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New York Times
By JOSEPH BERGER
Published: June 13, 1998
During the four hours that Anthony Ambrosovich, a retired police officer, held 100 police officers at bay outside his home here, he tried to make a female officer understand why he would murder a wife he seemed to dote on and a daughter he seemed to love.
”She’s gone,” he said of his 70-year-old wife, Gloria, sobbing uncontrollably as he spoke on the telephone. ”I love her, but she’s not in pain anymore. She’s at peace and she doesn’t have to suffer anymore.”
Those remarks led Officer Ellen Lewit of the Greenburgh Police Department, a close friend of the Ambrosoviches since childhood, to believe that Mr. Ambrosovich, 65, shot his wife in something of a mercy killing, intending to end the relentless pain of the scoliosis that was progressively arching her back. He may have snapped, Officer Lewit said in an interview, but there was something of a benevolent rationale.
But two high-ranking law enforcement officials familiar with statements Mr. Ambrosovich made after his arrest on Thursday night painted a far more malevolent picture of his motivations. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Mr. Ambrosovich hated his wife and his daughter, Melinda Podesta, 40. They said Mr. Ambrosovich, who retired in the mid-1980’s from the Town of Mamaroneck Police Department, was already known as a troubled man by the Tarrytown Police Department because of the fierce fights he had with his wife.
What ”hasn’t she done to ruin my life?” the officials said he told them on Thursday night while he admitted that he intentionally killed the two women. His statement also suggested that he was pleased as well by the death of his daughter, the mother of three of his six grandchildren.
”I shot my daughter in the neck so she’d bleed more,” police officials said he told them.
That was the baffling picture that emerged today as Mr. Ambrosovich was arraigned in Tarrytown Village Court on two counts of second-degree murder. Prosecutors said they were considering upgrading the charges to first-degree murder, which would make Mr. Ambrosovich eligible for the death penalty.
”I loaded the gun upstairs,” the officials said Mr. Ambrosovich told them. ”This is premeditated. I did it intentionally and I want it known that I planned it.”
The standoff in a quiet working-class neighborhood near the Tappan Zee Bridge started shortly after noon on Thursday when Kevin Kowalski, the boyfriend of Melinda Podesta, waved down a car and told the driver he had been shot in the Ambrosovich house on Sheldon Avenue. County and municipal police officers, two helicopters and an armored personnel carrier converged on the street, and police negotiators succeeded in talking Mr. Ambrosovich into coming out of his clapboard house.
One of the chief negotiators was an ordinary patrol officer, Ellen Lewit. Mr. Ambrosovich, who was known in his neighborhood as Tony Ambrose, asked the negotiators if Officer Lewit could be brought to the scene, largely because of her family’s long friendship with the Ambrosoviches.
Officer Lewit’s mother and two brothers often went to dinner with the Ambrosoviches and watched football games together. From everything she had seen, she said, Mr. Ambrosovich, gray-haired but still tall, burly and commanding, was a ”great big teddy bear” who gave $10 bills to homeless people and never displayed any temper.
In the interview, Officer Lewit, 36, said that from everything she knew, Mr. Ambrosovich was a caring husband who called his wife ”Mom” and made her breakfast, lunch and dinner. Although he himself was ailing from emphysema, she said, he was particularly attentive during the last year as Gloria Ambrosovich’s lifelong scoliosis worsened.
Officer Lewit demonstrated how Mrs. Ambrosovich’s scoliosis brought her face to within a few inches of her knees whenever she sat in a chair.
Officer Lewit said she and her mother had last spoken to Mrs. Ambrosovich on Wednesday night and were conscious of her despair. ”I don’t know how much longer I can take it,” she said Mrs. Ambrosovich told them. ”I’m in agony. The doctors can’t do anything for me.”
For three hours during the siege, Officer Lewit spoke to Mr. Ambrosovich by telephone and urged him to put down his guns and come out. ”You got a lot of police there,” she remembered Mr. Ambrosovich saying. She replied, ”We’re all here to help you. You were a cop. You know.”
Mostly, she recalled, he repeated his feelings of both sorrow and relief over what had happened to his wife. Then, finally, he threw his guns out the door and came outside, dressed in green bermuda shorts and a striped polo shirt. Officer Lewit remembered asking him: ”Tony, are you O.K.?” He replied, ”Thank you for coming,” then, crying, he added: ”Mom’s gone.”
When the bodies inside the house made clear what Mr. Ambrosovich had done, Officer Lewit said, she had to confront the essential mystery in a man she had known practically all her life. ”He wasn’t the man I know,” she said. ”Tony is a loving, hug-you-to-pieces kind of guy. This is tough.”
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No death penalty in killings of wife, daughter
12 September 1998
Associated Press Newswires
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) – The Westchester County district attorney will not seek the death penalty in the case of a retired policeman who allegedly shot and killed his ailing wife and their daughter.
Anthony Ambrosovitch, 65, a former Mamaroneck policeman, allegedly made many incriminating, and sometimes cold-blooded, statements after his arrest in the June 11 killings at his home in Tarrytown. His 70-year-old wife, Gloria, and 40-year-old daughter, Melinda Podesta, were killed.
District Attorney Jeanine Pirro said Ambrosovitch will face a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole if convicted of first-degree murder, instead of the death penalty.
Pirro, who campaigned vigorously for the state’s new death penalty law, has decided against seeking capital punishment in each of Westchester’s four first-degree murder cases since it was enacted. She would say only that Friday’s decision “was reached after a careful and exhaustive review of all the facts and circumstances.”
“I did it, I did it, I planned it,” he said, according to court papers. “I shot my daughter in the neck to make her bleed. I watched her gurgle. … She lasted almost an hour. My wife died instantly.” He also said he’d been taking the anti-depressant drug Prozac.
Kevin Doyle, who heads the state office that defends first-degree murder cases, said, “Plainly, the district attorney has made the correct decision. … This is a family tragedy, not a criminal atrocity, and it should be treated as such. In any event, in a very important sense, my client’s life ended on the day of