THE DEFEO FAMILY MURDER
The tragedy and terror surrounding 112 Ocean Avenue Amityville, Long Island began November 13th, 1974 at around 3:15 AM. As the story is often told casually Ronald Defeo Jr (AKA Butch), in a supposed trance after hearing demonic voices, took a .35 caliber rifle and murdered his entire family. His parents Ronald DeFeo, Sr. (43), Louise DeFeo (42), sisters Dawn (18); Allison (13), and younger brothers Marc (12); and John Matthew (9). He then went to work, went shopping with his girlfriend, before ending up at Henry’s Bar. He left that bar to check on his family and when he returned to Henry’s at 6:30pm he shouted a phrase that would inevitably change the charming town of Amityville forever.
“You got to help me! I think my mother and father are shot!”
Let’s rewind a little. The whole annihilation of a family? Demonic persuasion? How did this all come about? Let’s take a peak into Butch Defeo’s life before November 13th, 1974. Though his family’s life and success may have looked perfect on paper, reality was a much different depiction. Ronald Sr. was said to be a man with a temper. Allegedly, there were fights between him and his wife, and he was very authoritative over his children. This did not exclude Butch, often a focus of his father’s ire, the two butted heads frequently. Butch also was frequently bullied at school. His father encouraged him – a way of putting it nicely – to stand up to his bullies. Funny how he was allowed to do that at school but not at home.
As he got older, his temperament also grew to match his fathers. They would frequently argue and turn physical. Ronald Sr- even though he did not seem very mentally healthy on his own- picked up that his son had highly irregular fluctuations of temperament, and he and Louise arranged for him to see a psychiatrist. The sessions were unsuccessful- as he made no effort for support from the therapist. When all else failed, his parents began to gift him in an effort to keep him in line.
By the age of 17, Butch was kicked out of high school, abusing hard drugs like heroin and LSD, all while his behavior became less stable and more volatile. He was starting to scare people. He pointed his loaded rifle at one of his friends during a hunting party, then acted as if nothing happened later in the afternoon. He didn’t show up to his gift job at his grandfather’s Buick dealership and when he did there was no work being done. He mainly showed up to fund his habits. In a particularly bad incident Ronald Sr and Butch argued which resulted in Butch retrieving his shot gun before pointing the barrel of the gun at his father’s face, screaming at him. Butch pulled the trigger, but the gun mysteriously did not go off. Apparently it misfired.
Two weeks before the murders, Butch was sent on an errand to deposit $1,800 in cash and $20,000 in checks in the bank. Instead, Butch arranged to be “robbed” on his way to the bank by an acquaintance, with whom he later split the loot. During the investigation for the robbery, Butch was tense and irritable with the police and Ronald, Sr. started to suspect his son’s involvement. On the Friday before the murders, Butch had been asked by the police to examine some mug shots- to which he canceled last minute. When Ronald, Sr. heard of this, he confronted his son at work, demanding to know why he wouldn’t cooperate with the police. There was a big verbal altercation, and then Butch left in a rage. And with this, we’re back at November 13th, 1974
Still with me?
Good, because everything falls apart from here. After the brutal slayings of his family members (there are pictures, we suggest you don’t google them) and later going to the bar, Butch brings back practially the whole town to the Amityville House. He didn’t even call 911 from the homes landline, a bar patron did. When the police arrived Butch oddly gave up his heroin use and the fact that he’d burned a boat of his father’s for insurance money. Things were beginning to unravel for Butch. When question as to why someone would hurt the Defeo family, Butch suggested a suspect as one Louis Falini, a notorious mafia hit man. Butch said that Falini had lived with them for a period of time, an argument with Falini had stemmed from an incident where Falini criticized some work Butch had done at the auto dealership. After finding shotgun ammo inside the Defeo house hold, coupled with Butch’s increasingly odd behavior? The police were not buying this.
Eventually, Ronald Defeo Jr, confessed to the murder of all six of his family members. “It all started so fast.” He’d told them, “ Once I started, I just couldn’t stop. It went so fast.” He later led authorities to a storm drain where he’d thrown a pillowcase with his bloody clothing and the murder weapon. He was arrested and put on trial in October of 1975. His defense attorney made several claims during the trial including the confession was coerced by police abuse, he was refused council, and that he was legally insane. These first two were simply untrue while the third seemed to be played up in court by Butch, who testified “I Am God” and threatening the life of the prosecutor. None of that mattered though. He was convicted just a year after the murders took place in November of 1975. He was found guilty for each murder and sentenced to twenty-five years to life in prison on all six counts. Butch Defeo died in prison in March of 2021.
Whew, that was horrible and A LOT right? Well, just wait until you hear about December 1975 and the Lutz Family hauntings….