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The murders that took place at 112 Ocean Avenue in 1974 have become the basis for many best selling books and movies and are clouded in false claims and legends. The bodies of Ronald Defeo Sr., Louise Defeo, and their four children: Dawn, Allison, Marc, and John Matthew were all discovered by Suffolk County Police officers after a call was placed by Joe Yeswit after a frantic Ronald Defeo Jr. burst in Henry’s Bar and said "You got to help me! I think my mother and father are shot!“ All of the victims were said to have been shot by a .35 caliber lever action Marlin 336C rifle around three o'clock on the morning of November 13th. After discovering the bodies, Ronald Defeo Jr. was taken into protective custody by police official after having suggested the murders were carried out as a mob hit by Tony Mazzeo. However, after questioning Defeo Jr., inconsistencies in his version of how the events took place eventually led to him confessing to the murders of his family. Defeo Jr.’s trial began on October 14th, 1975. He and his defense lawyer William Weber mounted an affirmative defense of insanity, with DeFeo claiming that he killed his family in self-defense because he heard their voices plotting against him. The insanity plea was supported by the psychiatrist for the defense, Dr. Daniel Schwartz. The psychiatrist for the prosecution, Dr. Harold Zolan, maintained that although DeFeo was an abuser of heroin and LSD, he had antisocial personality disorder and was aware of his actions at the time of the crime. However, the jury found Ronald Defeo Jr. guilty on six counts of second-degree murder. On December 4, 1975, Judge Thomas Stark sentenced DeFeo Jr. to six concurrent sentences of 25 years to life. The reasons for the murders remain unclear to this day and their are many controversies surrounding the case. Police officials and medical examiners were initially puzzled by the rapidity and scale of the killings and considered that more than one person was responsible for the murders. During his time in jail, Defeo Jr. has given many varying accounts as to how the murders to place such as saying his sister initially killed their father and their distraught mother killed the remaining children before Defeo Jr. finally murdered her. Although no motive has ever come clear, in November of 2003 Defeo Jr. stated that he and sister along with two friends murdered the family "out of desperation” because his parents were plotting to murder him, however after the murders Defeo Jr. asked police what he had to do to collect his father’s life insurance policy leading police officials to believe that the motive for the murders was purely for financial gain. DeFeo is currently held in Green Haven Correctional Facility, Beekman, New York, and all of his appeals to the parole board to date have been denied.

Police officer standing outside the DeFeo home where 23 year old Ronald DeFeo jr. shot and killed 6 of his family members. The case became known as ‘the Real Amityville Horror’ due to the later alleged hauntings that took place in the home, and the fact that Ronald had, on occasion, claimed that he had been possessed by satan when he committed the crimes.

Notorious American Murder Homes

# 5. LaLaurie Mansion, Louisiana, 1834.

Madame Delphine LaLaurie was known for her torture and starvation of her slaves. The house where the horrific abuse took place still stands today and is considered one of Americas haunted houses.

# 4. South Wallace Street, Chicago, 1894.

H.H. Holmes, one of America’s first serial murderers, constructed a 3 storey house of horrors where some say he killed up to 200 people. The house was demolished in 1938.

# 3. Plainfield Farmhouse, Wisconsin, 1957.

Ed Gein, notorious killer and grave robber inspired movie characters such Norman Bates and Jame Gumb. Gein experimented with human taxidermy and created furniture out of his victims skin and bone. The farmhouse has since been destroyed.

# 2. 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, New York, 1974.

The infamous Ronald DeFeo Jr murdered his parents and 4 siblings during the night. The house has become a popular tourist attraction and the focus of many books and movies. Subsequent inhabitants of the property have made reports of hauntings.

