TOMS RIVER An Ocean County grand jury declined to charge a door-to-door salesman with murder in the stabbing death of a Jackson homeowner to whom he made an unsuccessful sales pitch, instead indicting him on a lesser charge of aggravated manslaughter.
The grand jury on Wednesday returned an indictment charging Michael Tsamas, 33, of Laurence Harbor, with aggravated manslaughter in the May 26 death of Joseph Delgardio, 44, of Jackson. The indictment also charged Tsamas with possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose and two counts each of unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a prohibited weapon, said Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer.
Tsamas, who worked for a company hired to solicit business for Verizon, was originally charged with murder, for which he would have faced a minimum of 30 years in prison without the possibility of release on parole, if convicted.
Now looking at a downgraded charge, Tsamas would face 10 to 30 years in prison if convicted of aggravated manslaughter, and he would be required to serve 85 percent of whatever sentence he receives before he could be considered for parole.
Tsamas, through his attorney, has claimed self defense.
A judge last year ordered Tsamas released from jail to await trial.
Police responding to 911 calls, including one made by Tsamas, responded to the area of West Veterans Highway and Conor Road in Jackson about 6:15 p.m. on May 26. There, they found Delgardio, a married father of three, laying in the street in a pool of blood, suffering from a severe wound to his neck, authorities said. Despite attempts to save his life, Delgardio died on the scene.
Police found Tsamas on the corner, covered in blood. He told them Delgardio had attacked him, and he "hit him with my blade,'' according to police documents.
A neighbor of the victim who witnessed the altercation took a cell phone video showing Delgardio grabbing Tsamas by the collar and throwing him to the sidewalk, the documents said. The video depicted Tsamas on his back, thrusting his arm into Delgardio's neck as the victim stood over him, with blood subsequently spurting from the victim's neck, police documents said. A passing motorist also captured the deadly altercation with his dashboard camera.
Tsamas later told police he was going door-to-door in the neighborhood, trying to solicit business for Verizon, when he knocked on Delgardio's door and made his sales pitch. He said he left the home when Delgardio told him he wasn't interested, police documents said.
Tsamas said he was walking down the street when Delgardio pulled alongside him in a vehicle and "ran at him aggressively,'' the documents said. That's when Tsamas said Delgardio grabbed him by the collar and twice threatened to kill him, prompting Tsamas to take out his knife and stab the man, the documents said.
The victim's wife, Jamie, meanwhile told detectives her husband suspected Tsamas was pushing a scam and, just before his death, went out in his car to ensure his neighbors didn't fall victim to it, according to the police documents.
Tsamas was one of the 911 callers. He remained at the scene after telling the operator he was the one who stabbed Delgardio.
Tsamas will face an arraignment on the charges in the coming weeks.
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Jackson NJ: Door-to-door salesman charged in man's death
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