BEDFORD, New York - Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s estranged wife, Mary Richardson Kennedy, who had fought drug and alcohol problems, died of asphyxiation due to hanging, a medical examiner said Thursday.
A person familiar with the investigation into her death said that authorities have concluded that she hung herself. The person was not authorized to release the information, and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Kennedy's body was discovered Wednesday afternoon at the family's property in Bedford. An autopsy was performed Thursday morning.
The former Mary Richardson, a longtime connection of the Kennedy clan, married Robert Kennedy Jr., a prominent environmental lawyer and the son of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of President John F. Kennedy, in 1994. The couple had four children, the youngest born in July 2001. Robert Kennedy Jr. also has two children from a previous marriage.
On Thursday morning, people who knew the family, and some strangers, as well, dropped by home to leave flowers at the front door.
"I think every family has its tragedies. But this is too much. You have to feel for them," said Kim O'Connell, 59, of Bedford Hills, as she dropped off a bouquet of Calla lilies. She said she had met Mary and Robert while working at their health club.
"I just thought she was just a lady. I woke up this morning, and I wanted to do something," she said.
Mary Kennedy also was a designer and had overseen the renovation of the couple's home into an environmentally advanced showpiece. Her family cited her devotion to her children in remembering her.
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. She had been Kerry Kennedy's maid of honor at her wedding in 1990.
She had had trouble with drugs and alcohol and had two high-profile arrests around the time her husband filed for divorce in 2010.
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 out 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 Westchester's 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, including the assassinations of RFK and JFK in the 1960s.