The argument over a telephone bill that prompted a son to kill his father in the Poconos with a shotgun two weeks ago was just the latest in a long running history of abusive moments, lawyers on both sides of the case said Friday.
The insights into the psychological drama at play in the family of Nicholas Azzaretto, 20, surfaced at his preliminary hearing on third-degree homicide and voluntary manslaughter charges filed in the fatal shooting Feb. 13 of Frank Azzaretto, a union worker in the entertainment industry in New York City.
Frank Azzaretto was fatally wounded with a shotgun blast fired by his son during a heated argument between his father and mother in the kitchen of the family home at 7121 Wisteria Court in Stroud Township.
Azzaretto began arguing with his wife about a Sprint phone bill after he had returned from his job in the Bronx, where he held a union job working in the movie production business. His son Nick occasionally worked jobs in the entertainment industry as well, said Michael Mancuso, the first assistant district attorney.
A video reenactment of what happened that night in the kitchen, as told by Patricia Azzaretto on the day after he husband’s death, was played in court before Magisterial District Justice Jolana Krawitz. On the video, she said recalled the argument and recounted how her husband was angry and pacing and how he became physical, throwing plants and pictures. The argument started upstairs and continued in the kitchen, she said.
The noise drew Nicholas Azzaretto from his basement bedroom.
“What’s he screaming about?” Nicholas Azzaretto asked his mother. “I really don’t know,” she said she told her son, who later returned from the bedroom with a 12 gauge shotgun.
Defense attorney James Swetz said the argument was not so much over the amount of the phone bill as it was the debit card used to pay it.
“How come I’m paying the Spring bill,” Azzaretto asked his wife. “You’re playing f------ games again,” she recalled her husband said that night.
In his argument for bail, Swetz said the younger Azzaretto had no criminal record or history of drug or alcohol abuse and was not a flight risk. He seemed to be laying the groundwork for a possible negotiated guilty plea to voluntary manslaughter.
In questioning the detective on the case, Cpl. Emily Raymond of the Stroud Area Regional Police, Swetz pointed out Frank Azzaretto weighed about 300 pounds and stood over six feet tall and had an apparent abuse streak in his personality. In the video his wife said that during the argument in the kitchen her husband threatened to punch her.
Swetz and Mancuso agreed that if Nicholas Azzaretto were going to be released on bail from the Monroe County Correctional Facility he should undergo psychological counseling and have no access to guns, among other things.
Swetz said Azzaretto should not be in jail “in light of the abuse this family has suffered.”
“This case is a tragedy,” Swetz said. “This case is not a murder case.”
Krawitz, who sent all charges to Monroe County Court, set bail at $50,000. He had been ordered held without bail after his arrest.