Ronald DeFeo Jr.
In my opinion you cannot call yourself a true True Crime fan and not know something about the DeFeo case. The same can be true about horror fans and the movie The Amityville Horror. But, then again, true True Crime fans know that while the Amityville Horror movies talk about the home in which the DeFeo murders occur and touch on the murders at least a bit, neither the book or the movies are in fact True Crime. In fact, in the years since it was released in the late 70's nearly everything has been debunked and proven to be untrue. But, then again, as I said, The Amityville Horror and the DeFeo case are two separate issues.
But, let's pretend for a moment that you do not know the story or do not know the difference. The DeFeo murders occurred on November 13, 1974 in Amityville, Long Island, New York. It was on that evening that Ronald DeFeo Jr. ran into a local bar, just a few blocks from his home proclaiming that he thought his parents had been shot and were dead. A group of patrons got into their cars and went to the home only to find not only Ronald DeFeo Sr. and his wife, Louise dead, but also their four remaining children dead in their beds as well. The children were 18 year-old Dawn, 13 year-old Allison, 12 year-old Marc and 9 year-old John. The police were called and Ronald Jr was taken to the police station where he told them he suspected that the murders were a mob hit. On the surface that would not be a huge stretch of the imagination since Ronald Sr's uncle, Pete DeFeo was in fact known to be a member of the Genovese Crime Family. But Ronald Jr, aka Butch, seeming kept changing his story and something did not feel right.
By the following day, after confronted with information from the medical examiner and doing a little bit of investigating themselves, detectives were able to elicit a confession from Ronald Jr. He would tell them that he had murdered his entire family and end told them where to find the weapon he used and the bloody clothes he had worn.
While Ronald Jr. was sitting in jail and apparently going through one defense attorney after another, the DeFeo home was put up for sale. Ronald Jr. was convicted on November 21, 1975 on six counts of second degree murder. He was sentenced to 25 years to life and remains in prison to this day. We'll get back to Ronald Jr. and his motives and stories in a minute....
A month after Ronald Jr. was convicted George and Kathy Lutz, a newly married couple, with her three children from a previous marriage moved into what had formerly been the DeFeo home and from there we get The Amityville Horror Story. They lived in the home for 28 days supposedly leaving everything they owned inside the home when they left. In September of 1977 author Jay Anson would publish the book The Amityville Horror Story and tout it as a true story. The book would claim many paranormal things going on in the house and personally to the Lutz's themselves, including the children. I am not going to go into detail as to those things claimed but it's suffice to say that today, over 30 years later, it is still largely in debate as to just what truly happened. Both Kathy and George Lutz have died but the children have carried on the legacy, most recently in a program found on Netflix. The Lutz family has continued to state that things happened to them in the house but have also admitted that Jay Anson's book was largely fictional. The addition of supposed "paranormal experts" Ed and Lorraine Warren being involved in the case only further muddies the waters. Some reports have claimed over the years that the Lutz family did not know about the DeFeo murders (something that supposedly largely figured into their supposed paranormal issues with the house) prior to buying the home where other accounts say they were informed on their first viewing of the home and still decided to buy it. Ronald DeFeo's attorney, William Weber has apparently come out and stated that he talked to the Lutz's and that it was a plan all along to profit from the home and/or story and despite George and Kathy Lutz denying it, Weber claims it was a scam. It should be noted that there have been other families in the home since the Lutz family left "fleeing for their lives" and claim the only bad thing about the home is the fact that people are so curious about the house and believe the stories told and it disturbs the peace. In fact, the outside of the home has been redesigned to remove the "famous" looking windows and even the street and the address has been changed. It seems no one in Amityville likes the attention they have received from the Amityville franchise.
But, let's get back to what this is really about... the true crime that did in fact happen in that house. As I stated above, Ronald DeFeo Jr. was ultimately convicted and sentenced for the murders of six members of his family. But that did not stop people from continuing to look into the case. In fact, Ronald Jr's own grandfather, Michael Brigante, hire his own private detective to look into the case. It seems he did not believe his grandson had been able to commit this crime all on his own as he had originally stated. So Grandpa hired Herman Race who was a retired police detective. According to his investigation there was likely more than one gunman and that two guns had been used.
