Blanco monks’ leader is dead

Author: Zeke MacCormack
Date Published: 09/18/2007

Samuel A. Greene Jr., whose charisma carried him from being a land pitchman to leader of a monastery outside Blanco, was found dead Monday, just days before facing up to 180 years in prison for allegedly violating his probation.

Autopsy results are pending on Greene, 63, who was found dead in his bed at his home on the grounds of Christ of the Hills Monastery, which shut after a July raid by officers investigating claims of sex abuse and mail fraud.

Blanco County Sheriff Bill Elsbury said Greene’s death bears “all the appearances of suicide,” but he stressed that officials must see autopsy results from the Travis County medical examiner before making a ruling.

Blanco County Justice of the Peace Terry Carter said “Father Moses,” Greene’s aide, reported that his spiritual leader took medications at 11 p.m. Sunday.

“Father Moses did not question what Mr. Greene was doing because he was his superior,” Carter said. “Mr. Greene told Father Moses to discard the pill bottles.”

No suicide note was found at the scene, said Carter, who made the death pronouncement at 9:12 a.m.

Carter said weeks may pass before he can rule on the manner of death.

Greene first drew attention in the 1970s as an exuberant salesman on local television. In 1981, he founded the monastery, which gained national fame with claims that a Virgin Mary painting there wept tears of myrrh.

The monastery later drew critics over claims that its members sexually abused novice monks, smoked marijuana and defrauded worshippers by applying oil to make the painting “cry.”

Greene pleaded guilty in 2000 to indecency with a novice monk and took a 10-year probation deal. That came after a jury sentenced senior monk Jonathan Hitt to a 10-year prison term over claims by the same youth.

But Greene faced new legal exposure recently after admitting misdeeds to a probation officer