Little Bits of History

Horror in Amityville

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 13, 2015
Ronald Joseph “Butch” DeFeo, Jr.

Ronald Joseph “Butch” DeFeo, Jr.

November 13, 1974:  A home at 112 Ocean Avenue, is the site of six murders. Ronald Joseph “Butch” DeFeo, Jr. was born in 1951 and 23 years old in 1974. He lived with his parents at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, Long Island, New York. On this day, shortly after 3 AM, he ran to a nearby bar and told those still there that he believed his parents had been shot. A group went back to the house and found Ronald DeFeo, Sr. (44) and Louise DeFeo (42) had been shot. Joe Yeswit called the Suffolk County Police to come to the house and when they investigated further, they found Dawn (18), Allison (13), Mark (12), and John Matthew (9) had all also been shot. All the victims had been shot by the same gun.

Both parents had each been shot twice and each of the children were found lying face down in their beds and shot once. There were no signs of struggle however there were signs that both Louise and Allison had been awake at the time of their deaths. Butch claimed that the killings had been mob motivated and even gave the name of the alleged hitman. He went willingly with the police to the station since it was assumed that his life was also in danger. The next day, still at the police station, he confessed to committing all six murders. He stated he had bathed and then told the police where to find his bloodied clothing and the murder weapon, a .35 caliber lever action marlin 336C rifle, as well as the spent cartridges.

Butch’s trial began on October 14, 1975. His lawyer used an affirmative defense of insanity and claimed the killings were done in self defense because Butch had heard their voices at they plotted against him. The psychiatrist for the defense supported the insanity plea but the psychiatrist for the prosecution maintained that although Butch abused both LSD and heroin and had an antisocial personality disorder, he was aware of his actions at the time of the crime and therefore the plea of insanity was unsupported. On November 21, 1975, Butch was found guilty on all six counts of second-degree murder and on December 4 he was sentenced to six concurrent sentences of 25 years to life. He remains alive in Green Haven Correctional Facility in New York and all his appeals and requests have been denied.

His story not only changed immediately after the crime was committed (the purported hitman had been out of state with an alibi), but his story has changed several times in the forty years following his trial. He has claimed that he was married and living in New Jersey and his sister had committed most of the murders, although the division between who Dawn killed and who Butch killed has shifted. He was not married at the time of the murders and still lived with his parents. The person who had gone with him to the scene has been proven to be a figment and never existed. Two books have been written, one about the actual murders by Ric Osuna – The Night the DeFeos Died – and one about the paranormal activities at the house itself written by Jay Anson – The Amityville Horror.

A family is but too often but a commonwealth of malignants. – Alexander Pope

We lived like that “Happy Family” you sometimes see in traveling zoos: a lion caged with a lamb. It is a startling exhibit but the lamb has to be replaced frequently. – Robert A. Heinlein

No amount of law enforcement can solve a problem that goes back to the family. – J. Edgar Hoover

At some point in your life your family will be all you have. Treat them right. – Wes Smith

Also on this day: Deadliest Natural Disaster of the Twentieth Century – In 1970, the Bhola cyclone hits land.
Meteors – In 1833, the Leonids meteor shower occurred.
Sammy and May – In 1960, the two married.
Rescue – In 1901, the Caister-on-Sea incident took place.
Champions – In 1954, the first Rugby League World Cup championship ended.

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