The following page contains a gruesome crime-scene photo. View discretion is advised.
During the final stages of Ric Osuna’s research for his book, The Night the DeFeos Died, in November 2001, he finally was allowed by the Suffolk County Police Department to view the negatives of the DeFeo crime-scene photographs. Although Osuna already had more than a 100 DeFeo crime-scene photographs that he previously helped acquire for a TV documentary, Osuna wanted to find out if there were any photographs of the area in the DeFeo house listed in the Suffolk County police laboratory reports as a “stain from outside master bedroom floor.” Because Herman Race had testified that he had found portions of the DeFeo floors bloodstained, Osuna wanted to obtain a photograph of this area for further analysis (See The Injustice that Followed for more information).
The process was an arduous one at that. For more than three hours, Osuna examined hundreds of negatives. Although the clerk was quite helpful, even offering Osuna an extra large magnifying glass for viewing the negatives, she showed him only one negative or strip of negatives at a time. This tight control was needed since all that existed of the DeFeo crime-scene photographs were these negatives.
Interestingly enough, it was at that time Osuna uncovered the photo depicting the blood on the shoes (see Analysis of a Bloody Shoe). Although there was no photo of the floor surrounding the exterior of the master bedroom, Osuna discovered an additional photo that caused a new dilemma.
Osuna began to grow distressed while viewing the negative the clerk labeled 20B2. Ever since he had acquired the DeFeo crime-scene photographs, Osuna had spent untold hours reviewing them for clues. Hence, he knew every detail of the DeFeos’ bedrooms and beds. Osuna slowly realized while viewing the negative that he was staring at a “seventh” body in a sixth location.
Moreover, the surroundings of this mystery body resembled the DeFeo basement with its fake wood paneling and iron grate. Since he was not sure if this was just a red herring or something extraordinary, Osuna simply ordered a reproduction of the photo (See purchase receipt from the Suffolk County Clerk). A couple of weeks later, it arrived. In fact, Osuna originally felt the body in the photo was that of Dawn DeFeo repositioned in the DeFeo basement.
After Osuna began work on the second edition of his book, he contacted Christopher Berry Dee, a renowned British criminologist and author. Berry Dee, who had interviewed Butch DeFeo in 1994 for a TV documentary series called “The Serial Killers” and for a chapter in his book, titled Talking with Serial Killers, was the director of operations for the prestigious Criminology Research Institute. Christopher Berry Dee’s background was impressive, to say the least.
Osuna sent Christopher Berry Dee several DeFeo crime-scene photographs, including a photo of the DeFeo basement. Understandably, Berry Dee was initially skeptical about this mystery photo, believing, as Osuna originally had, that it was a “red herring.” Berry Dee and his team of criminologists, nevertheless, agreed to examine the evidence the American author had sent.
Berry Dee’s interim report of May 28, 2002 read, “We have examined this material as a team, and for the interim period, I would like to give you our immediate thoughts. Ric, in cases such as this, especially where much hype and notoriety are attached, it is easily forgiven if one gets lost in the ‘ripple effect,’ where the waves on the pond lead away from the initial splash. Therefore, I would concentrate your mind on the ‘splash’–where the stone hits the water. In other words, the initial crime scene and the implications of what we can believe to be true.
“We are, collectively, of the belief that you have seven corpses in the DeFeo residence. That you have brought to light the ‘mystery body’ does you much credit. We feel that the odds against this body being found shot, in another room, which is identical or almost identical to the DeFeo basement, are all but impossible. We take into consideration your integrity here and the circumstances of how this photograph came to light.”
This expert criminologist wrote in his report, “There were very powerful influences at work once the police arrived. Mafia linked with police contrived to ‘tidy’ this mess up. DeFeo had his ‘confession’ beaten out of him; the states’ attorney played his role, while making the occasional slip of the tongue en route. And you have one of the most dishonest judges known to man manipulating the American justice system. But why?”
Ever since uncovering this photo, Osuna has heard rumors that the Suffolk County police had been seen bringing in a large garbage bag full of something into the DeFeo house the day after the murders. In spite of the fact that these rumors have yet to be substantiated, they also have yet to be refuted completely. The possibility that this seventh victim was one of the DeFeo bodies returned to the crime scene in a garbage bag—for whatever reason—has not been ruled out. Were the Suffolk County detectives trying to plant evidence or acquire new photographs? The answer may never be known.
Indeed, Osuna did not feel the body in this photo was that of a seventh victim, but rather one of the DeFeos repositioned. Yet, the CRI’s findings regarding the location of this photo matching the DeFeo basement is a significant fact. While viewing the DeFeo crime scene negatives, Osuna noted that there were three negatives of the mysterious victim in two different strips: twice on negative 17B1 and once on 20B2. He compared his notes with the police clerk’s order sheet and found that both matched. On the same strip of negatives were other scenes of the crime scene at 112 Ocean Avenue, including shots of Dawn DeFeo lying in bed. This fact alone suggested the photos were taken at approximately the same time or at least on the same roll of film.
If this person was a DeFeo, then the photo lends further credence that the police tampered with evidence. If, however, this person truly was a seventh victim, then the coverup and ensuing corruption are unprecedented. At this point, this mystery clearly embodies the corruption and errors in the Suffolk County justice system prior to the New York State of Commission investigating the police and district attorney’s offices. Whether anyone discovers the identity of this victim or the reason he or she was placed in the DeFeo basement remains to be seen.
Since Joel Martin–the first reporter on the scene of the DeFeo murders–had spent several days in front of the DeFeo residence covering the ongoing investigation, Ric Osuna decided to show him the photo of the “seventh” body during their meeting. Although Joel Martin believed the body in the photo looked like one of the DeFeo children, Osuna had wanted to learn if this veteran reporter had heard the rumors about the police bringing in a large garbage bag to the DeFeo residence the day after the murders.
Regarding the rumor about the garbage bag, Joel Martin explained, “I didn’t see anything like that. But I had heard some strange stories about that. I don’t know what that was about. I don’t know if they were bringing something in or something out. Yeah, I heard the rumor, too. I just never could make any sense out of what it was. I could never find out the details.
“Frankly, I don’t know why they would have needed to do anything since they had so much evidence against [Butch]. If any mistake was made by the police, in hindsight, they may have been overeager, or maybe they made mistakes in the homicide investigation because they had never had anything like this to deal with in this enormity with this kind of publicity and amount of attention. I don’t have any question that they got the right guy.”
The receipts (two of many) above show that author Ric Osuna paid the Suffolk County Police Department for reproductions of photos and the Suffolk County Treasurer for reproductions of transcripts of the DeFeo trial. After years of inquiries, Osuna was finally invited by the Suffolk County Police Department and District Attorney's offices to review their files on the case.