Three Murders: Southampton, East Hampton, Amagansett, Sex, Drugs and Money

Here is an account of each of the three spectacular murders that have occurred here in the Hamptons in the last 30 years. Two of the three have involved men from Wall Street. The third involved a wealthy show business producer. Two lived in East Hampton. One lived in Southampton. Two were victims. One was a killer. Two murders took place at night in the victims’ homes in the Hamptons. The third victim, the owner of a 72-room oceanfront mansion in Southampton, was killed while on his way to a dinner at La Scala in Beverly Hills, California.

All three people accused of murder went on trial and were convicted. Much of the information in the accounts below was presented by the prosecution at each of these trials. Those accused tried to disprove it.

All three murders have had at least one book written about them. At least one became a made-for-TV movie.

 

JOSEPH PIKUL

In 1986, Joe Pikul was a vice president of the investment firm Arnhold & S. Bleichroeder on Wall Street. He and his wife Diane, the assistant to the publisher of Harper’s magazine, and their two young children also had a summer home on Windmill Lane in Amagansett. Late on the night of October 24, 1987, Joe and Diane had an argument in the bedroom. Joe accused Diane of being unfaithful to him. He wanted her to explain a condom he had found under their bed that was not his brand. When she refused to confirm she had been having an affair, he beat her with a blunt object and then strangled her. It was not known if the children were awakened by the ruckus. After killing her he carried the body downstairs and put it in the trunk of his car.

First thing the next morning, Pikul drove his car down to the Amagansett hardware store and, according to the clerk who waited on him there, calmly purchased a rug, towels, plastic furniture covers, ice, a clothesline, a car cover, and when the clerk helped him carry all this material out to his car out front, suggested he open the trunk and throw it all in, Pikul told him no, don’t bother, he would do that. The clerk then went back inside to wait on others.

During that morning, Pikul tied up the body, then buried it on the beach at Little Albert’s landing. The next day, thinking it was too close to home and that flood conditions might bring it up, he dug it up and drove up to Norwell, Massachusetts where his first wife lived—he and Sandra Jarvinen had been divorced for years but were on a friendly basis now—and told her what he had done and said he wanted to bury the body in her backyard. She demurred, saying there was also a “high water table” on her property so the body might come back up and this was a bad idea. So Pikul left Massachusetts and drove to the New York State Thruway where he pulled off the road near the Newburgh exit, dragged the body out of the trunk and left it in a drainage ditch about 30 feet from the road. Then, when he returned to Amagansett, he made a missing person report about his wife. She had run off, he said.

A few days after that, the body of Diane Pikul was found, a connection was made with the missing persons report, and the local police visited what they now thought might be the murder scene. Joseph Pikul was then arrested and charged with the murder of his wife.

In the interval between the murder and the trial, Pikul raised bail, was released, and, because there were no laws on the books about a situation where a mother was possibly murdered by a father, took custody of his small children, Claudia, age 9 and Blake, age 5. He proceeded to live with them in the city for many months until the judge reversed course and granted custody to the victim’s cousin.

The trial was sensational. Sandra Jarvinen, the first wife, after talking about her conversation with Pikul about the contents of the trunk, told the jury that when she divorced him years before it was because he beat her. She also told the jury he often wore women’s underclothes, a fact that jibed with the fact that when the police arrested him they found him wearing a bra and panties under his clothes.

Pikul was convicted, but appealed. He remained in jail while appealing, but somehow and nevertheless, he befriended a woman named Mary Bain, who declared she loved him and wanted to marry him. Since Pikul was now a footloose and fancy-free bachelor once again, he was free to do so and did, in a jailhouse ceremony.

Soon thereafter, however, Pikul got very sick. He was soon diagnosed both with AIDS and cancer and given only a short time to live. It was also now believed he was schizophrenic. He died in jail before the appeals court could rule on the case. A cousin of the victim took custody and then raised the kids.

 

ROY RADIN

Roy Radin grew up in Long Beach, Long Island, the son of “Broadway Al” Radin, a man who produced many Vaudeville productions on Broadway. His mother was a showgirl and it was she who raised him, with Al visiting occasionally from Manhattan.

At 16, Roy Radin dropped out of high school and began producing his own revues with the now aging stars he had known as a little boy. They included Red Buttons, Morey Amsterdam, Milton Berle, Donald O’Connor and Tiny Tim. One of the first of these, “Tribute to Vaudeville” ran for 14 weeks at the Bally Hotel in Atlantic City. Soon he came up with another idea that he felt could quickly make him a millionaire. It did.

Radin began producing these “Tribute to Vaudeville” shows in high school gymnasiums all around the country. There was no shortage of aging vaudeville stars willing to go out and hoof it. The local people would pay to see these famous stars in their hometowns. The ticket money to these shows was incidental. Much more of it came from the advertising in a program for the event that batteries of telephone callers would sell to local merchants, not only for the show, but allegedly to support such organizations as charities for handicapped children, firefighters, police officer benefit organizations and other community causes.

At this point, Radin, still a teenager, moved his operation to Hampton Bays, where his mother had moved now that the kids had grown. With his employees and friends, he worked the phones and conducted the business.

