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Diocese: Shelter Island retired minister tied up in home invasion

Police investigate Monday at the Shelter Island home

Police investigate Monday at the Shelter Island home of an 87-year-old man injured, Suffolk police said, in what is being investigated as a burglary. Credit: Stringer News Service / AJ Ryan

A retired minister on Shelter Island was tied up in a home invasion several days ago and found Monday by a friend during a wellness check, authorities said.

The victim, who was not identified by police, was found seated in a chair at his home, not far from Shell Beach, and was airlifted to a hospital, said Town Supervisor Gary Gerth, who spoke to police at the scene. The minister has friends checking on him every three or four days, Gerth said.

“His garage door was open, so his friend went directly into the house and found him tied up and . . . immediately called 911,” Gerth said. “The person was in pretty difficult shape.”

Town police responded there about 12:40 p.m. and found an 87-year-old man injured in what is being investigated as a burglary, said Suffolk police, who are also on the case.

In an email asking for prayers, the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island identified the victim as Paul Wancura, a longtime priest and one of its former archdeacons.

The Rev. Charles McCarron of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on Shelter Island said he found Wancura tied up.

Wancura told him he had been bound for at least a couple days but could not say much due to his condition, McCarron said.

McCarron said he went to Wancura’s home after he did not show up as scheduled to serve at the Church of the Messiah in Central Islip, and church leaders there asked him to check on the retired minister.

The victim has serious injuries but details on what happened were still being gathered, Gerth said.

Investigators from town and county police departments, including Suffolk crime scene investigators, could be seen at the roped-off Oak Tree Lane on Monday afternoon.

Wancura was undergoing surgery Monday night at Stony Brook University Hospital, where McCarron said he was waiting.

McCarron said Wancura had been the minister for at least 25 years at the Caroline Church of Brookhaven in Setauket.

Gerth described the victim as a “good man” who had been as active as he could be, going at one point to physical fitness classes at the school and driving around, albeit slowly.

Town police could not be immediately reached.

A Suffolk police spokesman said he was awaiting details of the case.

Monday, residents of the quiet, small town were wishing the victim well and wondering about the motive for the crime, Gerth said.

“Why? There’s so many empty houses on Shelter Island, and he’s such a good person,” Gerth said. “It’s really been a shock to all of us. This type of thing, a home invasion, doesn’t really happen out here. We tend to be . . . caring and everybody knows their neighbor, so this is a once-in-a-300-year occurrence.”

Police ask anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at 800-220-TIPS.

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