They celebrated her life and raised thousands of dollars for a scholarship in her name, but the family and friends of slain Lockport group home worker Renee Greco also are speaking out to try to change policies they believe contributed to her death.
The musical tribute and benefit filled Harvey D. Morin Post, Veterans of Foreign Wars, in Greco's hometown of West Seneca to capacity Sunday and raised $19,770, said Greco's cousin, Kristin Fisher. The money will be used to fund scholarships for both a West Seneca East and a West Seneca West student over the next 10 years.
The benefit also took on a serious tone. More than 200 people who attended signed a petition to oust State Office of Children and Family Services Commissioner Gladys Carrion in the wake of Greco's death. Carrion's agency has been accused since Greco's death of placing some troubled teenagers in community settings that are not restrictive enough.
Organizers also announced that Greco's family has filed notice of claim against the state, a precursor to a possible wrongful death lawsuit.
Greco was beaten to death on June 8 in Avenue House, a group home in the City of Lockport. Two residents of the home for troubled youths, 17-year-old Robert J. Thousand and 18-year-old Anthony Allen, both of Rochester, were indicted last month by a Niagara County grand jury and face charges of murder, burglary and robbery in the killing. The two allegedly killed Greco to hide the theft of $160 from the group home office two days earlier.
Greco was supervising several teens at the house alone when she was killed.
"These were not boys, these were monsters," Fisher said of her cousin's accused killers. "This was preventable. We don't ever want this to happen again. They should never have been placed in that home. If their records were looked into, this never would have happened."
She said they now plan to take their petitions to Lockport and throughout Western New York.
"This is not just local. I'm sure it's happening everywhere and if we can change just one thing in the system and make sure it doesn't happen again then we would be pleased," Fisher said.
John V. Elmore, an attorney with the firm of Brown Chiari, who is representing the family in the legal matter, said that the state "placed two very dangerous youths in a nonsecure facility and had not notified the facility of their propensity for violence."
Elmore noted that Family and Children's Services has started to close some secure facilities across the state.
"Their policy now is to release people earlier into non-secure facilities, but it is our belief that it is endangering the public and that it is not really saving money because you are going to end up paying for it in the long run," the lawyer said.
"[Renee Greco] had no idea she was left alone with five juveniles, two who had very dangerous backgrounds; and had she known, she wouldn't have put herself in that situation," Elmore said.
Her family and friends will continue to collect donations in her name for the Renee Greco scholarship at all First Niagara Bank branches and online at www.reneegreco.com.