There are some things related to these issues that point to perhaps why Judge Stark allowed Weber to question the procedures and practices of the Suffolk County Police. Two attorneys, Richard Wyslling and Richard Hartman, had attempted to see DeFeo as he was being held by police the night of the murders. Wyslling’s wife was a cousin of the Brigantes so he was asked to intervene on Ronnie’s behalf. He and his colleague were given the “run-around” by police as they were trying to determine where Ronnie was being kept that night. Furthermore, DeFeo said detectives Dunn and Rafferty had “beaten” his confession out of him, repeatedly hitting him with a phone book. This story seems to hold water considering DeFeo’s condition at his arraignment. DeFeo was covered in black and blue bruises, had a cut lip and his face appeared to be significantly swollen. Far from the condition he was depicted in the photos of being led away in handcuffs by detectives. Judge Signorelli was said to be shocked at his appearance and ordered a medical examination. Three other friends of DeFeo’s including Bobby Kelske also claimed they were assaulted by police that were trying to get them to sign confessions as well, although this can not be proven to any degree of certainty.       So it was that in his own opening statement Weber told the jury he planned to demonstrate that Butch DeFeo was not only clinically insane, but also the victim of an overzealous police department using whatever means necessary to “solve” the case. It would become quite clear to observers of the trial that Butch was well-rehearsed by Weber and gave the best performance possible when called to testify on his own behalf. “I killed them all. Yes, Sir. I killed them all in self-defense.”      Among the defense witnesses taking the stand were friends and family of DeFeo who painted the portrait of an erratic man prone to violence, fueled by the abuse he received from his father. Growing up in that environment had turned him into an irrational, self-destructive and yes, psychologically damaged individual. In many cases, testimony that would support the insanity defense was heard from witnesses who were instructed by Weber to only answer the questions put forth by him while volunteering no insights of their own that might prove to contradict the defense’s position.      One such witness was William Davidge, who was said to be dating, or had dated, Dawn DeFeo. He had visited the DeFeo house on a few occasions and as a friend of Ronnie, was pointedly told what role he would play on the stand. Weber had met with him prior to the trial and told him there was little doubt DeFeo was guilty, but he was going to seek a plea of insanity by fabricating it in court. Davidge was to tell only those stories about him that would support his mental incompetence. To that end, he claims Weber attempted to coerce him into confirming details about the family and Ronnie that he knew were simply not true. In a sworn 1988 affidavit taken in Florida, William states his brother Frank had cut a “back room deal” with Weber regarding his own testimony.     Sullivan, knowing that he needed to counteract this strategy, listed among his own witnesses police officers and detectives who described in great detail the gruesome scene they had observed and recounted their own interactions with DeFeo. The prosecution also called relatives and friends of DeFeo who had a much different take than the defense’s about the source and consequences of Butch’s brutality and aberrant behavior. Sullivan was striving to present DeFeo as a more multi-dimensional figure with a capacity for reason and calculation even after murdering his parents and siblings.      A conviction or acquittal would likely come down to DeFeo’s mental state at the time of the murders and as the trial proceeded, the defense was beginning to lose some ground on that front. The decisive card they had to play was going to be a demonstration to the jury that Butch DeFeo was indeed a deranged man. Pushing his chips to the center of the table, Weber called Butch DeFeo to the stand. It would turn out to be a boon to the prosecution as DeFeo’s testimony, while pointedly unhinged and contentious, likely did more to incite anger in the jury than exact any measure of empathy.     Hoping to illustrate his client’s detachment from reality, Weber had approached DeFeo and - holding up a crime scene photo of his slain mother - asked, “Ronnie, thats your mother isn’t it?” Looking at the photo and then at Weber, DeFeo replied, “No, sir. I told you before and I’ll say it again. I never saw this person before in my life.  I don’t know who this person is.” Weber then showed Butch a photo of his father’s body and asked him, “Butch, did you kill your father?” The response sent a shockwave through the court room. Butch replied, “Did I kill him? I killed them all. Yes, Sir. I killed them all in self-defense.” A few of the jurors recoiled in shock while others gasped out loud. Now it was time to up the ante a bit and Butch explained to the court he had heard his family in another room that night plotting his demise. Perhaps they didn’t understand what Gerard Sullivan understood; that this was performance art and the total lack of surprise on William Weber’s face at the response all but confirmed it.       