The Murders: A Night of Hell
After a lengthy trial that concluded right before Thanksgiving, Butch DeFeo was found guilty of killing his father, mother, two brothers, and two sisters. On December 4, 1975, Justice Thomas Stark said that the crimes were “the most heinous and abhorrent,” and sentenced Butch to 25 years to life. No other suspect was ever prosecuted for the crime. Officially, Butch DeFeo acted alone in the grisly crime. Unofficially, the evidence pointed to a conspiracy.
Herman Race, a former New York City supervising police detective, was hired by Michael Brigante Sr. to investigate the murders. Brigante had testified at trial that he did not feel that his grandson acted alone in the commission of the crime. Since Brigante did not feel that his grandson had done all that he was accused of, he wanted Race, a licensed investigator and friend, either to prove or disprove the case against Butch.
Race eventually uncovered evidence that showed there were multiple gunmen and at least two guns used during the commission of the crime. During a private court hearing and at trial, Race’s findings were corroborated by the prosecutor and the medical examiner, who was astonished that one man sat accused of being the sole gunman.
During a November 30, 2000 meeting with Ric Osuna, author of The Night the DeFeos Died, Butch DeFeo confessed that, along with his sister Dawn DeFeo, he and one of his friends actually committed the murders out of desperation. This fact was confirmed by a letter written by Butch DeFeo. In his own handwriting, Butch wrote, “…it was cold-blooded murder. Period. No ghosts. No demons. Just three people in which I was one.”
During the 2000 interview, the details of the hours leading up to the six killings emerged. The DeFeo household had been in a frenzied state during the evening of November 12, 1974. Butch’s father, according to Butch, routinely abused his family. After that evening’s tirade had settled down, Butch, his 18-year-old sister Dawn, and two of Butch’s friends proceeded to get “high” in the basement.
Incensed that her father was preventing her from joining her boyfriend in Florida and worn out from the years of physical abuse, Dawn DeFeo approached her older brother about killing their parents. Butch initially refused. After a culmination of drugs, alcohol, and desperation over the next few hours, Butch finally gave into Dawn’s ghoulish request. Employing his two friends, Butch and Dawn left the safety of the family’s basement and headed for their parents’ bedroom on the second floor. It was around 1:00 a.m. on November 13, 1974. While one friend waited as a lookout, the other, with his Colt Python, followed Butch, who had armed himself with a .35-Marlin rifle.
A votive candle burning on the father’s dresser, the second-floor bathroom light, and a military-style flashlight that was later recovered by the police on the brown recliner in the hallway outside of the master bedroom was their only light source (See Crime-Scene Gallery).
The parents were attacked while they lay in bed. Mr. DeFeo, however, was able to struggle to his feet to attempt a counterattack on his assassins. A second bullet struck him dead before he was able to reach his target. Louise DeFeo lay in bed, moaning for help, as she slowly bled to death. A second bullet would silence the woman for good.
Although the original plan called for the younger children to be taken to the grandparents’ house in Brooklyn, Dawn, according to Butch, killed them to eliminate the children as witnesses and potential threats. Butch claimed he was not in the house at the time of the children’s murders, but giving pursuit to one his friends, who had fled the scene, in order to lure him back to assist with the cleanup. Even while feigning insanity at trial, Butch DeFeo never admitted shooting the children.
One can only imagine the horror on Marc’s and John’s faces when their big sister entered their room with a rifle. Dawn callously ordered the boys face down. A clue that the DeFeos were awake at the time of the murders rested in the final position of Marc DeFeo’s body. Because Marc had suffered a debilitating injury from football, he was forced to sleep on his back. Yet, he was shot face down in bed. The prosecutor confirmed this fact at the DeFeo trial.
The next room Dawn entered was Allison’s. Standing at the doorway, Dawn raised the rifle, taking aim as Allison slightly raised her head before looking into the muzzle flash. Death was instantaneous, as the bullet impacted Allison’s left cheek and exited her right ear. Allison’s wounds were meant to disfigure the beautiful girl.
Butch, upon his return and enraged at the senseless murder, confronted Dawn DeFeo in her third-floor bedroom. After briefly wrestling for the gun, Butch got the upper hand and slammed Dawn against the bed knocking her out. As she lie unconscious on her bed, Butch placed the back of the rifle to Dawn’s head and fired. The murderous spree had finally ended, but the cleanup had just begun.
Today, Butch DeFeo has once again decided to blame the entire crime on his sister, even though the evidence clearly supports Butch’s involvement. Nevertheless, evidence also supports the claims that more than one gun and killer were involved in the DeFeo murders. Butch has conveniently forgotten writing an admission to which he admitted being part of a conspiracy.
Although several attempts were made by Ric Osuna to contact one of the accomplices named by Butch DeFeo, rumor had it he had entered into a witness protection program for something unrelated to Amityville. The other accomplice named by Butch DeFeo died on January 1, 2001. The man refused author Osuna’s request for an interview or a chance to clear up any speculation over his involvement.
As for Dawn, the post mortem examination discovered that she had “unburned” powder burns on her nightgown, which lent further credence to Butch’s claims of his sister’s involvement. Substantial evidence exists to support the story Butch DeFeo shared with author Ric Osuna and Geraldine DeFeo.
In Butch's own handwriting, he admits that he, and two others, were party to the crime. Butch wrote, "...it was cold-blooded murder. Period. No ghosts. No demons. Just three people in which I was one." The letter was sent to a producer that Butch was trying to get to pay him money for an interview. The black bars appear over portions of the letter to censor private information.
Click below to access Butch DeFeo's 1999 parole hearing transcripts. In them, Butch blames, once again, his sister for committing the crime alone, which he also admits is impossible. More important, Butch confesses that there were other people in the house that night. The latest version of Adobe Acrobat or Reader is required to view the transcripts.
The following information and pictures pertain to the DeFeo grave located at St. Charles Cemetery only minutes away from Amityville. The first document is the record of ownership (courtesy of St. Charles Cemetery and Geraldine DeFeo) to show that Rocco DeFeo purchased the plot, which has now passed onto his immediate family. This dispels the myth that Ronald Butch DeFeo Jr. has any ownership in the grave. It remains to be seen whether or not he will be buried along with his family, the ones he was convicted of murdering, after he dies.
The second image is of the St. Charles sign that visitors will pass entering the front gates of the cemetery. The third image is of a derelict grave forgotten and dirty until Geraldine DeFeo and Ric Osuna took it upon themselves to restore it beginning in August 2000.
Author Ric Osuna, with the assistance of a couple of donors, had the DeFeo grave professional cleaned to remove the mold and mildew, as indicated by the receipt below. Although wild and crazy rumors circulate the Net, as often is the case, Ric Osuna has NEVER been banned from the grave or St. Charles Cemetery, which, according to the owners of St. Charles, is a public place.
The final images taken by Ric Osuna are of a grave cleaned for the holidays and a semi-recent shot of it during late summer.
Below is testimony from Herman Race, a retired New York City police detective that served as the criminologist for the defense. The testimony helps substantiate other factors of the crime other than the widely popular theory Butch DeFeo was the lone killer. In fact, Prosecutor Gerard Sullivan admitted that DeFeo probably had an accomplice. Although William Weber fought valiantly for his client for adjournment to show other accomplices were involved, the judge, once again, ruled against the defense.
Additional testimony from the prosecutor's opening statement that indicates Mr. DeFeo (Big Ronnie) had awaken during the murders and Marc DeFeo had to be ordered face down before his death. These facts clearly shows that the DeFeos, though all found face down in bed, had actually awoken from the first shots from the high-powered, .35-caliber Marlin rifle.