The autopsies on the victims showed that none of them had a sedative or drugs of any kind in their bodies and that confused investigators. All six victims were found in their beds, and at least all of the children were found to be on their stomachs. Ronald Jr had led them to the weapon he claimed to have used, a .35 caliber lever action rifle. They did not find any sort of silencer nor did he claim to use one, and yet at least eight bullets had been shot inside the house. Neighbors would claim the only thing they heard was the family dog barking but to be fair, it has been claimed that some of those neighbors later claim they did hear shots but did not want to be involved. Just like many other things in this case, it is hard to know which story is true. But, it was unusual that seeing as this was not an isolated home but one in a subdivision in which the homes were no more than 50 feet apart that no one claimed to hear gun shots. Presumably, and by at least one of Ronald's accounts, he shot his father first. This would likely indicate that he likely should have been the only person who was not aroused awake by the gunshots. Medical examiners would believe due to the trajectory of the bullets that at least Louise and Allison had been awake. It would later be said that it was likely that Marc too had been awaken because he had suffered a hip injury from sports and would have been sleeping on his back yet his body was found on his stomach.
By 1986, The Amityville Horror was all the rage and some feel Ronald Jr wanted his piece of the attention, and why not? I mean his lawyer apparently had his hand in things. At his trial his attorney, William Weber had tried to claim an insanity defense but had obviously failed. If you have seen interviews with Ronald Jr over the years you have to be asking yourself who did that testing because he definitely does not seem to have all his trains on the track. At any rate, in an interview in 1986 Ronald Jr. began telling a new story of what happened on that November night in 1974. In his new story he stated that his sister Dawn had killed their father and that his mother had awakened, and being so distraught she had killed all of his siblings. He was not even at the home at that time but came home just after and he was forced to kill his mother. It was during this interview that he brought up what some would call his phantom brother in law. He would claim that in 1974 he was not even living with his parents but was married to a woman named Geraldine and had received a phone call from his mother to come over and he had taken Geraldine's brother with him.
Then in 1990 he would change his story again, only this time he would claim that Dawn and someone else killed their parents, Dawn killed the siblings and he killed her while struggling for the gun, but again he had his supposed brother in law with him.
So who was this Geraldine? Well, initially it seems to reporters and a man that was writing a book on the case that she tried to back Ronald's story, except a little digging and they knew she was lying. In 1974 she was married and living with someone else. In fact, she would finally admit that she did not even meet Ronald until 1985. They did end up marrying but not until 1989 and they were divorced in 1993. And the brother in law? She has no idea who that person is.
Ronald was not done telling his story, or changing it I should say. In 2000 a man name Ric Osuna was writing a book about the case. I have not read the book but from all that I have heard about it I'm not sure it's at all based on fact, but to be fair, again I have not read it. At any rate Osuna claims he talked to Ronald for about 6 hours for research. For his part Ronald claims he walked into the room, saw Osuna and walked back out, never talking to him. But, the story that Osuna tells in his book of what he claims Ronald told him about the murder is in essence what it seems Ronald has stuck with for the most part, with a few tweaks of course. The new story was that Ronald, Dawn and two friend killed the parents and it was all but a plan. Ronald claims Dawn did it because she was angry with them but he did it because he was convinced his parents were plotting to kill him and heard their voices. He would claim that one of the friends had taken off and while he was chasing him down Dawn had killed the siblings and that was not part of the plan. He then claims that he killed Dawn because of this.
There are those who believe Dawn was involved. There were reports that there was unburned gun powder residue on Dawn's nightgown. As in many cases "experts" disagree on how it could have gotten there but some argue that it came from her shooting a gun also, and the one detective did determine there were two guns used. Others say that had she been shot at close range it could have gotten on her gown. They also argue that Dawn was found in what appeared to be a normal sleeping position. But then again, it seems for the most part so were most of the victims.
It is not likely that the truth of what happened in that home will ever come out completely. It's more likely that the truth is somewhere in some of the many stories Ronald Jr. has told but who knows which parts are true? For his part Ronald Jr. will probably remain in prison for the rest of his life. He does have a parole hearing in July of 2017 but it does not seem likely he will be released.