Ted Ammon Murder & the First Hamptons Whodunit Festival

Hamptons Whodunit cartoon
Cartoon by Dan Rattiner

Since starting Dan’s Papers in 1960, I have witnessed the birth of many events and festivals in the Hamptons that began modestly, came back annually and grew into huge success stories. They’ve included HarborFest in Sag Harbor (1963), the Hampton Classic Horse Show (1976), the Dan’s Papers Kite Fly (1978) and the Hampton International Film Festival (1992).  

Well, a new event, Hamptons Whodunit (aka Hamptons Mystery & Crime Festival), a literary get-together for authors and readers of murder and mystery novels, began on April 13, and over the next four days offered 50 lectures, discussions and interactive events that brought thousands of people to East Hampton. It was an amazing accomplishment, a festival that arrived full blown in its inaugural year.   

I was among the hundred or so people asked to help with this event. I would be on a panel to discuss the most sensational murder ever to take place in the Hamptons:  the Ted Ammon murder.

In 2001, a wealthy Wall Street New Yorker with a home in the estate section of East Hampton was bludgeoned to death in his bed in the middle of the night by a blue-collar worker who was having an affair with the man’s wife. I remembered it well. A divorce was pending. $90 million was at stake. Or was it $300 million, as the wife believed?

Also on the panel would be Steven Gaines, author of the book Philistines at the Hedgerow: Passion and Property in the Hamptons, and the now-retired Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Janet Albertson, who prosecuted Daniel Pelosi at his trial.   

I thought maybe 10 people might show up to hear our panel. Instead, the auditorium at the East Hampton Library was packed. Standing room only.   

Albertson led the conversation. I had given an overview of the scheme. Gaines had a few anecdotes about the surveillance equipment at the house. Then Albertson  talked about the trial. Neither Gaines or I had gone to the trial. It was astonishing.

Pelosi had testified. Yes, he’d recently bought two Taser guns. He’d used them on his workmen. Sort of an initiation to their working for him. But no, he had not Tasered Ted Ammon. And it was just a coincidence the taser marks were on Ammon’s body. And yes, apparently, Ted Ammon was found naked. But what did that have to do with Pelosi?

He wasn’t there. Prove it. And so she did. And Pelosi’s in prison today.