It was 6 a.m. on November 13, 1974 when Ronald (”Butch”) DeFeo arrived at work. For most people working their normal jobs, the start time wasn’t anything remarkable, but Butch DeFeo wasn’t a typical working stiff and his job at Brigante-Karl Buick dealership was one with more than a few perks that came with it. The dealership was owned by his maternal grandfather Michael Brigante, Sr. and managed by Michael’s son-in-law and Butch’s father, Ronald DeFeo, Sr. By his late teens, Butch was handed a prominent position there with he hopes it would steer him to a relatively straight path in life. It was not unusual for Butch to show up to work one day a week or to leave early when he became restless and bored. Despite his sporadic and indifferent presence, his job there was protected and he was paid a weekly stipend of upwards of $500. By this time Butch was also partying hard, drinking heavily and using heroin on which most if not all of his cash was spent. He and his father were at constant odds and their arguments often turned physical with Ronald Jr. usually on the receiving end of the abuse. Despite their dysfunction, Ronald Sr., perhaps hoping to acquire his son’s love and compliance through gratitude, lavished him with the money he needed often and in substantial sums to support his drug habit and intense partying. One particularly generous gift was a $14,000 boat Butch could use to traverse Great South Bay. When Ronnie to quit high school, his father presented him with a new car that very same day. Yet all this benevolence had little positive effect on their relationship or Butch’s demeanor so the bickering and violence continued.      At this point in his life, people who were aware of his reputation or hung out with Butch used words like, “spoiled”, and “arrogant” to describe him, but there was another word often associated with him: “violent”. A one-time overweight kid picked on in grade school and implored to “stand up to the bullies” by his father, over time he lost weight, his body became more defined and it was now he who assumed the role of aggressor. In entering high school he became an erratic, volatile and intimidating bully even toward those he considered friends. One describing him even then as a “funny guy, but a really bad drunk.” It was no surprise he became a discipline problem for teachers and administrators, so - hoping to instill more discipline in him - his parents sent him to St. Francis Prep in Brooklyn where he was promptly expelled in 9th grade. He did attend Amityville High School, but left dropped out at the age of 17. The only consistency in his life was the treatment received from his father whose moods wildly fluctuated between paternal benevolence and an explosive temperament which in turn only served to fuel Ronnie’s own internal rage. A local bar owner, Al Ubert described Ronnie thusly in an interview with the Biography Channel. “He was a punk. All he did was drink, gamble and fight. If you spent any time around him, it (killing) was not something he was incapable of.”      But at this time, on this November day, Butch was early for work.      ‘HIGH HOPES’      The Dutch Colonial-style house at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, NY was built in 1924 for John and Catherine Moynahan. The land was once owned by the Ireland family, one of whose descendants, Rufus lived next door until his death in 2008. It was originally used for farming and eventually sub- divided, with one narrow lot being sold to John and Catherine. Born on the lower East Side in Manhatten, John was a member of the Custom House brokerage firm of Cambell and Gardner, joining the firm in 1910. Like most people living and working in or around New York City, the village of Amityville with its folksy charm, quiet streets and proximity to a beautiful and peaceful shoreline presented a welcome antidote for the commotion and stress of the big city. As a result, it was a siren call to the affluent and became somewhat exclusive in terms of its inhabitants and their quality of life. Like other locations of the same ilk like Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard, it has its share of “locals” who alternately waver between tolerance and co-existence with the rich and famous and eke out a decent living working as tradespeople on their properties, establishing small businesses in town or taking advantage of its natural resources and its close proximity to the ocean. The Moynahans epitomized this profile with John’s successful financial background and yacht club membership. John passed away after a long illness in 1939 at the relatively young age of 61 and Catherine lived in the house until her death in 1960.      There was already a small house on that land that was built in 1890, so it was moved up the block for the Moynahan family to live in until their new home was ready. The house would be built by local contractor Jesse Purdy. Because of the narrowness of the property, the house had to be built sideways with its actual front not facing the street. The part of the house that was would be adorned with half-moon windows on the third floor which drew the eye to their shape and design. When Catherine passed, their daughter Eileen inherited the home and sold it to Joseph and Mary Riley less than a year later for $35,000. The Rileys lived there until 1965, when they were in the process of divorcing and decided to put the house back on the market.      