LOCKPORT, N.Y. - Two teenage residents of a western New York group home threw a blanket over a supervisor, beat her to death and then fled in a stolen van after one of them fell under suspicion for stealing, police said yesterday.
The teens blindsided 24-year-old Renee Greco on Monday night as she played cards with other residents of the state-licensed home, Lockport Detective Capt. Richard Podgers said. Greco was supervising five 17- and 18-year-old boys by herself when the two teens attacked her with objects taken from the home's basement, police said.
The pair, Anthony Allen and Robert Thousand, both of Rochester, were caught early yesterday after buying bus tickets in Buffalo. They pleaded not guilty yesterday to murder, robbery and burglary charges.
A third teen, whose name was not released, was taken into custody with them, but was not part of the plot and was not charged.
"What's sad about this is the fact that you have a young girl who devoted her life to trying to make their lives better," Lockport Police Chief Lawrence Eggert said. "She's kind of considered their mother figure . . . trying to give them a better life, and this is her reward."
Allen, 18, was just a week away from being released and was afraid he would be caught for stealing $160 from the home's office over the weekend, Podgers said.
"He decided he was going to go AWOL. He had had enough," Podgers said. "I don't believe she saw it coming. They formulated a plan and carried it out."
Podgers described Allen as the ringleader. Allen got the weapons, which authorities declined to describe, and enlisted Thousand, 17, to help, he said.
After attacking Greco, the teens broke the door to an office, took money and the home's van and then drove to Buffalo, about 30 miles away, Podgers said.
One of the other residents called 9-1-1, telling the dispatcher, "They hit the lady and took the van," police said.
The home, operated by the nonprofit New Directions Youth & Family Services Inc., is classified by the state as an "agency-operated boarding home" and is licensed to care for up to six children, said Ed Borges, spokesman for the Office of Children & Family Services. The residents are in the foster-care system and may or may not have committed crimes as juveniles, he said.
Borges said he could not discuss Allen's or Thousand's backgrounds because of confidentiality regulations. Podgers said Allen told police he had committed petty crimes in Rochester.
Mayor Michael Tucker said the two-story white home, which sits in a neighborhood of stately homes with large porches and shade trees near the Erie Canal, has been a group home since 1967.
"I don't know what the future of this house will be," he said Tuesday.
Next-door neighbor Barb Chunco said she wants to see the group home go. She and other neighbors said the residents seemed to be getting tougher in recent years, using foul language, playing loud music and smoking cigarettes out their bedroom windows and on the roof.
Ed Collingwood said he knocked on the door a few weeks ago and asked the young woman supervising the boys - he did not believe it was Greco - to turn down the music.
"She said, 'I can't control them,' " Collingwood said.
He and others questioned the decision to allow Greco to work alone in the home at night, something Borges said was allowed by regulations.