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Published: Tuesday, 4/2/2002

Neighbors distraught over woman's slaying

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Mary Lou Reilly was getting ready to go shopping with her elderly mother when she stopped to change the outfit on a decorative concrete goose on the front porch of her South Toledo home.

While she was changing the St. Patrick's Day outfit or right after on Saturday, she was attacked and killed by someone who stole her purse in an apparent robbery, authorities said.

“Whoever took her purse, attacked her as she was going in the house or was on her way out,” Toledo police Lt. Rick Reed said.

Detectives spent yesterday piecing together the death of the 61-year-old woman, who was strangled and suffered blunt injuries on her head, said Dr. Diane Barnett, deputy Lucas County coroner.

Mrs. Reilly was found about 4:30 p.m. Saturday lying in the living room in her house, 230 Walbridge Ave., by her mother, who is in her 90s. Her husband was in the garage, neighbors said. The St. Patrick's Day outfit was on the floor.

“I can't imagine anybody would be that brazen. It blows me away,” said Sharon Byersmith, a neighbor of 30 years.

Her husband, Pete, agreed.

The Reillys “were going to have a big Easter egg hunt for the grandchildren. They were good people,” he said.

Mrs. Reilly's relatives declined comment yesterday, and friends, such as the Byersmiths, said they are distraught. Her purse is still missing. No one has been charged.

Authorities initially thought Mrs. Reilly's death was from natural causes.

Several hours after finding her body, family members realized her purse was missing, the lieutenant said.

Mrs. Reilly's mother remembered seeing a man running through the house with her daughter's purse, and detectives returned to the house.

Police Chief Mike Navarre said the department is conducting an internal investigation into whether authorities should have learned the circumstances of her death during their initial response at the home.

“When a uniform officer responds to a death investigation, they determine if the circumstances indicate something other than a natural death and do a preliminary investigation,” he said. “In this case, the conclusion drawn by the officer was not accurate.

“We want to see if there was enough present for him to arrive at a different conclusion.”

Chief Navarre said this type of crime shocks the community.

“The community has the right to expect safety on their own property,” he said. “This is very tragic that this woman died in this manner.”

One of Mrs. Reilly's colleagues agreed.

“Whoever did this has no brains, and is not really a human being, not over taking somebody's purse,” said Dave Kenney, office manager at Leister Game and Novelty Co. on Summer Street, where Mrs. Reilly worked for about 17 years.

Mrs. Reilly was one of about seven employees at the family-owned business. She made items out of plaster and spray-painted them. The business probably will shut down this week because of her death, Mr. Kenney said.

“It's a total shock. We are just totally heartbroken about it,” he said. “Mary was a very dedicated and caring employee and very dependable.”

Ann Brodbeck recalled her friendly neighbor of 30 years as someone who liked to ride a bicycle and play with her children when they were younger.

“She was a very nice lady. She was just as sweet as can be,” Ms. Brodbeck said.

Neighbors said they were shocked such a crime happened in their quiet neighborhood, especially in the middle of the day with children playing nearby. A few said they were scared and were taking extra precautions, such as locking their doors.

“This is a neighborhood where all of us sit on the front porch in the summertime and watch each other's houses. We know we can depend on each other,” Mrs. Byersmith said.

But what upset her and other neighbors is that they didn't know the attack occurred and they couldn't help their friend.

“When she needed us the most, we weren't there for her,” Mrs. Byersmith said as she wept.



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