# 1. 10050 Cielo Drive, California, 1969.

Pregnant actress Sharon Tate and her 4 guests were brutally murdered by members of the Manson Family. Following the murder, the word ‘pig’ could be seen written across the door in Sharon’s blood until it was torn down

The Amityville Ghost - In the early morning hours of 13 November, 1974, 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo Jr systematically shot and killed his father, mother, and his four siblings, as they slept in their beds of their Amityville, Long Island, New York home. During his trial, he claimed that he had killed his family in self-defence because he had heard their voices plotting to kill him. But the story doesn’t end there: In December 1975, the Lutz family purchased the house and over the course of 28 days, they claimed they were plagued and terrorised by paranormal phenomena while living there, before fleeing the property. Some such claims included green slime running from the walls, hidden rooms, images of half headed demons, a demonic pig, as well as mysterious welts and wounds appearing out of nowhere. After the family fled the macabre home, they called in investigators which was when the photograph above was snapped, apparently showing a ghost of a little boy peering out from behind the door; many believe it to be the ghost of 9-year-old John Matthew DeFeo. Whether the truth in this haunting case was stretched or even a hoax all together, it still remains one of the most sensationalised ghost stories worldwide, even inspiring multiple books and movies.

November 13, 1974: 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo Jr. murders his parents, two younger sisters, and two younger brothers with a .35 Martin Rifle in Amityville, Long Island. The case is notable for being the real life inspiration behind the book and film versions of The Amityville Horror.

Photo: Mugshot of Ronald DeFeo Jr. / Crime scene photos at the family home in Amityville, Long Island, New York (Bettman/Corbis/Getty)

Sullivan Correctional Facility, Fallsburg, New York, USA.

Sullivan is a maximum security prison for male inmates, 86% percent of which are being incarcerated for committing violent felonies, and 60% are serving life sentences. Among notable inmates are serial killer David Berkowitz, the “Son of Sam”, and Ronald DeFeo, Jr., who killed his entire family and sparked The Amityville Horror movie.

The Amityville Boy - 

This photo was taken in 1976 at 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, New York, two years after Ronald DeFeo Jr murdered six members of his family in the same house. When he was arrested Ronald claimed that he heard voices in the house telling him to kill his family. Many believe that the little boy captured in the photograph is a striking resemblance to nine year old, John Matthew DeFeo, the youngest member of the DeFeo family who was murdered that night. 

Strange Mysteries: The DeFeo Family Murders

Wednesday, November 13th, 1974 - Amityville, Long Island

Patrons of Henry’s Bar in the small village of Amityville are settling in for their evening drinks when 23 year old Ronald “Butch” DeFeo, Jr rushes in in a panic.

“You got to help me! I think my mother and father are shot!”

DeFeo is immediately followed back to his home, a quaint Dutch colonial located at 112 Ocean Avenue. It is there that the bodies of 43 year old Ronald DeFeo, Sr and 42 year old Louise DeFeo are found. The two have been shot in their beds.

Moments later an even more gruesome discovery is made: the bodies of the four other DeFeo children (Dawn, 18; Allison, 13; Marc, 12; and John Matthew, 9).

It is determined by the investigating authorities that the family was murdered sometime around 3am that morning, nearly 15 hours prior to DeFeo’s discovery and arrival at the bar.

But who shot the DeFeos?

When it is suggested at the scene that the murders may be mob related, DeFeo is immediately taken into police protection. However, it is there at the police station that a different story begins to emerge and it’s not long before DeFeo himself is confessing to the murder of all six of his family members.

DeFeo is ultimately found guilty of six counts of second-degree murder and is sentenced to six concurrent sentences of 25 years to life.

Though a concrete motive is never established, other troubling mysteries linger.

For one, how was DeFeo able to kill every member of his family without any of them waking up?

All were found lying in their beds on their stomachs with no signs of a struggle.

To compound the mystery further, It is determined by authorities that none of the family has been drugged and yet none were awaken by the sound of rifle fire. In fact, no one in the neighborhood (including their immediate neighbors) reported hearing any loud noises that night despite authorities determining that no silencer or similar device was used. The only noise reported was that of the family dog.

So did DeFeo act alone? Or did he have accomplices?

We may never know.

The DeFeo murders could very easily have become just another gruesome mass murder lost to time had it not been for what happened shortly after:

  • December 19th, 1975: George and Kathy Lutz move their family into the house at 112 Ocean Avenue.
  • January 14th, 1976: The Lutz family flees the house after 28 days, leaving behind all of their possessions.
  • September 13th, 1977: A book detailing their stay in the house is released. It’s name: The Amityville Horror.