Ronald DeFeo Sr., his wife Louise and their four children Ronald Jr., Dawn, John and Allison were living in an apartment in Brooklyn, NY. Louise was pregnant at the time with their fifth child, Marc. They were considered to be a middle-class family with a decent income and were looking to move out of their small dwelling and into the suburbs and a better quality of life where their growing family could have a yard to play in and a safer, more nurturing environment in which to grow. Ron Sr. had worked in the textile field before going to work for his father-in-law at his car dealership in the early 70s. One could say in those pre-yuppie days, they aspired to be “upwardly mobile”.                Ronald DeFeo Sr.   Ronald “Butch” DeFeo     Louise DeFeo           Dawn DeFeo         Allison DeFeo          John DeFeo             Marc DeFeo      Their search brought them to the village of Amityville where they looked at the house the divorcing Rileys were looking to sell. It seemed perfect. A three story house with a full basement, a boathouse with access to the water, a heated in-ground pool which was unique to the neighborhood being in such close proximity to the ocean and 4100 square feet of living space. As a post-wedding gift to Ron and Louise, her parents, Michael and Angela Brigante, paid off their mortgage, allowing them even more financial flexibility.      From the beginning the DeFeos were viewed by many in town as a bit rough around the edges and not the typical family that moves into a place like Amityville. They spoke with classic Brooklyn accents, were loud, boisterous and not least of all, Italian. Like many of their heritage are too-often unfairly subjected to, residents speculated in hushed tones of their possible connections to the mob, especially because Ron Sr. ran one of the most standard of Mafia fronts, a “car lot”. Nonetheless, those who came into contact with the family say they were friendly enough and eager to be a part of the community. One assumption about them by the outward appearance of the property was that they were deeply religious as Ron Sr. had adorned the yard with various religious statues and representations. Neighbors say they often saw him saying the rosary in front of a shrine to St. Joseph. He also hung a sign on a lightpost - ironically right beneath the ill-famed third floor windows - that seemed to sum up their dreams of prosperity and the promise of a better life. It said simply “High Hopes”.      Behind closed doors however, a different story was playing out. DeFeo Sr. or “Big Ronnie” had a violent temper that was seemingly on full display whenever any transgression - real or imagined - would set him off. The religious artifacts he displayed throughout the house would seem to suggest a temperate and forgiving soul, but despite his capacity to display great acts of love, testimony from those who bore witness to his fits of rage saw a much more conflicted individual. No family member was spared his anger, but Butch seemed to bear the bulk of it. It must also be noted that Butch’s own fallacious actions would trigger this rage and because they seemed to exist on a daily basis, there always seemed to be a certain inevitability to these violent confrontations.      In one instance, when he was still very young, Butch was acting up at a wedding reception as children are prone to do and while Louise tried to comfort and placate him, Ronald Sr. walked over and struck him, knocking him back against a chair. Hardly breaking stride he turned to his wife and said, “There, problem solved.” On another occasion while Louise and the children argued strenuously back and forth about some unknown point of contention - the children seated at the dinner table and Louise in the basement doing laundry - Ron Sr. sat at the dinner table trying to have his meal in peace. When Louise came up the stairs carrying a basket of clothes, it is said Big Ronnie strode over to her and punched her squarely in the face, sending the basket flying and her body tumbling backwards down the stairs. This particular incident was confirmed in testimony by a friend of Butch, Frank Davidge, whose brother Bill was dating Dawn. On a different night in the same dining room, Butch had dropped his napkin while eating dinner and bent over in his chair to retrieve it. When he sat back upright, Ron Sr. admonished him for not excusing himself from the table. When Butch protested that it was a very minor infraction of etiquette, the argument then became heated and then eventually physical as if someone dropped a lit match in a can of gasoline.      Things of this nature were common in the house and would often flare without warning. Attorney William Weber, who represented Butch in court (much more about that later), claims Ron Sr.’s temper was also on full display to outsiders as well. “Ronnie’s friends were afraid to come into the house because they were afraid of his father. . . there was testimony about the father beating the wife in the presence of his friends.” Yet other friends of Butch claim they liked his father, knew him as “a good guy” and enjoyed visiting the house which further muddles the issue. There were seemingly not the typical financial issues that plague a household with a burdensome mortgage and the mounting bills that result in a stressful environment, so was Ron Sr. a physically imposing man with a hairpin trigger and a ne’er-do- well son who constantly antagonized him or simply a domineering man with extreme anger issues whose family bore him easy, soft targets for his internal fury?         