When Tamara Pelosi’s ex-husband, Danny Pelosi, first came under suspicion for the murder of Wall Street financier Ted Ammon in 2001, the Center Moriches native began a long, reclusive period as she tried to dodge the media and keep her three children away from public scrutiny.
“When Ted Ammon’s bludgeoned, naked body was found,” Ms. Pelosi recalled, “my life, and the lives of my children were never the same.”
Mr. Ammon was discovered beaten to death in the bedroom of his expansive East Hampton home on October 21, 2001, which ironically, was also the 11th birthday of the Pelosis’ oldest son, Anthony. Mr. Pelosi, also from Center Moriches, was found guilty in 2004 of second-degree murder for the death of Mr. Ammon.
Mr. Pelosi had left Ms. Pelosi for Mr. Ammon’s wife, Generosa, earlier in 2001. Ms. Ammon and Mr. Pelosi married in 2002, shortly after Mr. Ammon’s murder.
But, Ms. Ammon cut Mr. Pelosi out of her will just before her death from breast cancer in 2003, and his subsequent murder conviction in 2004.
Although Ms. Pelosi received several lucrative offers to tell her side of her ex-husband’s sordid story, she refused to speak to any news sources, and continued to skirt the media as much as she could for years.
“They were in front of my house, they were at my job, they followed me in the car, so I hid. I did a lot of hiding,” said Ms. Pelosi, who earned a doctoral degree in education from Nova Southeastern University in 2007. “I was dealing with not only being left for another woman—which in itself is horrible—but then the public investigation of my husband in a murder. It was just still so raw then, and I also just felt like it was nobody’s business.”
Ms. Pelosi’s mother, Susan Semerade, added that none of the people from the many newspapers, magazines, and television news broadcasts who approached her daughter seemed very interested in her story. Ms. Semerade, a Ronkonkoma yoga instructor, said reporters were mostly inquiring about her charismatic, cheating husband, who was at the center of one of the first high profile murder cases of the new century.
“No one cared about Tami, or what she was going through at the time,” Ms. Semerade added “They just wanted to get more dirt on Danny.”
Through her ordeal, Ms. Pelosi made personal notes about her feelings concerning her husband, her life, their separation, the gross media attention, his murder conviction, and her ultimate healing from the experience. She made these introspective observations on various pieces of scrap paper, and kept them hidden beneath her bed.
With the help of her mother, Ms. Pelosi finally put those extraordinary experiences and revelations into a book, “Pennies from an Angel—Innocent Lives behind a Crime.” The author, who is now director of a private preschool in Nassau County, said the title of the book came from her struggle to find salvation from the pain and shame she felt.
Ms. Pelosi admitted to obtaining counsel from a spiritual advisor, who told her to meditate and picture something that would bring her peace of mind. What she saw in her mind’s eye was the image of a simple penny.
Soon after, Ms. Pelosi said she began coming across hoards of the copper coins, including a sack of pennies left at the Sunshine Family and Youth Center in Port Jefferson Station, which she helped co-found years before.
“These pennies just kept showing up everywhere,” the author recalled, “and I took them as a sign from an angel, which I felt was looking out for me and helping me through.”
Ms. Pelosi, who is still guarded, but more open to the media, said she hopes her book will help other women deal with abusive marriages, and offer them hope and salvation.
She credits her mother for putting her scramble of thoughts and emotions into a readable format. The two worked on the project for more than five years, Ms. Semerade recalled.
“We’d pick it up, and then put it down, and then pick it up again,” she said. “We thought about contacting publishers, but then decided to just publish it ourselves.”
Mill City Press, a vanity publishing company in Minneapolis, Minnesota, printed the 266-page, soft cover book, which retails for $18.95. Ms. Pelosi said she initially ordered 1,000 copies of the book. In less than a month, she’s already sold half of them.
Ms. Pelosi and Ms. Semerade teamed up for a book signing at Eastport Books & Brew in Eastport on January 31, and they will be doing another at Best Bargain Books in Centereach on February 21 from 7 to 10 p.m.
