TAGHKANIC — A neighbor was in the right place at the right time July 3 when 75-year-old Joseph Macri allegedly attempted to drown his wife Francine Macri, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and himself in a pond on his property.
Johnny Cartularo lives across the street from the Macris’ Sopak Road residence and he ran toward their house when he heard a scream coming from the Macri property.
Cartularo was in his driveway when his dog started to growl July 3.
“I didn’t think anything of it, and then I heard a scream,” he said, adding he couldn’t tell whether it was a goat or a person screaming.
Crystal Aprea, who was with Cartularo in his driveway, saw the commotion across the street.
“Joe is trying to kill Fran,” Aprea said to Cartularo.
Cartularo ran over to the Macris’ property and found Joseph Macri with a vehicle tow strap about two inches wide around his wife’s neck, he said.
“He’s [Joseph] pulling her [Francine] towards the water and she’s yelling ‘Help me, help me, somebody help me,’” Cartularo said.
Joseph was putting his wife under water as she continued to call for help, Cartularo added.
“We can’t live like this anymore,” Joseph was screaming, Cartularo said, adding his neighbor also yelled, “This is not a life for us,” “I don’t want to live anymore,” and “We’re going to die together.”
Cartularo brought the couple to the bank of the pond and had Aprea stay with them while Cartularo left to alert one of Macri’s three sons, Carlo, who works at the family’s business, Jo Jo’s Pizza in Ancram.
“I’m glad that God put us there at that exact moment because if we were not there, I’m pretty sure they both would have been dead,” Cartularo said.
When Cartularo returned from Jo Jo’s Pizza, the couple was back in the pond, he said.
State troopers arrived at the scene and asked Cartularo to help get Joseph out of the water, Cartularo said.
Cartularo helped two troopers pull Joseph Macri away from his wife. As he was pulling, Cartularo apologized to Joseph, Cartularo said.
“(I said) I’m sorry, because his shirt is riding up, and he’s crying,” Cartularo said. “I felt bad, you know?”
Joseph Macri was arrested, arraigned and charged with attempted second-degree murder, a class A-1 felony, July 3.
“Instead of getting Mr. Macri the help that he needed, maybe taking him to a facility to get him evaluated, you know, they put handcuffs on him, and they took him to jail, and he should not have been there,” said Joseph Macri’s attorney Asaf Sarno. “They should not have done that.”
Cartularo did not call the police, but the police were made aware of the incident when he went to the pizzeria, Cartularo said.
Cartularo had never seen anything like this from his neighbors before, he said.
“They used to walk around like they were still in high school holding hands,” Cartularo said.
On the day of the incident, Cartularo saw Joseph Macri earlier that day and everything seemed normal, he said.
“We bumped into Joey [Macri] driving around in his Wrangler and he had the dog in the passenger seat,” he said. “And he stopped and spoke to us, and he was smiling and perfectly fine.”
Joseph Macri, who had no criminal record prior to July 3, was released July 20 on $100,000 bail and he is staying with family and receiving treatment, Sarno said.
“He is with family and he has gotten nothing but love and support from family and friends, both locally, and nationally, and internationally,” Macri’s attorney said.
Macri family members declined to comment.
Sarno does not believe that his client wanted to kill his wife, but rather his actions July 3 were a call for help.
“If he [Joseph] truly wanted to murder his wife, he could have done it in a different way,” Sarno said. “He’s [Joseph] a skilled hunter. He’s a skilled butcher. He has a huge home and property. Why? Why would he try to kill his wife in a pond where neighbors can see what’s happening?”
Joseph Macri, who was the primary caretaker of Francine, was under considerable stress while caring for his wife, Sarno said.
“Whatever happened on July 3, it was a mental breakdown,” Sarno said. “And whatever happened on July 3 was a cry for help. It was a stressful and particularly difficult task to care for his wife and to watch his wife deteriorate before his eyes, both mentally, physically, but nonetheless, he honorably took care of her, and when COVID-19 hit, unfortunately, it exacerbated the situation.”
Joseph and Francine Macri are both having a hard time remembering the July 3 incident, Sarno said.
“We’re still in the early stages of this case and we are still trying to piece together what exactly happened,” Sarno said.
Due to her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Francine does not recall the incident happening, Sarno said.
“My client, due to his mental breakdown, doesn’t really remember anything either,” the attorney added.
Joseph Macri loves his wife and Sept. 4 will mark their 54th wedding anniversary, Sarno said.
“One thing that is a constant is Mr. Macri’s love for his wife,” he said. “Prior to July 3, he was his wife’s primary caretaker.”
The Macris have not communicated with each other since the July 3 incident because an order of protection was put in place against Joseph to protect Francine when he was arraigned and charged July 3, and a second order of protection was issued at a July 10 hearing.
Sarno plans to request a modification to the protective orders.
“She asks for Joe every couple of minutes,” Sarno said of Mrs. Macri. “It’s my understanding that she thinks that my client has abandoned her, and if only she knew the truth, she would know that he hasn’t abandoned her and that he wants to be reunited in some shape or form, so that’s something that we’re working towards as well.”
The case was handed over to a special prosecutor, attorney Danielle Neroni, who declined to comment, after Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka recused himself from the case July 17. Czajka owns property next to the Macris, who may be considering subdividing their property.
Sarno hopes that Neroni will join his application to modify the protective orders, he said.