“THERE IS SOMETHING GOING ON”       In 1974, Vito D’Aurio was the service manager at Brigante Buick and a loyal, responsible and trusted employee who had worked there since the 1950s. He was a man of routine who awoke early each morning to drive to the shop, arriving before any of their other 20 plus employees. Upon arriving, he would unlock the doors, turn on the lights and have everything ready to go when the rest of the staff arrived. On the morning of Wednesday, November 13, 1974, he recognized the dark blue Buick Electra sedan parked facing in towards the garage door. It belonged to his boss’s son, Butch DeFeo. His immediate reaction to seeing the car there so early in the morning was likely a combination of bemusement and surprise in seeing the younger DeFeo getting to work before him, but Butch did sometimes arrive early and would also leave early when it suited him. One can only surmise that D’Aurio may have thought he had driven straight to the shop after a night of heavy partying. Butch claimd later that he had an early breakfast that morning at Sol’s Luncheonette just a few blocks down from the shop in Coney Island. D’Aurio approached the driver’s door and saw Butch slumped over soundly asleep. Rapping on the window, he called to Butch to wake up and he eventually came around, acknowledging Vito and breaking into a slight smile. Inside, D’Aurio asked him why he didn’t bring his father’s car today as planned so it could be worked on. Butch told him he had left the house and forgot to take his house keys. Rather than wake everyone up to let him back in, he chose to just come into work without it.      Eventually another employee named Lucy Burkin arrived at the shop. Lucy, like Vito, had worked there for a number of years and was assigned to the clerical department. Burkin and her husband were fairly close to the Defeo family, at one point attending a New Year’s party at their Ocean Avenue home. She also considered Butch DeFeo to be a very nice, polite young man who was always very considerate and kind to her.  Lucy also claimed she was party to a recent conversation between Big Ronnie and Vito D’Aurio in which the elder DeFeo confided he had received some troubling phone calls over the past few weeks. In the on-line companion to the documentary Shattered Hopes by Ryan Katzenbach, she says, “"...He [Ronald Sr.] would not go into specifics...but he was very worried as the family had been receiving mysterious telephone calls which contained threats." He claimed he had no idea who these calls were coming from.      Big Ronnie was not at work that morning but this did not raise any red flags with Lucy or Vito. His middle son, Marc, had been seriously injured playing football a couple of months earlier with resulting trauma to his hip and spinal cord. While he was expected to make a full recovery, he was nonetheless required to use crutches and sometimes a wheelchair to get around. That day, November 13, he was scheduled for physical therapy and DeFeo Sr. would be accompanying him and likely not be available until around 3 pm, something that he had made clear to Lucy and other employees in days prior.      At various intervals that morning, Butch made some calls home to see what was keeping his father and to find out why his prior calls had gone unanswered. It was before placing the last of those calls from the service department that Lucy reminded him of his brother’s appointment and that no one was expected home before 3 pm. Undaunted, Butch placed the call anyway and shuffled about as the phone rang. As Lucy had already advised, no one answered the phone at the DeFeo residence. Soon thereafter, claiming there wasn’t much to do, Butch announced he was going to head home for the day.       Before leaving the shop in Brooklyn, Butch called his girlfriend, Mindy Weiss to say he was leaving work and was heading over to visit her. Along the way he said he ran into another friend, Bobby Kelske and stopped to chat with him for a bit. They made some plans to meet later in the evening after which Butch resumed his drive to Mindy’s house. When he arrived, he mentioned trying to call home earlier and getting no answer, so he tried again from her house and told her he got the same result. He expressed some moderate concern, but the couple eventually decided to head to the Sunrise Mall in Massapequa so Mindy could visit the jeweler there. It should be noted that under questioning, Kelske stated he woke up from an afternoon nap at around 3 pm when he heard his dogs barking. He went to the window and saw Butch’s car parked in his driveway. He then saw Butch making his way to the front door and so he opened his window and called to him. He told authorities Butch said, “There’s something going on. I can't get into my house and I called twice.” Kelske told him that someone had to be home he had seen the cars in the driveway that morning. Butch left shortly after that.  (Ed note: With varying testimonies, this is a difficult time frame to reconcile as Butch left work after noon, drove from Brooklyn to Amityville, saw his girlfriend, went to the mall with her and then was at Kelske’s by 3 pm. Did she accompany him there or did he drop her off? Complicating matters further is that both D’Aurio and Burkin claim he left work at 2:30 pm that day. Two other people also claim to have been paid a visit by Butch DeFeo that day: Robert Geiger at 4:40 pm, who claims Butch appeared anxious while telling him the story of being locked out and from whose wife he secured heroin. While at their house, Butch made two phone calls: one to his home and another to Mindy Weiss to tell her where he was. The second visit was to Steven Hicks home. Hicks claims at 5:45 pm Butch arrived at his house to tell him some auto parts Hicks had ordered from the dealership had arrived. Hicks told DeFeo he was a little short of money right now.)      By around 6:30 Butch ended up at a favorite local watering hole named “Henry’s” (later called “Cloud Nine”)where Kelske and some other friends were already present. Kelske said Butch ordered a Coke. At various points during their conversations, Butch would bring up his confusion at receiving no answer to his phone calls home. He shared this concern with a number of patrons there that night and further expressed that he had become more uneasy after driving by the house and seeing the family cars parked in the driveway. He went on to say he then stopped and knocked on the door and got the same result as his calls. No response. He told his companions the same story he told Vito D’Aurio about forgetting his house keys - hence the need to knock on his own front door - and had no desire to break into the house to gain access.      Unbeknown to Butch, there were other parties that were knocking on the DeFeo’s door earlier that morning. One of them, Alan Siani was an employee of Prudent Controls, Inc. a pest control company. The DeFeo house was scheduled to be treated the second Wednesday of every month, but he was running ahead of schedule and wanted to come in a day earlier, Tuesday the 12th instead. He had come to the house that day to ask about it, but was told by a young girl of around 13 years old - after he waited while she was consulting with someone inside the house - to come back the following day as scheduled. So on the 13th, he said knocked on the door at 8:30 in the morning but no one answered to let him in. He said in a sworn statement that he knocked for 4-5 minutes with no one responding even though two cars were parked in the driveway. "I heard a dog (”Shaggy”) barking inside the house but no one ever answered the door," Siani stated. At that point, he said he left the property.      Not very long after, a neighbor named Catherine O’Neill pulled up to drive the kids to school. It has to be assumed she and Louise took turns carpooling. She too noticed both cars present, and went to knock when no one came out of the house. No one answered the door for her either. She then left the house to drive her own children to school, but returned later around 3 pm and knocked on the door again. She was not successful in getting anyone to answer her knocks, but she said she too could hear the DeFeo’s dog barking inside. She then called the house at 5 pm to see if anything was wrong, but no one answered the phone.      There was one more person who came forward to say there was something was a little odd about the home that morning. This excerpt is from Gerard Sullivan and Harvey Aaronson’s excellent book, High Hopes:      “Shortly before 3:45 a.m., a barmaid drove south on Ocean Avenue. The barmaid, Deborah Cosentino, worked at the Chatterbox Bar and Grill, a few blocks west of Ocean on Merrick Road – the latter artery a once major route that still winds through the South Shore of Long Island, pocked by gas stations, small businesses, bars and eating places.      But the shrine was not what caught Deborah Cosentino’s attention as she drove down the street. Set against the shadowed block like an electric torch, the DeFeo home blazed with light. All three floors were illuminated - every room seemed to be lit up. The house was dark-shingled with white trim, and the small, fan-shaped windows atop the Ocean Avenue side glared at the street like the eyes of an ebony jack-o-lantern.”      