It was very clear that Weber was determined to establish that Ronnie did not act alone. At one point during his testimony, Weber allowed him to explain what happened the night of the murders. “Well, I remember somebody. . . I told you I blacked out or fell asleep. Somebody came down there and start kicking me. And when I got up the TV was off, the room was pretty dark. All I know was somebody was standing there with a rifle in their hands and the hands that the person had were black,” he said.      “Ronnie, who was that person?”      “I thought it was my sister.”      “Who?”      “Dawn, that’s who I thought it was, to be quite honest about it.”      Weber, anticipating what any juror was likely thinking at this point, asked Butch why he would possibly do something like this. “As far as I’m concerned, if I didn’t kill my family, they were going to kill me”, DeFeo replied. “And as far as I’m concerned, what I did was self-defense and there was nothing wrong with it. When I got a gun in my hand, there’s no doubt in my mind who I am. I am God.” At a later point he claimed the “voices in my head” told him to take the lives of his family. Butch was obviously already sprinting to the finish line with these outrageous proclamations, but the prosecution team wasn’t buying a word of it and it’s likely neither was Judge Stark, but there was concern that the ultimate arbiters, the jury, just might. It was crucial to the case against DeFeo that Sullivan aggressively launch an assault on DeFeo’s testimony.      During cross-examination he immediately derided Butch’s failure to recognize his own mother. Who else would be in that bed? After all, he knew who she was when he he arrived at Harry’s Bar that night and cried out that his parents hd been shot dead. He continued to assail discrepancies in DeFeo’s testimony along with the statement he gave police the night he was interviewed. Sullivan was very calculated in his approach with DeFeo, doing his best to discredit and at the same time antagonize him. He gambled that Butch could not hold his composure through such a contentious inquiry and would either lash out or throw in the towel as he usually had when cornered. He was unyielding in his challenge to DeFeo’s credibility and sought to bring him out of his contrived “crazy” act to show him for what he truly was. Butch might not give a straight answer most of the time, but he certainly had a propensity for violence when emotionally aroused and angered.      Seizing on DeFeo’s testimony that he felt no remorse for his actions, Sullivan asked him if he felt good at the time of the shootings. “Yes, sir,” Butch replied. “I believe it felt very good.” “Is that because you knew they were dead, because you had given them each two shots?” Sullivan asked. Butch being predictively evasive responded, “I don’t know why. I can’t answer that honestly.” Sullivan, wanting to probe a bit more into this line of questioning asked, ”Do you remember being glad?” “I don’t remember being glad. I remember feeling very good. Good.” the increasingly impatient DeFeo responded.      Now it was clear this was not his own attorney asking pre-rehearsed questions as a means to an end. Butch did not know what was coming and he was growing bored and agitated. Finally the questions became too much to bear as Butch was no longer in control of the situation. At one point he snapped as Sullivan had hoped. Glaring at the prosecutor he blurted out, “You think I’m playing? If I had any sense, which I don’t, I’d come down there and kill you now!”      “If I had any sense…which I don’t”. Clearly from that statement, Butch was beginning to outsmart himself. It is often said, mainly in jest and to make light of the more clinical point, that legitimately insane people don’t understand they are insane. It seemed that in DeFeo, Weber had - to this point - a willing participant in the deception, albeit one Butch may have been coerced into only as a means of self-preservation. Both sides still had serious issues to contend with in terms of his testimony: For the defense, it came down to whether DeFeo could continue to stay on track and not compromise their case by veering too far off-script under duress. For the prosecution, it was whether the jury would have the seeds of reasonable doubt planted in their minds by this performance. To that end, both parties needed to introduce an impartial evaluation of the accused to further their cases for and against his capacity for reason.      The defense introduced Dr. Daniel Schwartz, a veteran of criminal proceedings who had testified in hundreds of cases. The DeFeo trial would establish him as something of a “go-to” expert in criminal defense and he later gained national prominence by testifying that “Son of Sam” killer David Berkowitz was indeed clinically insane. Schwartz went right to work supporting DeFeo’s delusion that his family was plotting to kill him. He was in a psychotic state, Schwartz concluded, and therefore was not in control of his actions. Schwartz further claimed Defeo was, “neurotic and suffered from dissociative disorder.” He opined that Butch’s claim of not hearing the gun go off was symptomatic of a disconnect with reality. The murders were carried out with no conscience, remorse or fear of consequence which is a benchmark of insanity and his attempt to conceal evidence nothing more than proof of his irrationality.      