Samuel A. Greene Jr., the founder of a monastery in Blanco, Texas, that closed amid scandal over the alleged sexual abuse of novice monks and a fraudulent weeping Virgin Mary painting, was found dead Monday in his home on the grounds of the monastery. Greene, also known as Father Benedict, was 63.
The case was being investigated as a suicide, but officials were waiting for autopsy results before ruling on the cause of death.
Christ of the Hills Monastery was allied with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia from 1991 to 1999, but the church broke ties with the monastery when indecency allegations against Greene, involving a juvenile novice monk, surfaced.
Greene, who founded the 105-acre monastery in the Texas hill country in 1981, pleaded guilty in 2000 to indecency and was sentenced to 10 years' probation.
In 2006, Greene told his probation officer in a secretly taped interview that he had sexual contact with boys over a 30-year period starting in the 1970s.
Greene also reportedly confirmed that the monastery's weeping painting, which had drawn thousands of visitors, was fake. Authorities seized the icon, which was said to cry tears of myrrh, a sign of divine intervention.
The interview also prompted authorities to file child sexual assault and organized crime charges against Greene and four other monks in July 2006. Greene maintained his innocence and was released on his own recognizance because of health problems.
A burly man with a long salt-and-pepper beard, Greene was due in court Friday, when prosecutors planned to seek the revocation of his probation.
In the 1970s, Greene was a well-known real estate salesman in San Antonio whose colorful TV and radio pitches featured circus clowns and prizes dropped from hot air balloons. "Sam the Land Man" told friends that he was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and raised in New Jersey.
He ran a home for troubled teenage boys called Galilee Ranch before establishing his monastery.