WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The owner of a pair of popular Uptown bakeries was found this morning at her Washington Heights shop in what is being investigated as a suicide, officials said.
She was pronounced dead at the scene of a gunshot wound to the head, police and fire officials said. A law enforcement source said the shooting is being probed as a suicide.
The medical examiner confirmed the victim was Mancino, who was well-known in the neighborhood and had another location in Inwood.
Former City Councilman Robert Jackson confirmed her death on Twitter Tuesday morning.
Dozens of people including Mancino's friends and family gathered in front of the shop Tuesday afternoon after hearing the news.
"Everybody knows my wife," said her distraught husband, Robert Mancino. "She'd help anybody over here. Now I have to go home without my wife that I've lived with for 30 years."
A former employee of the nearly 30-year-old bakery who got her first job there when she was 15 said she saw Mancino on Monday and that she seemed fine.
"We are like a family," said Patricia Rivera, 39, whose daughter now works at the shop. "She would take us out, bring us to her house for barbecues, make sure we were taking care of ourselves. This wasn’t just a normal job.”
Other longtime friends said that Mancino struggled early in life before enjoying success with her business.
"She was such a beautiful woman," said Janet Caba, 47, describing herself as a customer for the past 30 years who visited twice a week. "She was really loving. Very giving. It was unbelievable that she would have such a terrible thought."
According to an article from The New York Times, Mancino moved to New York City from Cleveland in 1970, with plans to study forensic medicine. When her first husband died and she was left as the sole caretaker of their young daughter, Mancino started baking carrot cakes as a way to make money.
In 1977, a car accident left her with memory loss and derailed her plans to study medicine. Mancino then shifted her focus to baking full-time.
She started by selling her cakes to high-end food stores and restaurants. In 1980, she married Robert Mancino, a police officer in the 34th Precinct. Shortly after that, they opened the original location of her bakery on Broadway near 214th Street. They opened the Washington Height's location in 1983.
In recent years, Mancino faced some challenges with the business.
In 2010, Mancino considered relocating the bakery's headquarters to New Jersey when her landlord, New York Presbyterian Hospital, wanted to triple her rent from $5,000 to $15,000 a month. Later, the Inwood shop was closed temporarily by the Department of Health. Mancino invested $3000 to upgrade and re-open the store.
Through it all, Mancino remained a dedicated member of the community who went out of her way to help her neighbors and customers, friends and locals said. They recalled how she donated pastries to homeless shelters and prisons, sponsored a Little League team and hired local teens to help them gain work experience.
"She changed this neighborhood dramatically," said Monet Simmons, whose father was Robert Mancino's partner in the 34th precinct. "She was always involved in the community, helping out with churches, mosques, wherever. She was a New Yorker."
Allison Stavile, 58, recalled an encounter she had with Mancino several years ago when her son was being treated at nearby New York Presbyterian Hospital. Stavile, who had also just lost her husband at the time, came into the shop for some coffee and Mancino struck up a conversation with her.
"She somehow just knew that I was hurting and engaged with me," Stavile said. "We talked on a very spiritual level. She was such a beautiful person."