The crimes of Ronald DeFeo JrThe ‘possessed’ man who killed his family and inspired The Amityville Horror

Austin Harvey | Edited By Jaclyn Anglis
Contd from previous issue
In an attempt to help their deeply troubled son, Ronald Sr. and Louise DeFeo took him to see a psychiatrist.
Butch, however, insisted that he didn’t need help and refused to attend the psychiatrist appointments. Hoping to convince him to improve his behavior in another way, the DeFeos started providing Butch with expensive gifts, but this too failed to correct his course in life. By 17, Butch was regularly using LSD and heroin, and spending most of his allowance on drugs and booze. And he got kicked out of school due to his violence toward other students.
The DeFeos didn’t know what else to do. Punishing Butch didn’t work, and he refused to get help. Ronald Sr. got his son a job at his dealership, giving him a weekly stipend regardless of how poorly Butch performed his job duties.
Butch then used this money to buy more alcohol and drugs — and guns.
Despite having a steady job and enough money and freedom to do what he wanted, Ronald “Butch” DeFeo Jr.’s situation worsened. He established a reputation for getting drunk and starting fights, and on one occasion attempted to attack his father with a shotgun while his parents were arguing.
In a 1974 interview with The New York Times, Butch’s friend Jackie Hales said that he was part of a crowd who “would drink and then get into fights, but the next day they’d apologize.” Not long before the murders, Hales said DeFeo had broken a pool cue in half “because he was angry.”
Still, most people who knew the DeFeos considered them to be a “nice, normal family.” They were outwardly kind and religious, holding a “prayer huddle on Sunday mornings,” as one family friend recalled.
In 1973, the DeFeos installed a statue of St. Joseph — the patron saint of families and fathers — holding baby Jesus on their front lawn. Around the same time, Butch handed out statuettes of the same saint to his co-workers, telling them, “Nothing can happen to you as long as you wear this.”
Then, in October 1974, Butch was entrusted by his family’s dealership with depositing approximately $20,000 to the bank — but Butch, ever unsatisfied, felt like he wasn’t earning enough in wages and devised a plan with a friend to stage a fake robbery and steal the money for themselves.
His plan soon fell apart when police arrived at the dealership to question him. He refused to cooperate with the authorities, and Ronald Sr. then interrogated his son about his potential involvement in the robbery. The conversation ended with Butch threatening to kill his father.
In the early hours of November 13, 1974, Ronald DeFeo Jr. stalked through his family’s house with a .35-caliber Marlin rifle. The first room that he entered was his parents’ — and he fatally shot them both.
(To be contd)