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The Amityville Horror - Defeo Massacre (Part 1)

Everyone has heard of the Amityville Haunting. The Amityville Horror movies have been consistent hits in the horror community. All the films start with the message: Based on a True Story.

Shockingly, it turns out that there actually is a nugget of truth to the story. Starting in 1974 with the massacre of the Defeo family, horror has plagued the house in Amityville NY.

Ronald 'Butch' Defeo murdered his entire family on a cold November night in '74. His often rambling confessions lack consistency. Famously, he claimed that a hooded demon told him to do it.

The Defeo Family

The house on 112 Ocean Ave has become a horror icon. Up until 13 November 1974, it was nothing more than an average Long Island home. The family it contained were fairly standard for the time, or so it seemed.

Ronald Defeo, the patriarch, had 5 children with his wife, Louise. On the outside, Ronald was an enterprising car salesman and family man. His family, however, saw another side of him.

Alleged mob ties aside, Ronald Sr. was a real terror at home. He was strict, domineering, and frequently violent. Louise, and their eldest child 'Butch', were his favorite targets.

Ronald Jr. was thrown into walls more than once. Causing the type of youthful head injury that is so common in killers. In response to the abuse, Ronald Jr. took to stress eating.

The abuse continued throughout Ronald Jr.'s life, but as he matured, he began fighting back. His violent outbursts didn't end at home. 'Butch' became a known brawler around town.

In one of Ronald Jr.'s confessions, he claimed that his younger sister, Dawn, was in a relationship with a boy from Florida at the time of the murders. Their parents were against the relationship, and barred her from moving to Florida to be with her beau.

Ronald 'Butch' Defeo - They Saw it Coming

'Butch' was more than a violent drunk in his teens. He got hooked on Heroin and LSD by his 17th birthday. Psychedelics may not be addictive, but they can exacerbate existing mental health issues.

Ronald Sr. decided that his son's violent behavior was becoming a problem. Probably because young 'Butch' was beginning to get the upper hand in what had always been one-sided violence. Ronald Sr. and Louise took their son to a psychiatrist, hoping to curb the growing violence in his heart.

After a few sessions, the psychiatrist took Ronald and Louise aside. The doctor looked them in the eyes, and told them that they needed to get as far away from their son as possible. Ronald 'Butch' Defeo was on an unstoppable path towards family annihilation.

The Defeos chose to ignore the psychiatrist's warnings. Instead, they sought to curb their son's hate with gifts. They bought him a $14,000 speed boat, among other things.

Predictably the gifts failed, and young Ronald was kicked out of school in his 17th year. He was immediately hired at his grandfather's car dealership, with no expectations for him to actually show up for work.

Ronald Jr. spent his money on guns and drugs. Just another red flag in a sea of red flags.

On several occasions he threatened people with his newly acquired guns. Once going as far as pointing his shotgun at his father during an argument, and pulling the trigger. The gun failed to fire, and Ronald Sr. failed to act on what was a clear attempt on his life.

Ronald Jr. was not a smart man. Likely due to all the head trauma his father had gifted him with as a child. His life of violence and excess soon turned to crime, a crime that he would have easily gotten away with, if he wasn't Ronald Jr.

Working with a friend, Ronald Jr. plotted to steal $20,000 from his grandfather's dealership. He was tasked with depositing the cash, and got his friend to “rob” him while en route.

The plan went off without a hitch. Ronald Jr. was about to get away with it, when the police came to question him about the robbery. 'Butch' reacted with rage when questioned, instantly piquing the investigators' suspicions.

Ronald Sr. also grew suspicious. He asked his son about his refusal to cooperate with the cops, to which Ronald Jr. responded with a death threat. What a lovely son.

The Real Amityville Horror

Ronald 'Butch' Defeo was watching a movie in the early hours of 13 November 1974. That's where the facts of the case start getting muddied by his several inconsistent confessions.

'Butch' was either watching the movie alone/with his sister, Dawn, and a third person/watching alone when he heard voices/alone when he was approached by a demon wearing a hoodie. Or, a mob hitman came in and forced him to do it. His first story was that it was a home intrusion gone wrong.

In the first scenario, 'Butch' decided on a whim to murder his family. He opened his secret gun stash, and took out a .35-caliber Marlin rifle before quietly creeping upstairs.

Ronald Sr. and Louise were asleep when 'Butch' entered their room. He pressed the barrel of his gun to the back of his father's head, and pulled the trigger. The explosion of Ronald Sr.'s head either failed to wake his wife, or 'Butch' was exceptionally quick on the trigger.

With both of his parents dead, 'Butch' systematically murdered his four siblings in the same way. Each one shot in the back of the head while still in bed. No signs of struggle or alarm were ever found.

Here's a video of someone shooting a .35-caliber Marlin. It's a loud gun.

Alternatively, Dawn was with 'Butch' on the night of the murders. She wanted her parents dead because they wouldn't let her move to Florida with her boyfriend. 'Butch' claimed that she convinced him and a mysterious other to help her eliminate the family.

'Butch' then murdered his parents while Dawn killed their siblings. Discovering what she had done, 'Butch' then killed Dawn while the third killer fled the scene. This explains how the family was killed without anyone being alerted.

The demon story is similar to the hearing voices story. Someone, or something, told 'Butch' to murder his family. In the case of the hooded demon, the sound of the gun was dampened by the demon's evil magic.

Whatever happened, 6 of the Defeos were dead within 15 minutes. 'Butch' then went to work, left at noon, and spent the afternoon with his friends. He told his friends that he couldn't reach his family at home.

Around 6pm, 'Butch' went home. His friend soon got a call from 'Butch', where he pretended to have just discovered his family. When the police arrived, he told them that someone must have broken in and shot his family.

Short Investigation

Police detained the remaining Defeo for questioning. He initially told them that his family had been murdered by a mafia hitman, Louis Falini, with a grudge against the Defeo's.

Investigators quickly found the empty box for a brand new .35 Caliber Marlin in 'Butch' Defeo's room. They also noted that all the victims were still in their pajamas. Taking the smallest of logical leaps, they figured out that the murders took place in the early hours of November 13th.

Police brought the new information to 'Butch'. He changed his story immediately. Now he claimed that Falini had made him kill his family at gunpoint. This confession soon unraveled as well.

Ronald 'Butch' Defeo told investigators:

“Once I started, I just couldn't stop, it went so fast.”

'Butch' Goes to Prison

11 months after murdering his entire family, 'Butch' went on trial for the crime. His defense attorney, William Weber, tried a not-guilty by reason of insanity plea. They went so far as to get a psychiatrist to testify that Ronald 'Butch' Defeo suffered from a Dissociative Disorder and heard voices.

Prosecutors brought their own psychiatrist, Dr. Harold Zolan. He proved to the jury that Defeo only suffered from Antisocial Personality Disorder. Meaning that he was a garden variety psycho. Thus, he was fully aware and in control when he murdered his family.

Jurors found Defeo guilty. He was sentenced to 6 consecutive life sentences, one for each family member he murdered. Ronald 'Butch' Defeo remains in prison to this day.



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