NEW YORK - Mary Kennedy, the estranged wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr, committed suicide by hanging, authorities said Thursday.

The 52-year-old's body was discovered Wednesday at her home in Bedford, a town to the north of New York City. While her family confirmed her death within hours, they declined to provide details.

After conducting an autopsy, the Westchester County Medical Examiner's office put the cause of death as asphyxiation due to hanging. It deferred questions to the Bedford Police Department.

Mary Kennedy was the second wife of the son of Robert F. Kennedy, who was shot dead in 1968 while seeking the Democratic nomination for the presidency previously held by his brother John F. Kennedy, assassinated in 1963.

The couple separated in 2010. Together, they had four children aged 10 to 17.

In a statement, the Kennedy family said Mary "inspired our family with her kindness, her love, her gentle soul and generous spirit."

They added she "was a genius at friendship, a tremendously gifted architect and a pioneer and relentless advocate of green design who enhanced her cutting edge, energy efficient creations with exquisite taste and style."

She was passionate about sustainable development and also had an interest in food allergies. Robert F. Kennedy Jr is an environmental lawyer and radio host.

According to a report in the local Journal News, police were twice called to the Kennedy's home in May 2010 around the time Robert F. Kennedy filed for a divorce.

In the first incident, Mary Kennedy told police her husband was "verbally abusive to herself and her children," the newspaper reported. During a second incident several days later, Robert F. Kennedy Jr reportedly claimed his wife was intoxicated.