Around 1979, at the Dan’s Papers offices in Bridgehampton, I received a phone call from one of Radin’s phone callers, asking that Dan’s Papers buy an ad in such a program for a show at Southampton High School. The caller spoke in a rough, tough manner and gave the impression he was actually a policeman and it was a good idea because the police gave special protection to storefront offices such as mine. I bought. I did not buy the following year, however. Other merchants in town told me what it was all about. I seem to recall that at the time, the Attorney General of the State of New York, Louis Leftkowitz, had opened an investigation into Radin’s practices when he learned that less than a third of the money went to one of these charities.

At about the same time, Roy Radin, now a 28-year-old millionaire, bought what was then the largest mansion in the Hamptons, a huge 72-room oceanfront mansion he named “Ocean Castle.” He moved in there with his personal staff, with the business people, with his wife Loretta and with his mother, and they worked by day and partied all night.

Radin became a familiar figure around Southampton during this time. A heavyset man of nearly 300 pounds, he walked Jobs Lane with a huge black cape and a silver-tipped cane. His parties were legendary. They involved drugs, sex and, as it later turned out, video tape and whips and chains.

On April 13, 1980, a Playboy playmate and television actress named Melonie Haller, who starred in the TV show Welcome Back, Kotter (as one of the show’s Sweathogs), was found early in the morning, delirious, disheveled and bleeding on a Long Island Railroad train heading for New York City from Southampton. She was taken to a hospital, where police came to interview her. She soon told the tale of what had brought her to this state, a tale that included rape and abuse. The police, who many at the time said knew all about Radin’s parties, now moved in and made arrests. Radin’s mother said she knew nothing about anything. Radin was divorced by this time but living there with a girlfriend, Toni Fillet. Radin married Fillet later that year. One year later, a New Jersey businessman pled guilty to having assaulted Melonie Haller, but not sexually, at the house and was sentenced to 30 days in jail. As for Radin, he was acquitted of rape charges, but was convicted of possessing a handgun and fined $1,000. Toni Fillet was fined $50 on a misdemeanor charge of “harassment.”

By many accounts, Radin lost interest in the “Tribute to Vaudeville” shows he was running. They continued on anyway, but now in a less enthusiastic way. Radin had a new interest, however. It was filmmaking. Now he wanted to produce movies and TV shows and be rubbing shoulders with the new movie stars. He knew almost nothing about the filmmaking business, however, though he did become the agent for Demond Wilson, who starred as the son in the TV show Sanford and Son. So then, in 1983, at the age of 33, he went out to Hollywood to become a producer for a new movie going into production called The Cotton Club, about the famous Harlem nightclub. High hopes surrounded this upcoming film. It would star Gregory Hines. Bob Evans would produce it. Frances Ford Coppola would direct it. They were looking for funding.

Radin had an introduction to Evans. It was a reputed drug dealer he knew, a woman named Karen DeLayne “Laynie” Greenberger who was also a friend of Evans’. In the days that followed, Evans and Radin verbally agreed that with Radin’s money, they would be the film’s stakeholders. Greenberger had expected to get a large share, but now felt Radin had double-crossed her. They argued. There was big money to be made with The Cotton Club.

On the afternoon of May 13, 1983, Radin dressed for dinner in his Hollywood hotel. He would be eating alone with Greenberger at La Scala and they would make amends. The dinner would never come to be, however. Greenberger met Radin at his hotel, where they discussed their differences over the film. After arriving at the restaurant in a limousine, Radin was met by three men with guns, killers hired by Greenberger, who drove Radin up a dirt road to a remote canyon near Gorman, shot him several times in the head, and rolled his body down a hill into some greasewood bushes. One of the gunmen then went down to the body and lit a stick of dynamite by the head. If his body were found, he was not supposed to be able to be recognized.

At first, Radin was listed as a missing person. His mother offered $1,000,000 for his safe return or, if he had been killed, which they feared, $100,000 for the arrest and conviction of his killer.

One month later, the remains of Radin’s body were found by a beekeeper and a ranger who were out in a Ford pickup by a canyon on a dirt road near Gorman, California looking for a place in the desert to store the beekeeper’s 120 beehives. The body, much decomposed, was still wearing Radin’s dinner jacket.

Two of the three hired killers were convicted of first-degree murder and given life sentences, the third hired killer was convicted of second degree murder, as was the drug dealer, Laynie Greenberger. She also received a life sentence without the
possibility of parole.

The film The Cotton Club was completed, came out nationwide and bombed.

(A footnote: In 1984, I visited “Ocean Castle.” It had been rented to another larger-than-life millionaire named Barry Trupin. My wife and I had lunch with the Trupins there. They had purchased the old DuPont mansion, five mansions down the road, and were converting it into a French castle to be called “Dragon’s Head” and were renting in this home down the way—they had no idea it was Radin’s home—while supervising what might be two years of construction. There is a huge story to be told about “Dragon’s Head” and its subsequent ownership by Calvin Klein, but since no murder was ever committed there, there is no place in this story for it).

