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Elderly minister dies of wounds suffered during home invasion

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Reverend Paul Wancura in a photograph taken in 2011.

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Reverend Paul Wancura in a photograph taken in 2011.

Reverend Canon Paul Wancura, 87, died of wounds suffered as a result of a home invasion at his Silver Beach home three weeks ago.

The Shelter Island Police and Suffolk County Police departments announced his death this afternoon.

The brutal incident, which shocked the peaceful neighborhood and the Island at large, was originally termed by the police departments as a case of home invasion and burglary.

Now, with the Episcopal minister’s death, it has become a homicide case that will be conducted by the Homicide Division of the county department, according to Shelter Island Police Department Chief Jim Read.

Rallying only a week ago from critical condition at Stony Brook University Hospital where he had been since being airlifted from the Island on Monday, March 19, Reverend Wancura, who had a hand amputated,  never emerged from the intensive care unit of the hospital, according to Father Charles McCarron, pastor of St. Mary’s Church.

Father McCarron said today that the official cause of death was sepsis, which is a system-wide infection, usually caused by wounds.

He discovered Reverend Wancura midday on  March 19 after checking on him since the elderly minister had missed Sunday services at a church in West Islip where he assisted most weekends. Father Wancura was found bound by the hands, lying between a bed and a bedroom wall and had been in that condition for at least two days.

STRINGER NEWS PHOTO Shelter Island Police Department officers on Oak Tree Lane in Silver Beach March 19.

STRINGER NEWS PHOTO Shelter Island Police Department officers on Oak Tree Lane in Silver Beach March 19.

A former Rector Emeritus of Caroline Church of Brookhaven in Setauket, Reverend Wancura has served in many roles throughout the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, including serving at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Greenport for a decade. He was a graduate of Queens College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Business Administration, and held a Master of Divinity degree from the General Theological Seminary in New York City.  He has also served with the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Corps in Austria and France.

The Shelter Island Police Department reported another burglary in Silver Beach, directly across the street from Reverend Wancura’s house, two weeks after the home invasion burglary in the same area of the Island.

Chief Read said the burglary in the unoccupied residence was reported the afternoon of March 4 when the owners “returned after being away for an extended period of time,” the chief said. “Detectives are exploring the possibility that the burglary and the discovery of a burglary two weeks ago in the same area might be connected.”

Chief Read added that the second incident is “broadening the scope of looking at suspects.”

“This is a terrible tragedy,” Father McCarron said Monday afternoon. “A life that brought so much joy, comfort, peace and light to so many many, ending such a violent way.”

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