So it was that after he had shared his forgotten keys story at Henry’s that Butch announced to Kelske and everyone within earshot at the bar that he was going to head home again - alone - to get to the bottom of what was going on there and if necessary, break into the house. Kelske told him to do what he had to do. With that, he left the bar, got in his car and drove back to 112 Ocean Avenue. What happened next would reveal one of the most notorious and brutal crimes in American history. One that even today remains one of the most discussed, debated and controversial of our time. “YOU GOTTA HELP ME!”      Less than 10 minutes had passed before Butch DeFeo returned to Henry’s, speeding into the parking lot and sprinting to its glass front doors. He immediately saw his friend Bobby Kelske still seated at the bar and called him outside. In a panicked and distraught voice he cried, “Bobby, you gotta help me! I think my mother and father are shot!” Butch then collapsed outside as a group of men rushed to his side. Kelske bent over him and asked, “Are you sure, Butch? Are you sure they’re not sleeping?” While this scene played out, the remaining bar patrons sat in stunned silence, alternately looking at the increasingly confused group of men gathered around Butch and then at each other. Was this a joke? Did we hear him right? What the hell has Butch gotten into now? But it soon became apparent this was not some macabre prank. What was not apparent at this time was that these same onlookers were among the first to bear witness to the makings of criminal history.      Still reeling from Butch’s bizarre pronouncement and trying to coax more detail from him, Bobby Kelske offered to accompany Butch back to the house to see what had happened and jumped into the driver’s seat of Butch’s car. They were soon joined by 4 other men: John Altieri, William Scordamaglia, Al Saxon and Joe Yeswit.  When they arrived at the house, Butch was still in an extremely agitated state and refused to join them saying he did not want to go back inside.      Leaving him at the car, Kelske and the others made their way to the now unlocked front door and let themselves in.  The house was very dimly lit at this time of night, but being familiar with the layout having visited there on many occasions, Kelske led them to the stairway leading to the upper floors. They climbed the stairs and upon reaching the master bedroom began to notice an ominous stench in the air. Reaching the inside of the open bedroom door, Kelske flicked on the switch that turned on a light fixture directly over Ron and Louise’s bed. What they saw sent shockwaves through their bodies. It was clear that Butch was correct. The body of Big Ronnie, clad only in a pair of boxer shorts was lying face down on the right side of the bed with one foot dangling over the side and a clear bullet entry hole in the middle of his back. A stream of blood had run down the small of his back. It had dried, meaning he had been killed some time ago. A second entry wound could be seen above his kidney with the blood in the same state of coagulation as it had flowed under his body.      Louise was lying next to him with the covers over her. While the men’s initial reaction was hope that she might be asleep or unconscious, it was soon replaced by the harsh reality of her situation. She did not respond to their calls and it became clear that she too had been murdered as she lie in her bed. On closer inspection, a substantial stain of blood could be seen on the yellow comforter she was covered with. At this point, Bobby Kelske became nauseous as what he was seeing and the stench of death in the air overcame him. His friends led him back downstairs where they could process their thoughts.      While Al Saxon went outside to check on Butch, Joe Yeswit broke off to try and find a phone to contact the police. Eventually he found one in the dining room and made the difficult and sometimes frustrating call to the 911 dispatcher. (The transcript of which is on the previous page.) At this point, shock and confusion had overridden every fiber of rational thinking so there was little thought in the moment given to whether the killer might still be present or where the other members of the family were and if they were all safe. Butch had said only that his mother and father had been shot. As that thought finally hit them, John Altieri sprinted back upstairs to get the answer. What he found shook him to his core. Entering a bedroom just in front of the third floor stairs, he saw two boys lying face down on their beds. These were the bodies of Marc, 11, and John, 9. Both were clad in pajama bottoms with Marc wearing a white shirt and John in a New York Knicks jersey. They had been shot at close range in their backs and blood soaked their clothing and beds, Next to Marc’s bed were his crutches and his wheelchair. He returned downstairs and while Yeswit was on the phone with the 911 operator, he shared with the others what he had just seen. After the 911 call, Bobby Kelske phoned Rocco DeFeo who lived at the home of his daughter and son-in-law, Vincent and Phyllis Procita in West Islip. Rocco was Big Ronnie’s father and Phyllis was his sister. When Rocco came to the phone, Bobby only said, "there's trouble down here," and told Rocco he should come to the house. By the time he arrived about 20 minutes later, police had already swarmed the house.      