The handyman convicted of one of Long Island’s most notorious murders has hired a private investigator to find evidence against the people he contends really committed the crime.
Almost a dozen years after his conviction for bludgeoning his lover’s estranged husband to death, Daniel Pelosi, 52, of Manorville, is hoping for another trial, said the investigator he’s hired, Jay Salpeter of Garden City.
Pelosi is serving 27 1/2 years to life for second-degree murder and witness tampering in the October 2001 death of Manhattan financier Theodore Ammon at Ammon’s East Hampton beach home.
“He is quite a character. The man is no angel,” Salpeter said Thursday, a day after meeting for 4 1/2 hours with Pelosi at the upstate Attica Correctional Facility. “But he’s not a murderer.”
Salpeter led the investigation that helped undo another infamous Suffolk murder conviction — that of Martin Tankleff, who served 17 years after being convicted of bludgeoning and stabbing his parents to death in 1989. Salpeter uncovered evidence that men connected to another suspect in that case, a friend who owed Tankleff’s father $500,000, could have committed the crime.
A Suffolk judge disagreed, but an appellate court set aside the conviction in 2008 and Suffolk prosecutors declined to retry Tankleff, now 44.
Salpeter said he sees some parallels between the Tankleff case and Pelosi — wealthy people directing others to kill the victims while the wrong defendants get convicted.
District Attorney Thomas Spota brushed off Salpeter’s claims about Pelosi.
“We’re very, very confident that the right person was convicted of murder,” Spota said.
Evidence against Pelosi included his removal and disposal of a video surveillance system he’d installed at the East Hampton house for Generosa Ammon to spy on the victim, incriminating statements he made to others and his habit of shocking others with a stun gun. Ammon had stun gun burns on his body, authorities said.
Pelosi’s appeal, which claimed that trial prosecutor Janet Albertson’s closing argument and cross-examination of Pelosi were improperly overzealous, was denied last year.
The attorney who won Tankleff’s freedom, Bruce Barket of Garden City, said he expects to be hired by Pelosi.
“It’s a fascinating case, in many respects,” Barket said.
Ammon, 52, was killed just before his divorce from Generosa Ammon — Pelosi’s lover — was to be finalized. She inherited his $85 million estate and married Pelosi three months later, but died of breast cancer before his trial. Part of the estate funded Pelosi’s trial defense.
Generosa Ammon was never charged in the case, but Salpeter said she should have been. Although the imminent loss of $85 million and her reported white-hot anger with her estranged husband would seem to be motives, Salpeter said that after talking with Pelosi, he believes the reason she had Ammon killed was different.
The day before he died, Theodore Ammon dropped off the couple’s two adopted children at Generosa’s home with their belongings, Salpeter said. Inadvertently, Salpeter said Ammon left his wallet behind. In it, there was a picture of him with his girlfriend, Lori Frankel, and the child they had together, Salpeter said.
Generosa Ammon, who was unable to bear children, was enraged by the photo, Salpeter said.
“It flipped her out. He was dead within 24 hours,” Salpeter said, and Pelosi had nothing to do with it.
Salpeter said he believes he knows who killed Theodore Ammon, but isn’t ready to say who it is.
“There’s a lot of people that should be spoken to,” Salpeter said. “There’s a lot of investigating to be done here.”