Ms. Pelosi said she did not want a novelist to give his interpretation of her experiences, and opted instead to rely on her mother to provide the literary aspect. She recalled reading her mother’s explanation of her notes, and often giving animated critiques and guidance.
“I’d read a certain part and say, ‘no, there’s not enough anger there,’” she said, “I told her ‘it has to come across as more angry, as more f— you!’”
Ms. Pelosi keeps a hefty binder filled with media coverage of her husband’s arrest and conviction. One part of that binder is a lengthy list of all the printed news stories, and who published them.
“And that’s just the printed stuff,” she chuckled. “Forget about all the television news coverage.”
She also has clips about her own questionable arrest, after which she claims police detectives grilled her for nearly eight hours about her husband’s involvement with the murder.
Ms. Pelosi also asserts that police threatened to lock her up for allegedly stealing power from the Long Island Power Authority, a crime she believes should be attributed to her unlicensed electrician ex-husband.
Ms. Pelosi traces her mistrust of the media to her depiction by news sources. She also points to a 2005 made for television movie about Danny Pelosi, “Murder in the Hamptons.”
“I just cried when I saw that movie,” Ms. Pelosi said. “They made me out to be trailer trash.”
The author starts off her book recalling when she first met Danny Pelosi in high school. Along with his arrest and convictions, she also outlines an abusive 20-year marriage in which her husband constantly cheated on her, and drank to the point of being arrested several times for driving while intoxicated, as well as taking part in drunken brawls.
“He kept denying that he was cheating, and promising things would get better,” Ms. Pelosi said. “And I kept letting it go, because I really thought we could work things out and I’d get my life back.”
Ms. Pelosi also recalled in her book how Danny Pelosi went to work for Generosa Ammon, and how, soon after, he became a ghost in her life. She noted how excited her husband had been when he first landed contracting work with the East End millionaire.
The couple quickly found themselves with more money than they had ever had in their lives, and to Ms. Pelosi it seemed that life was finally working out for the struggling couple.
But, as Danny Pelosi took more work with Generosa Ammon, and spent less time with his family, it become clear to Ms. Pelosi that something was terribly amiss.
She said that her husband began receiving lavish gifts from his wealthy client. He soon moved out of their Manorville home, and went to live in a Manhattan high-rise apartment owned by Generosa Ammon.
“He still took care of us; I guess it was because of the guilt he felt,” Ms. Pelosi recalled. “He kept making improvements on the home, and giving me gifts. I said ‘I don’t want the gifts. I just want you with the kids, and our lives back.’”
When Ms. Pelosi graduated from Center Moriches High School, she said she dreamt only of settling down and creating a family with her high school sweetheart. She noted that losing Danny Pelosi and that dream was as devastating as the media attention and public scorn that came later.
“I married the man of my dreams, and I pictured us having a house with a white picket fence, and kids playing in the yard, and my life was going to be nothing but a storybook fairy tale” said Ms. Pelosi, who now lives in Center Moriches. “I know it sounds cliché, but that’s really what I dreamed of.”
The author now has that life to a degree. She shares her modest home in Center Moriches with two of her sons; the youngest will graduate from Center Moriches High School this year.
She is also raising her young half-sister as her own child.
Ms. Pelosi expresses neither ill will nor romantic feelings for her incarcerated ex-husband, and said he is simply no longer part of her life, although he is still loved by his children.
When asked why she still retains her ex-husband’s last name, Ms. Pelosi explained that she did not want to separate herself in name from the three children she bore with him. She also admitted that hanging onto her failed, abusive marriage for so long was part of an addiction problem.
“He was my addiction,” Ms. Pelosi said simply. “Some people choose cocaine or alcohol, but Danny Pelosi was my drug of choice.”
“Pennies from an Angel—Innocent Lives behind a Crime” is available from Amazon Books, Barnes & Noble, and Books & Brew. For more information about Tamara Pelosi and her book, visit www.penniesfromanangel.com.