In approximately 10 minutes from the time of the call, Officer Kenneth Greguski from the Amityville Police was the first to arrive at the scene. He pulled up to the house and saw two men standing on the lawn. They were obviously flustered but one in particular seemed quite distraught. Approaching the men he warily asked what was going on, to which Butch replied, “My mother and father are dead!” All 3 walked to the front door where the rest of Butch’s companions shared the news of what had been seen on the second floor. There were now 4 dead bodies in the home, all shot at close range by an unknown assailant. Gregulski at this time entered the house and proceeded to the second floor where he was able to confirm the carnage that had been reported to him. He returned to the first floor to call in to the station and it was at this time that Butch told him he had two sisters in the house as well. Greguski told the dispatcher he would have to go back upstairs as a second patrolman, Ed Tyndall, arrived on scene. Meeting up with Greguski and being briefed on the situation, they both climbed the stairs together to search for the DeFeo girls. They came upon the first door on the opposite side of the stairwell from the boys’ room and entered. There they saw the body of Allison DeFeo, 13, who had also met the same fate as her parents and brothers. Like them she was in the same position, face down on the bed. She had her covers over her and like her mother, her wounds were not readily apparent but the massive pooling of blood on her bed and carpet were.      There was still one more female to account for, so the officers now ascended the stairs leading to the third floor where Butch and Dawn’s rooms were located. As they got to the top landing they looked into the room on the right hand side. It was empty. This was Butch’s room and while somewhat relieved they had found a room that did not contain a dead body, there was still the grim task of finding the last sister. They found a door to their right that contained a small bathroom, but straight ahead was another room.      As they entered the room and reached for the light switch, they too were overcome by the smell of decay and it was stronger here than one floor below. To their dismay, there, covered with a pink blanket was the body of another young female. Like all the others she was lying face down. Examining her closer they could see that brain matter was mixed with the blood that covered her sheets, pillows and nightgown indicating she had suffered a massive head wound. Something else immediately jumped out at them. Something odd. The headboard of the bed was white and it would stand to reason that if she was shot in this position in this bed there would have been blood splatter on the headboard as well as her pillow. Had she been moved? Had the crime scene been sanitized? That was a question for another department though. Their job was to preserve the crime scene.      The Amityville police can only handle crimes up to “high misdemeanors”. This was a felony, a murder, and as such they would have to call in the Suffolk County Police Department. Returning downstairs, Gregurski again contacted police dispatch and informed them they now had six people confirmed dead at the location. Shortly after this, Detective Sergeant Pat Cammaroto and Lieutenant Edward Lowe arrived on the scene. Homicide squads and the Medical Examiner would be called in now and the situation would take an even more grotesque turn.    “EVERYBODY NEXT DOOR IS DEAD!”                Rufus Ireland lived next door to the DeFeos. He also bears the name of the family who owned the original land the house at 112 Ocean Avenue was built on. There is a street in Amityville that commemorates the family name. On November 13th, he was sitting in his office at the front of his house when his realtive, Al Saxon, who had accompanied the others to the DeFeo house, came inside the house and breathlessly told him, “Rufus, I got something to tell you. You’re not going to believe this. Everybody next door is dead!”     