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Estranged Kennedy wife died of asphyxiation due to hanging, autopsy reveals

Mary Richardson Kennedy, 52, the estranged wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., was found dead at the couple's home in Bedford, N.Y. No cause of death was given, but she reportedly took her own life by hanging. NBC's Jeff Rossen reports.

Updated at 6:20 p.m. ET: Mary Richardson Kennedy, the estranged wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., died of asphyxiation due to hanging, a medical examiner said after performing an autopsy Thursday.

The 52-year-old was found dead in her home in Westchester County, N.Y., on Wednesday. Two people with knowledge of the matter told The New York Times her body was found hanging in a barn behind her Bedford, N.Y., house, and that she had left a note.


Authorities who responded to the scene cut her down and tried unsuccessfully to revive her, said The Times.

Kennedy separated from her husband two years ago. At the time, she was battling drug and alcohol addictions, according to NBC. In May 2010, she was arrested for a DUI.

 Mary was Robert F. Kennedy's second wife, with whom he had four children -- Connor, Kyra, William and Aiden. They married in April 1994, just one month after he divorced his first wife, Emily Ruth Black, with whom he had two children.

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Mary Richardson Kenendy's family released this statement on Thursday:

"While we would naturally prefer to remain private at this very upsetting time, we feel compelled to make this statement because the description of Mary carried by certain news organizations since her passing yesterday is wholly inconsistent with the sister we knew and the life she, in fact, lived. We loved Mary and knew her to be an exceptional mother, sibling and friend to many. Countless people have described her as an extraordinary mother, selfless in her desire to help others, and one of the finest people in the world. We know her as all those things, and more. She was generous, thoughtful, with a refined aesthetic, genius organizational abilities, boundless energy, physical stamina, and natural elegance. She laughed a lot. Her enthusiasms were deep. She loved to connect people, with no self-interest, and with great intelligence.

We would ask the media to give us a few days to begin processing Mary's tragic death, and to fully understand all the circumstances around it. The first task is for Mary's family to take her to her final resting place, with the dignity and love she deserves. There will be plenty of time to correct all the inaccuracies and misrepresentations we are seeing in the media. Thank you for your understanding.

A private memorial service for our beloved sister will be held in Manhattan."

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a prominent environmental lawyer, has been touched by tragedy before. When he was 9, his uncle, President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated. Five years later, his father, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, was also assassinated. Years later, his brother David would die of a drug overdose; another brother, Michael, would be killed in a ski accident. His cousin, John F. Kennedy, Jr., died in a plane crash in 1999, and three years ago, his uncle, Sen. Ted Kennedy, died from cancer.

A wedding announcement in The New York Times said Mary Richardson was then an architectural designer for a New York firm.

In a statement from the Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. family, Kennedy was described as 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.”

Robert filed for divorce in May 2010 after 16 years of marriage, the New York Post reported.

Mary had known the Kennedys since she was 15, and was a close friend of Robert's sister, Kerry, long before she married Robert, reported the Post.

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