The Last Days of Mary Kennedy

By Leamer, Laurence | Newsweek, June 18, 2012 | Go to article overview

The Last Days of Mary Kennedy

Leamer, Laurence, Newsweek

Byline: Laurence Leamer

She was the love of Bobby Jr.'s life. Then everything unraveled.

In the weeks before Mary Richardson Kennedy began searching the Internet for instructions on how to make a noose, the facade of a life she'd so desperately fought to maintain was rapidly crumbling. She was in the midst of an excruciatingly ugly divorce from Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the second son of Robert and Ethel Skakel Kennedy. She was drinking heavily, and her behavior became so erratic that court authorities would only allow her to see her four children during visits supervised by the family housekeeper. "I saw her in the kitchen, like with her head down, and I was like, Oh, golly, she's talking on the phone and crying," says the housekeeper, who had lived with the couple throughout their entire marriage. "But then I get close to her, and she was passed out. The plate of food was old, and her face was on top of the plate. And that day, she was drinking a lot."

Easter Sunday, April 8, should have been a welcome respite from the chaos. She had the children--Conor, 17, Kyra, 16, Fin, 14, and Aidan, 10--all staying with her at the family home in Westchester County, N.Y. But she was drunk, and the housekeeper would now have to tell the court that Mary--who'd already been arrested twice for DUIs since Bobby had filed for divorce in May 2010--was drinking again. "I called Mary's sisters, and they said, 'OK, we're going there,'?" says the Colombian housekeeper, who spoke to me on the condition that her name not be used. "But they never show up. So after that, Mary told me, 'Oh, my sisters, my brothers, they're all so mad at me they don't want to talk to me for what I did.' And then she was so sorry, and then she say, 'Why I did it? Why, why, why I drink?'?"

Because of her condition, the family-court judge decided to give full but temporary custody to her estranged husband, who lived in a rented house just down the road from the couple's estate. Mary's best chance to get her children back was to do well with a psychological evaluation that would determine long-term custody. She was scheduled to see psychologist Marc T. Abrams in nearby Bedford Hills in early May, but twice broke the appointments and gave false excuses, which upset the psychologist, who notified everyone involved. She attended a session on May 10, and she had every reason to assume that when Abrams issued his report, he would recommend that Bobby be given full custody. And she feared living without her children.

Mary was spending much of her time in bed, and that Sunday morning, May 13, she looked so ill that the worried housekeeper skipped church to stay with her. Monday was no better, nor Tuesday, and the housekeeper had a feeling that something bad was about to happen. Two weeks prior, Mary had asked the housekeeper's husband to buy a rope, which she said she needed for a sofa she was making.

On Wednesday, May 16, Mary was nowhere to be found. The housekeeper and her husband looked all over but couldn't find her. The housekeeper called Bobby and he came over to the house. The three of them searched further, until they entered the barn and found a harrowing sight. Mary was as neat as Bobby was sloppy, and she had tied a beautiful knot at the end of the rope, attached it to a rafter, and hanged herself. The housekeeper fell to the ground in a fetal position and stayed there for several hours. As for Bobby, whenever a Kennedy had died during his lifetime, whether it was his brothers David and Michael or his cousin John Kennedy Jr., his lean face would turn gray with grief, but he never cried. Now the tears flowed.

And then came an even uglier spectacle: a battle between the two families as they lined up on a field of combat that ranged from the funeral and the burial ground to the spin in the media. The Richardsons wanted their sister buried in the family plot in Vermont. Bobby and Mary's two oldest children, Conor and Kyra, spent the entire day in court two days after their mother's death to tell a judge that they wanted their mother's remains buried near the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port, where they would have an easier time visiting her. …

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