It was not long before word spread that something horrible had happened at the DeFeo home. Detectives from the Suffolk County PD had arrived along with officials from the Medical Examiner’s office who began the process of removing the bodies from the home. The DeFeo parish priest Father James McNamara had been summoned to administer Last Rites to the DeFeos and to try and console the grieving survivor. By 7 pm Butch was being interviewed in his kitchen by Suffolk County detective Gaspar Randazzo who was quickly joined by fellow detectives Gerard Gozaloff and Joseph Napolitano. Suffolk County detective George Harrison had arrived shortly before his partner Gozaloff had and secured permission from Rufus Ireland to use his home as a temporary “headquarters” while things were being sorted out. Butch was then taken next door to the Ireland residence as police cleared the house of everybody except non essential personnel. After receiving word of what had transpired, Mrs. DeFeo’s father, Michael Brigante, soon arrived at the house. Police refused to admit him and he was angry. “If this was New York, I’d have been inside already,” he angrily told a detective. “I want to see my daughter before they put her in the bag.” (Newsday, November 14, 1974)      It was here that the events leading to the assassination of 6 members of the DeFeo family began to come into focus. But first, the threads of one story had to unravel. While being interviewed by detectives, Butch DeFeo initially claimed the murders were very likely committed at the hands of a 70-year-old mob hit man named Louis Falini (aka ‘Tony Mazzeo’) who previously had a heated argument with Butch over some work Butch had done for him at the shop. He claimed Falini had lived with the family for a time and had helped he and his father create a hiding place in the house (most likely in the basement) to stash gems and cash. With the possibly of a mob hit man responsible for the killings, it had to be assumed that Butch might be in serious danger. He would be placed in protective custody and taken to the police station after his initial statement for his own well-being while the police would begin to follow leads based on his story. BUTCH DEFEO’S FIRST STORY      In his signed statement to police, Butch said he had been home the day before (Nov. 12th) with stomach issues and was watching a war movie later that night called “Castle Keep” until around 2 am. He then claimed he fell asleep in the sitting room next to his parents bedroom with the TV on until he woke up again at 4am with stomach pain. He saw his brother Marc’s wheelchair outside a bathroom door and heard the toilet flush. He decided at that point to just stay up and go to work. He claimed he usually went into work early, sometimes sleeping in the car (as happened that morning) until the doors opened which his co-workers tease him about sometimes. He said he left work at 1 pm because his father is the boss and he can pretty much do as he pleases. He then placed himself at Mindy’s at 2:45 and leaving there at 3:00. He then called his house several times during the day but received no answer, the first call being around noon. The urgency in this was he wanted them to leave out his pay stubs for his probation officer (he freely admitted to the outboard engine heist) and to leave his house keys where he could find them.      He then recalled going to Harry’s Bar at 3:10 where he drank “4 or 5” vodka and 7-ups, then left at 4 to go his friend Bobby Geiger’s house (where he scored the smack later). He claimed Geiger was not home, so he drove to his house and knocked on the door with no one answering. He said at this point there was no urgency to get in the house because no one was there and if he broke in his father would get mad and “hit me”, so he went back to the bar. At some point he left the bar and returned to Bobby’s house but Geiger was locked out and they sat and waited for his wife to come home. He then left the Geiger house (not mentioning the heroin purchase at this time) and went back to the bar a third time, running into Bobby Kelske there. He told Kelske he was going to go break into the house anyway and left for home.      Upon arriving, he went to the kitchen window and forced in the storm window and screen and was able to lift the inside window because the latch was already broken. He said all the lights were out except for one over a picture in the living room (passersby said the third floor lights were on all day). The dog began to bark as he was forcing his way in but he turned on a couple of lights and yelled, but no one answered. He walked up the stairs and when he reached his parents room he could see their figures on the bed. He turned on the light switch and froze in horror. He described the scene as the patrolman and his friends did and in sheer terror ran downstairs and bolted for the front door, unlocked it and ran for his car, returning to the bar where he shared his discovery with Bobby and the others who returned with him to the house where he refused to go back in and where someone called the police.      