Let’s begin with a disclaimer—This post has absolutely nothing to do with sports. If you’re looking to get your daily Buffalo sports fix on, this isn’t the column to do it and you may be better served clicking another link or coming back again tomorrow. Having said that, I respectfully ask you to carry on reading.
They say writing is therapeutic and since I’ve allowed myself a forum to do so, I need to as for today, I’m once again brokenhearted.
Exactly one year ago on this day, my dear friend Renee Greco was cruelly murdered by two young men she cared for while working as a youth counselor at a Lockport group home for troubled teens.
Countless lives, including mine were forever changed.
According to police reports and testimony, Anthony Allen and Robert Thousand, 18 and 17 years old respectively at the time, grabbed a blanket from the basement and used instruments I know of but don’t need to share publicly, attacked her from behind and horrifically bludgeoned her to death while she played cards at a table with other kids.
Renee was just 24-years old.
Her untimely death dominated the local news for days and made its way to headlines nationally, including the Associated Press and CNN.
Renee is survived today by her inconsolable mother Jane and stepfather Kevin, her brother Tony, whom she adored more than anyone on earth, as well as family and close friends far too many to mention.
At this time a year ago I was overflowing with such shock and sadness, I found it a challenge to put anything into words. After 365 days of stewing over such a senseless and preventable tragedy, an enormous degree of resentment and cynicism has conquered my emotions.
What kind of world do we live in where other people have such a high disregard for human life? What gives someone the right to take away someone’s daughter or brother so maliciously with no real purpose?
I understand these things happen every day in our existence and that it’s a wretched part of human life. I guess until last year I was tremendously blessed and fortunate. I never had to bury someone central in my life as the result of a crime. Sure, I’ve had friends and family succumb to illness or accidents, as has everyone. I was just never forced to endure the calamity of being forced to say goodbye to someone perished from this world in such brutal fashion.
Gone too soon, the deplorable manner in which Renee was taken shouldn’t ever overshadow the type of person she was. Warm-hearted, entertaining and empathetic with every fiber of her being, Renee committed her short life to helping others, as evidenced by her profession.
As depressing as her abrupt passing was to so many people, the outburst of love and generosity demonstrated by people ranging from family and loved ones to even perfect strangers was similarly astonishing. A candlelight vigil in front of the group home she was murdered at shortly following her death was attended by well over a hundred people, including many who never knew Renee but felt the grief of her dying so needlessly.
In September of last year to commiserate what would’ve been her 25th birthday, the family and friends of Renee decided to hold a benefit in her honor. The goal was to establish scholarships in Greco’s name at West Seneca East and West Seneca West high schools for students interested in human services, in order to ensure that Renee’s death would not go in vain.
Surely, it didn’t. Hundreds of local businesses generously donated money and prizes for the benefit, which was attended by over 1,500 people. At the end of the night, nearly $20,000 was raised for her scholarship fund.
Like so many others who feel identical, I grieve for Renee an awful lot. I was close friends with her late father, Dave, and knew her before she became a teenager. During that time she blossomed from an unassuming, typical teenage girl into a beautiful, intelligent young woman. I have an abundance of fantastic memories of time spent with her, none more so than that of my son, Shane. Renee was one of the few people in the world I trusted to babysit Shane when he was an infant, and my wife and I asked her to be the one to give him his first hair cut when he grew enough hair on his head.
We had long talks, fun times and we also had our share of squabbles. At the end of the day though, she always had my back and I’d always have hers—or at least so I thought.
You see, Renee had concerns and fears over her safety at the group home in the time leading up to her murder. Reportedly, a possible motive behind the killing was Renee knowing one of the defendants stole money from the home. Still, she continued to work there for the time being, frankly because it was a job and she had responsibilities, but more so because the majority of the kids she served required her help and guidance.
Like so many others who knew and loved her, I’ve succumbed to countless sleepless nights and nightmares over it, wishing I did something to prevent her from going back to a place that wasn’t completely safe. Kindhearted people always say there’s nothing anyone could have done to prevent it, but I’m not yet equipped to accept that.
I also know I’m not the only one who feels the same.
I confess to not being the type of person that does a lot of praying. But when I do, I plead that anyone who’s been lucky enough to never have lost a loved one in this manner never has to go through it, and anyone who has never will again. If you don’t already know, it’s harder than words can describe.
Exactly why I felt the desire to write about it on this particular day, I don’t know. Maybe this will help me exercise demons pent up inside of me.
Perhaps it could trigger activists to do more about it so this hideous crime never again happens to another man or woman devoting their career to helping troubled youths. It’s time to fight to change legislation mandating the ratio of staff members to youth in group homes like the one Renee worked at. At the time of her death, the mandated staff level was 6 to 1 — which meant Renee was often alone with six youth at a time. I have little doubt if Renee hadn’t been working alone, she’d still be alive today.
Possibly it could serve as a lesson to all to never take the people you love for granted. I’ve genuinely learned you never know if the next time you see someone will be your last. I hung out with Renee just two nights before her murdered.
More than anything, I call on the world to know how extraordinary this young lady was to the innumerable lives she touched.
May she rest in peace, forever.