At the other end of this spectrum was Louise DeFeo, who was the youngest of her family and was often described as a very gentle person. Louise was a beautiful girl who at one time wanted to pursue a career in modeling. She was said to be very loving and protective toward her children, even in the most turbulent of times. It was during those times however that she too experienced the worst of her husband’s aggressive nature and was not spared the physical aspect of it. It’s been said that Ron Sr. was also very insecure, jealous man and one story has him accusing Louise of having multiple affairs. One of these allegations involved the painter who created the family portraits that hung on the wall of the stairway which took a year to complete and had a $50,000 price tag that was also picked up by father-in- law Michael Brigante. Louise was not without her own critics, however. She was known to sometimes scold the neighborhood children and a neighbor, Nita Ireland recalled that, “She had a mouth like a longshoreman, especially when she was yelling at the (neighborhood) kids.”       By the time he was in high school, Butch was using heroin and LSD and his overall behavior began to become even more volatile. While on a hunting trip with friends, he suddenly and without warning pointed a rifle at the head of one of them. He stood there expressionless with the weapon trained on his friend as a growing panic grew in his companion. Eventually, his friend bolted away in terror. Later that same day he saw the young man again and nonchalantly asked him why he left so suddenly. Irene Reichelt used to hang out with Butch DeFeo at Henry’s Bar on Merrick Ave. who went on to become a clerk at the Amityville Public Library. She once said of Butch DeFeo, “He was a guy who tried to buy his friends. He was always buying people drinks. He used to say his father would give him five thousand dollars if he asked. Always fancy clothes, fancy cars.” She went on to add, “One on one, he was nice. But if you pissed him off, he was crazy.” (The Amityville Horror: 25 Years Later, by Bill Jensen)      Butch had already been in some trouble with the law for petty theft as his need for money continued to grow. In September of 1973 he and a friend were arrested for stealing an outboard motor from the Babylon Town Dock. Butch was charged with grand larceny and was sentenced on December 14th to a year's probation for petty larceny. In April of 1974, a girlfriend reported to the police that he was using drugs, a violation of his probationary status. This resulted in a drug surveillance operation being performed on him that still existed in November of that same year.      As things with Butch got exponentially worse due to his anger and substance abuse problems, the family sought counseling for him after he and Dawn had a physical altercation. This did not go over well with Butch as he insisted he did not need any psychiatric assistance and lashed out at everyone, including the psychologist. His brief interactions with the doctor were telling in so far as he would display the same passive/aggressive nature and penchant for story- telling as he did under even more intense scrutiny in the months to come.     One night, all the pent-up resentment and anger came to head during an argument between Big Ronnie and Louise. Tired of the constant beatings and verbal abuse in their house and seeing his mother once again about to incur his father’s wrath, Butch got a shotgun from his room, loaded the chamber and charged downstairs. He pointed the gun at his father’s head and screamed, “Leave that woman alone. I’m going to kill you, you fat fuck! This is it!” He then pulled the trigger but the gun miraculously did not fire. His father stood there, frozen in fear and stunned at what had just transpired. On his own part, Butch simply lowered the weapon and walked calmly out of the room. While this certainly defused the situation, it was also a grim foreshadowing of things yet to come.        After this brush with death, it is said that Ronald Sr. and Louise made a trip (pilgrimage?) to St., Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, Quebec. It is further speculated that Ronald DeFeo Sr. acquired some religious statuary for the yard of the house from this trip. Ed Warren in a History’s Mysteries interview in 2000 said that Mr. DeFeo had visited the shrine shortly after the shotgun incident between Butch and himself because he felt there was some level of divine intervention involved in sparing his life. Ed Warren made the claim in that same interview that a priest from St. Joseph’s was asked to make the trip to Amityville to bless the house in May of 1974. (Another version has this as a request for an exorcism!). A query to St. Joseph’s by the History’s Mysteries producers seeking confirmation of this request was met with a written denial from the Oratory that they had any involvement in a blessing or mass performed in Amityville.     