At this point, he then makes the unsolicited disclosure of going to Geiger’s house and shooting $20 worth of heroin claiming Bobby doesn’t use it but his wife does. He offers that he doesn’t consider himself a junkie. He then recounts leaving the house at 4:45 am and going to Sol’s Luncheonette in Coney Island where he describes his order of an egg cream and a muffin. He recounts going to Kelske’s house to see him but that he didn’t come out (Kelske said he talked to him from his window). At this point, he starts to offer his theory on who the killer is. From his statement:      “I now know that my whole family is dead and I wish to relate about a man I have had trouble with. This man’s name is Tony Mazzeo (an alias). He is about 70 years old. He used to always come in where I work. Several years ago his house burned down in Brooklyn and around Dahill Rd. He was a good friend of my father’s. Him and his wife came to live with us. He had a key to our house. About two years ago I had an argument with him at work. He used to come in where we work. Nobody could stand him. I told him off and cursed him. (Ed - DeFeo called him a ‘cocksucker’ a high insult among mob-related individuals) At this time my father told me he was a professional murderer and that I had forced him to choose between me and Mazzeo. This was after Mazzeo had lived with us. I never got in another argument with him. Several weeks ago (two) I got held up going to the bank at work. Arthur Belin was with me. Last Friday 11-8-74 I got into an argument at work with my father about the holdup. At this time he brought up Mazzeo.      The way he was talking I knew he had spoke to Mazzeo recently. He told me their friendship had turned bad over me. He told me, ‘I told Mazzeo if anything happens to my son I’ll kill you and your whole family’. My father then said, ‘I have to watch Ma and the kids now’. I have also heard that Mazzeo is a killer from other people. I heard my grandfather (my mother’s father) Mike Brigante (owner of Buick business) say it. I also know that a ‘Mr. Lee’ Carlo Gambino man told my father this. Some of my living relatives are Rocco DeFeo (my father’s father) Pete DeFeo, Rooco’s brother who lives in New York and is always in the paper as mob connected. I have many other relatives.” “I have read the above and swear it is true. Ronald DeFeo  11-13-74      This was the statement Butch gave detectives George Harrison and Joseph Napolitano at the First Precinct where they continued the interview with the potential “mob target” in a more secure and protected environment. Butch maintained repeated emphasis on his portrayal of Falini as the killer and shared the story of the hidden area in the basement Falini had helped Butch and his father carve out that was used to store the collection of cash and gems. Butch was being a very cooperative witness freely admitting to his own criminal record and drug use, portraying himself as someone who didn’t have anything to hide. He further admitted to setting fire to his father’s boat so they could collect the insurance on it rather than pay for a new motor to replace the one that Butch had blown up. At this point, the detectives thought it was an appropriate time for Butch to get some rest, so he slept on a cot at the station while they returned to the crime scene. It was now 3 am.      While this was taking place, the police were doing their due diligence inside the DeFeo house and coming up with some interesting findings of their own. Shortly after 8 pm, Detective Sergeant Alfred Della Penna of the Suffolk County Firearms Section had arrived at the crime scene followed shortly by Deputy Chief Medical Examiner, Dr Howard Adelman. It had been determined by Della Penna on-site by 4 am and later confirmed at the crime lab that .35-caliber bullets had been used to kill the DeFeos. A cursory search of Butch’s room by Detective John Shirvell revealed boxes of .35-caliber ammunition along with the shipping boxes of a .22-caliber rifle and a .35-caliber Marlin rifle. Shirvell at that time had no idea that .35-caliber bullets had been used in the murders and to that point they had generally ignored Butch’s room and had focused on the actual crime scenes. Even more incredibly, the boxes had been left out in plain sight. Granting Butch no favors were his friend Bobby Kelske who referred to DeFeo as a “gun nut” to investigators and revealed Butch staged the “robbery” of the dealership deposit, and Steven Hicks, who told police of the day that Butch had fired the Marlin rifle inside his house. Following that lead, police eventually recovered the bullet under Hicks’ house and found it was indeed a match for the caliber that killed the DeFeos.       
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