The events that occurred at a house in Amityville, New York, in 1974 have long been considered historical, piquing the interest of many. Ronald DeFeo Jr., known as Butch, was convicted of killing his whole family in a crime that shocked the nation. This particular case spurred several books and movies, including ‘The Amityville Horror.’ Recently, a podcast titled ‘Very Scary People: The Amityville Murders’ delved into the unsettling crime in a sleepy town and the potential reasons behind it. So, let’s find out more about this case then, shall we?
What Happened to Ronald DeFeo Jr.?
Ronald “Butch” DeFeo Jr. was the oldest son of 43-year-olds Ronald DeFeo Sr. and Louise DeFeo. At the time, the family lived in a home in Amityville in Long Island, New York, and Butch worked with his father at a car dealership. Butch had two brothers and two sisters, aged between 9 and 18 at the time of the incident. Sometime during the evening of November 13, 1974, Butch rushed to a local bar and pleaded for help because he had discovered his parents dead in the house.
Then about 23-years-old, Butch was accompanied by a few other people who soon discovered the crime was far more chilling. Apart from his parents, his siblings were also dead. They had all possibly been shot while sleeping and were found lying face down and hands raised above their heads. According to initial reports, the parents were shot twice in the back, Butch’s sisters were shot once in the head, and his brothers were shot once in the back.
The weapon was believed to be a .35-caliber rifle, and a similar firearm was later found in a creek behind the family home. The authorities believed that all six victims were shot at close range, and a silencer could not have been used. However, the neighbors reported only hearing the family dog on the night of the murders. In the end, Ronald admitted to killing his family and was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder in November 1975.
Butch was handed down six sentences of 25 years to life the following month. Butch was serving his sentence at the Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, New York, when he was transferred to a medical center on February 2, 2021. Butch died on March 12, 2021, at 69-years-old at a hospital in Albany, New York. However, the cause of death has not been made public.
Why Did Butch Kill His Family?
There have been several theories regarding what happened that night in November 1974. Initially, Butch claimed that someone from the mob killed his family. But upon pressing further, he admitted to murdering them. Back then, it was reported that Butch had a tense relationship with his father because Butch was known to use drugs, drank, and often got into fights. Another potential motive was that he benefited from a hefty insurance policy. He had initially told the police that he drugged the family with barbiturates before committing the murders.
At the ensuing trial after the confession, Butch’s lawyers mounted an insanity defense. In court, he talked of hearing voices that told him that the rest of the family was plotting against him. However, an expert for the prosecution testified that Butch was sane when the murders occurred. In later interviews, Butch claimed that he was forced to follow the legal route by his lawyer, adding, “He told me I had to do this. He told me there would be a lot of money from book rights and a movie. He would have me out in a couple of years, and I would come into all that money. The whole thing was a con, except for the crime.”
In a 1986 interview, Butch attempted to shift the blame onto his sister and mother. He claimed that his oldest sister, Dawn, first shot their father, and then his mother killed Dawn and the other siblings. While Butch’s story kept changing over the years, the courts still believed he was the only one responsible for murdering the family. The Lutzes, who moved into the house after the murders, later claimed that the house was haunted. They left in less than a month. Later on, the films and many of the books that followed centers around the Lutzes’ purported experiences in the house.
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