Former Greenport reverend in critical condition in Shelter Island home invasion

The victim of a Shelter Island home invasion who was found bound and injured Monday afternoon was a retired elderly pastor who served the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Greenport for a decade.

The Rev. Canon Paul Wancura, 87, is in critical condition at Stony Brook University Hospital, Suffolk County Acting Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron said at a press conference about the case Tuesday afternoon, during which he tried to assuage the fears of Shelter Island residents.

“I would like to stress that we do not believe this was a random incident. Shelter Island is an extremely safe area,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons this is so shocking. This incident is shocking to me even if it occurred anywhere in the Suffolk County police district.”

Police believe the motive was burglary, the commissioner said. What was taken is still being investigated.

“But, again, we don’t believe this is a random attack. We don’t believe it is affecting the safety of the other residents of Shelter Island,” he added.

Father Charles McCarron, pastor of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church on Shelter Island, said he went to check on Reverend Wancura after he failed to show up for a service in Central Islip where he goes every Sunday. He arrived at the house at 3 Oak Tree Lane in Silver Beach — a remote road that leads to Shell Beach —on Monday around noon.

Reverend Canon Paul Wancura was attacked in his home during a home invasion on Shelter Island. (Credit: File photo, Shelter Island Reporter)

“He heard noises so he entered the home through an open garage door. He discovered Reverend Wancura restrained in his bedroom,” between the bed and the wall, the commissioner said.

He would only say that Reverend Wancura “was restrained for an extended period of time.”

“He told me he had been tied up for two days,” Father McCarron said in an interview with the Shelter Island Reporter. “He was in pretty rough shape. Being immobile for two days and being tied up resulted in most of his injuries.”

He was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he underwent surgery, the commissioner said.

“We ask everyone to pray for his welfare,” Commissioner Cameron said.

Reverend Wancura served at the church in Greenport from from 2003 to 2013, according to its website. He also led summer services at the Union Chapel in the Shelter Island Heights for more than 15 years, and served in many roles throughout the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island.

“I saw him Monday night,” Father McCarron said. “He’s looking at multiple surgeries.”

A $10,000 Fast Cash Crime Stoppers reward is being offered for tips that help police solve the case. The Suffolk County Police Department’s Major Case Squad is leading the investigation with the cooperation of the Shelter Island Police Department.

No description of a suspect has been released. Police would not comment on whether he knew his attacker.

Police are also asking anyone with homes in the area of Silver Beach who have video surveillance at their homes to contact either police department. 

Shelter Island Police Chief Jim Read was asked if there had ever been a similar incident on the Island. “I’m not aware of one,” the chief said.

“To have this happen, in such a violent way to an elderly person is really difficult,” Father McCarron said. “The Island will have to take some time to work through this.”

Photo credit: Acting Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron said police do not believe this was a random act. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

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