A mere two weeks before his early November 13th arrival at work, Butch was charged with making a $20,000 deposit from the dealership at a local bank. Already not satisfied with his take home pay or whatever cash he could coerce out of his father and needing money to support his drug and alcohol binges, he devised a scheme to steal the money. To do so he enlisted the help of another dealership employee, Arthur Belin, to pull off the faux heist and split the money between them. They left for the bank at 12:30 pm and returned two hours later with a fantastic tale of being held up at gunpoint at a stop light. Big Ronnie was beside himself, but rather than question the story, he lit into the individual who had sent them on this errand. When the police were called to the dealership to get details of the “robbery”, Butch concocted a detailed description of the thief, but true to form he soon began to get irritated and confrontational with the detectives pressing him for details. Beginning to suspect they were dealing with an inside job, they started to ask questions about the two hour gap between them leaving the job and their return after the alleged hold up. Butch began to become even more irritated when they asked why they didn’t just return immediately after the robbery. Flying into a rage he began to yell obscenities at the cops and started banging on the hood of a car to emphasize his indignation over their line of questioning. The cops stood down at that point, but by now Big Ronnie was all but convinced his son had made the whole thing up. On November 11, 1974, two days prior to his early arrival at work, Butch was expected at the police station to look over some mug shots to try and identify the man who robbed them. At the last minute, he declined to appear. Incensed, Ron Sr. confronted Butch at work and demanded to know why he had a change of heart. A shouting match ensued with Butch swearing at his father and threatening to kill him. He then jumped into his car and sped off. That might have ended that particular episode, but the worst was yet to come. “HOW MANY BODIES ARE THERE?”           Operator: "Suffolk County Police. May I help you?" Man: "Hah?" Operator: This is Suffolk County Police. May I help you?" Man: "We have a shooting here. Uh, DeFeo." Operator: "Sir, what is your name?" Man: "Joey Yeswit." Operator: "Can you spell that?" Man: "Yeah. Y-E-S W I T." Operator: "Y-E-S-W. . Man: "Hah?" Operator: "Y-E-S . . Man: "Y-E-S-W-I-T." Operator: ". . . W-I-T. Your phone number?" Man: "I don't even know if it's here. There's, uh, I don't have a phone number here." Operator: "Okay, where you calling from?" Man: "It's in Amityville. Call up the Amityville Police, and it's right off, uh . . ." Man: "Ocean Avenue in Amityville." Operator: "Austin?" Man:  "Ocean Avenue. What the ... ?" Operator: "Ocean ... Avenue? Offa where?" Man: "It's right off Merrick Road. Ocean Avenue." Operator: "Merrick Road. What's ... what's the problem, Sir?" Man: "It's a shooting!" Operator: "There's a shooting. Anybody hurt?" Man: "Hah?" Operator: "Anybody hurt?" Man: "Yeah, it's uh, uh-everybody's dead." Operator: "Whattaya mean, everybody's dead?" Man: "I don't know what happened. Kid come running in the bar. He says everybody in the family was killed, and we came down here." Operator: "Hold on a second, Sir." (Police Officer now takes over call) Police Officer: "Hello." Man: "Hello." Police Officer: "What's your name?" Man: "My name is Joe Yeswit." Police Officer: "George Edwards?" Man: "Joe Yeswit." Police Officer: "How do you spell it?" Man: "What? I just ... How many times do I have to tell you? Y-E-S-W-I-T." Police Officer: "Where're you at?" Man: "I'm on Ocean Avenue. Police Officer: "What number?" Man: "I don't have a number here. There's no number on the phone. " Police Officer: "What number on the house?" Man: "I don't even know that." Police Officer: "Where're you at? Ocean Avenue and what?" Man: "In Amityville. Call up the Amityville Police and have someone come down here. They know the family." Police Officer: "Amityville." Man: "Yeah. Amityville." Police Officer: "Okay. Now, tell me what's wrong." Man: "I don't know. Guy come running in the bar. Guy come running in the bar and said there-his mother and father are shot. We ran down to his house and everybody in the house is shot. I don't know how long, you know. So, uh . . ." Police Officer: "Uh, what's the add ... what's the address of the house?" Man: "Uh, hold on. Let me go look up the number. All right. Hold on." Man: "Hello. Hello?" Police Officer: "Yes." Man: "One-twelve Ocean Avenue, Amityville." Police Officer: "One-what?" Man: "One-twelve Ocean Avenue, Amityville." Police Officer: "Is that Amityville or North Amityville?" Man: "Amityville. Right on ... south of Merrick Road." Police Officer: "Is it right in the village limits?" Man: "No, it's uh ... you know where the high school is?" Police Officer: "Yeah." Man: "It's in the village limits, yeah." Police Officer: "Yeah. That's the village limits, right?" Man: "Yeah." Police Officer: "Eh, okay, what's your phone number?" Man: "I don't even have one. There's no number on the phone. " Police Officer: "All right, where're you calling from? Public phone?" Man: "No, I'm calling right from the house, because I don't see a number on the phone." Police Officer: "You're at the house itself?" Man: "Yeah." Police Officer: "How many bodies are there?" Man: "I think, uh, I don't know-uh, I think they said four." Police Officer: "There's four?" (They hadn't found the girls, yet) Man: "Yeah." Police Officer: "Alright, you stay right there at the house, and I'll call the Amityville Village P.D., and they'll come down." Man: "Okay."
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