 

TED AMMON

Ted Ammon was a prominent investment banker who for many years worked for the Wall Street firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. He had a penthouse apartment in Manhattan and a large 100-year old mansion on Middle Lane in East Hampton where he and his wife Generosa and their two adopted twin children spent their summers. Ammon was 52 when the murder took place. He was quite handsome, well respected and worth about $90 million, which became well known because Generosa at that time was suing him for divorce. He was also on the board of the Municipal Art Society and was chairman of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Generosa would not accept living in Ammon’s apartment in Manhattan while the divorce battle was underway. Instead, she purchased a $9 million town house and hired a young, handsome, Manorville electrician named Danny Pelosi to oversee its renovation. He soon fell into a relationship with Generosa. They stayed, with the twins, in Manhattan’s posh Stanhope Hotel and they often came out to the summer mansion together with the children.

It was a nasty divorce. In the city, Ted Ammon believed many encounters he had with his children were videotaped by surveillance cameras. He also had his own surveillance cameras set up in a neighbor’s yard to spy on Danny and Generosa at the house on Middle Lane.

What he didn’t know was that all the surveillance monitoring systems had been installed and were being monitored from Pelosi’s sister’s home in Center Moriches.

On the night of October 21, 2001, Ted Ammon came home from having a nice evening in the Hamptons, locked the doors, set the alarm, went upstairs and went to sleep.

Based on case evidence, the prosecution alleged that sometime during the night, Danny Pelosi arrived and, from the outside, very quietly disarmed the alarm system. He then went in and up to the bedroom and killed Ted Ammon in his bed with a “blunt object,” which was never found. He then went to the attic storeroom where the surveillance system computer was kept, removed the hard drive, and left the house.

On Monday the 22nd, East Hampton Village police came to the Middle Lane house after being called there by one of Ammon’s colleagues, Mark Angelson. Ammon had not shown up at work that morning, and after Angelson was unable to reach him at his East Hampton home, he flew out on a corporate helicopter to try to locate him.

A high-profile police investigation followed, but time dragged on and no arrest was made. Danny Pelosi was tried in the court of public opinion, but for more than two years, he remained free, and even moved for a few months with Generosa and the kids to Ammon’s castle, called “Coverwood” in the English countryside. Also during this time, Pelosi got a divorce from his wife, and married Generosa. Since Generosa’s husband had pre-deceased her and never had got around to writing her out of his will, she would get the bulk of his entire estate. And then Generosa was diagnosed with cancer and it was found she did not have long to live. She then wrote her new husband out of her will, although she did leave him $2 million for legal expenses. She died in 2003. And arrests in this case had still not been made.

Also during this time as Danny Pelosi remained free, he was detained by the police for parole violations and at least one DWI arrest where when the police pulled him over, his passenger, a friend, jumped into the driver’s seat to tell the police it had been he who had been behind the wheel. The police weren’t buying it.

In March of 2004, police finally arrested Danny Pelosi and charged him with the murder of Ted Ammon. They never found the missing hard drive of the surveillance system. But they knew Pelosi had installed it and they knew Ammon’s wife, in the middle of a divorce, was now living with this man. They felt they had an air-tight case.

At the trial, Pelosi pleaded innocent. He was defended by one of this country’s best criminal lawyers, Gerald L. Shargel. But it was no use. Pelosi’s father testified that on the day after the murder his son had called him to ask a “what if” question. If he had something he wanted to dispose of that should never be seen again, what would he do with it. The father said he did not answer the question.

In the end, Pelosi insisted he would testify to set the record straight. He wanted to tell his story directly to the jury and his lawyer could not talk him out of it. What he told them was that it was Generosa—now dead—who had paid to have her husband killed. She was in a rage because he had a girlfriend. She felt there was much more money to be split up than her husband was letting on, and that her soon to be ex-husband was lying to her. She’d find out soon.

She didn’t, and neither did he. Danny Pelosi was convicted of murder and is today serving a 25 years-to-life prison sentence.

As for Generosa’s two children, they were given by a judge into the care of their longtime nanny, Kathryn Mayne, and they eventually moved to Alabama to live with Ted’s sister. Last year, the twins released the documentary 59 Middle Lane about their experience.

Interestingly, East Hampton owes a part of its village green to the Ammons. At the time of Ammon’s death, he and his wife were hoping to sell a piece of property directly across from the East Hampton post office that was adjacent to the public land upon which sits the village windmill “Hook Mill.” On Ammon’s property was a big building that had been a car dealership. They thought it could be a lucrative retail property.

After Ammon’s death, the Village was able to buy this property relatively cheaply. They tore down the car dealership building. Today it is all open land, well mowed, and a new extension to the old village green available for use by the public.

In 2012, I got an email from a college student studying journalism at SUNY Westbury. She had gone to visit and interview Daniel Pelosi. She had written up the interview and wanted me to read it and tell her what I thought of it. In the interview, Pelosi promised this student that if she were to return to see him again he would give her information leading to the real killer of Ted Ammon. I told her she wrote well. She had a good future in journalism. A month later, she wrote again to say she had returned for a second interview, but Pelosi had refused to see her. Apparently there was no new information.

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