Ronald “Butch” DeFeo is serving 6 consecutive life sentences at Sullivan Correctional Facility in Beekman, New York for murdering his entire family.
Butch was the oldest of five children of Ronald Sr. and Louise DeFeo. Ronald Sr. worked at a Brooklyn Buick car dealership through which he was able to afford a middle-class life for this family. He was known for being hot tempered and engaging in fights with his wife and children. Butch was very much like his father in that he was known to have violent outbursts. His family had taken him to a psychiatrist when he was a teenager but Butch declined returning, saying that it did not help. Instead of seeking additional treatment his parents tried to placate his misbehavior, giving him money and gifts. Butch would go on to become an LSD and heroin user and was eventually thrown out of school because of his anger issues.
Ronald Sr. gave his son a position at the car dealership, regardless of Butch’s ongoing violent behavior. DeFeo would spend his money on drugs, alcohol, and guns and even threatened his father with a rifle during an argument. Butch even planned and executed a mock burglary, stealing a large deposit from his car dealership. When questioned by the police he flew into a rage. When Ronald Sr. questioned Butch whether he was involved in the robbery Butch threatened to kill his father.
On the night of November 13, 1974, Butch entered his parents’ bedroom while they were sleeping and shot them in their bed with a .35-caliber Marlin rifle. He then entered his brother’s bedroom and shot both of them before finally shooting both of his sisters dead in their beds.
The next morning, he dressed for work, gathered his bloody clothes and rifle and dropped them in a storm drain on his way to work. When he got to work he made it seem as though he was not sure why his father was not there. Butch made a point of seeing several people throughout the day, and each time commenting how he had not heard from his family. When authorities were finally contacted, Butch claimed a robbery must have taken place and his family was murdered. He even went on to suspect that the murders were related to the mafia. The police even placed Butch in protective custody. While searching the home the police discovered the empty box for the .35-caliber Marlin and Butch eventually confessed.
During the trial Butch’s defense pleaded insanity, claiming that he had heard voices. The psychiatrist for the prosecution argued that Butch suffered from antisocial personality disorder and that he was very well aware of his actions.
DeFeo was found guilty on November 21, 1975.
In December of 1975 George and Kathy Lutz moved into the former DeFeo home with their three children, and after 28 days they fled, leaving behind all of their belongings claiming they were being tormented by the supernatural. Those 28 days that that Lutz family spent in the former DeFeo home have generated multiple books and an almost unending horror movie franchise.
So was DeFeo really hearing voices? Or, was it all part of his strategic defense to cover up his violent behavior? Was there anything supernatural at play at the Amityville house? Ultimately, something horrible happened at the Amityville house and something caused the Lutz family to flee.