.

Shopping in Bedford, Diane Glokler said: "I've always just thought that family is very tragic. They keep having tragic things happening to them. It's heart-wrenching."

Neighbor Leslie Lampert, who owns the Cafe of Love restaurant a short drive from the Kennedy home, said Mary Kennedy was "at all times just a lovely individual."

"She was community oriented," Ms. Lampert said. "She was always kind in our presence."

Another neighbor, Kim Fraioli, a trauma therapist who lives a few houses down from the Kennedys, said the family was private.

"We left them alone," Ms. Fraioli. "We didn't have any interaction. I think it's a tragedy. It's very sad for their family and the surviving children. My heart goes out to the family."

Associated Press writer Verena Dobnik contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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