If he did not hear the gun go off, how then, did DeFeo hear the family dog barking during the shootings as he testified to? This was no small detail and it was weighed heavily by the jury during deliberations.      Sullivan knew full well these findings would have to be countered as the trial had now reached its critical juncture. At this point Weber and Schwartz had seized control because of this thoughtful and measured testimony so Sullivan had to swing the momentum back to the prosecution as quickly as possible. He still felt he had an advantage though as, unlike himself, Schwartz had spent perhaps a few hours with DeFeo and hadn’t performed the depth of research Sullivan had. In his account of the trial, Sullivan wrote, “The jurors had been learning about DeFeo and his murders for almost two months.  They had listened to his lies and vituperation for days.  Dr. Schwartz had only talked to him for hours.  I would show that the psychiatrist didn’t know the real Butch DeFeo.”      During his examination of the doctor, Weber had been satisfied to ask a couple of cursory questions and then allow Schwartz to dazzle the jurors with his expertise by delivering a lengthy discourse on the profligacy of the criminal mind. Because Schwartz’s testimony focused a bit more on academic generalities and a bit less on how they applied directly to DeFeo, Sullivan wanted to seize on that lack of inquiry and challenge Schwartz on these personal details.      To establish a baseline, he began by inquiring about how familiar Schwartz was with Ronnie DeFeo, hoping to place an emphasis on his lack of an intimate knowledge of the subject. With that done, he moved on to Schwartz’s depiction of DeFeo’s actions after the murders.       “Is this not indicative of a person who has gone to very careful lengths to remove evidence of the crime, that would connect him to that crime, out of that house?” Sullivan asked.      “It’s evidence of somebody who is trying to remove evidence from himself, too, that he has done this,” Schwartz responded.  “We are now speculating as to the motive for the cleaning up.  If you are familiar with Lady Mac Beth’s complaint -- ‘What, will these hands never be clean?’ -- she’s not hiding a murder from anyone, but she can’t live with the imagined blood on her hands.”      Irritated at the condescending tone to Schwartz’s response, Sullivan fired back at the psychologist in a patronizing tone of his own. “Doctor, is that your considered psychiatric opinion?”      By now the exchange was getting a bit factious as the doctor was receiving some push-back he was perhaps not accustomed to. “My considered psychiatric opinion, Counselor, is that he’s not hiding this crime from anybody by picking up the shells,” Schwartz angrily responded.  “The bodies are there.  The bullets are in the people.”      Sullivan pressed on. “Everything that he could get that would connect him with the crime, he removed from the house, didn’t he?”      It was then that his contempt for this line of questioning forced Schwartz into a difficult spot. “What you are talking about is trivia compared to the six bodies”, said Schwartz.      At this point, Sullivan exploded in outrage, “Trivia that he removed the evidence out of that house that would connect him to the crime, trivia that has nothing to do with whether he thought that the crime was wrong?”      “The evidence is there in the victims,” was the best Schwartz could muster at that point. All that was left for Sullivan was to seize on this moment as he began to chip away at the scholarly testimony Schwartz had provided earlier.  It was now time to move on to invalidating Schwartz’s diagnosis of DeFeo.      “So it’s your testimony, as I understand it, Dr. Schwartz, that the fact that it wasn’t too bright to throw everything in that sewer drain all together in one location is significant of the fact that it was neurotic that he did this?”       Schwartz agreed with that pretext, emphasizing that DeFeo seemed to have no clear purpose to his actions and was likely acting out a delusion. It was here that Sullivan referred back to notes he had taken during his interview with DeFeo. He felt a rush of satisfaction, as if the finish line was now in sight.      “Did he tell you about not wanting to leave clues for the police?” asked Sullivan, indicating exactly where in Schwartz’s notes he had this information recorded.      “I asked him about the casings, and he said he didn’t want to leave the police any clues as to what kind of gun it had been. He was not a friend of the cops, and he didn’t want to help them.”      “Okay, now you know why he removed the casings, don’t you?” Sullivan asked with an air of contempt.      “I know one of the reasons. There are others,” Schwartz said angrily. But the damage had been done. He had contradicted his own earlier testimony that Butch was not trying to hide the crime for any reason other than his own unreasoning behavior.          “I have no further questions,” said Sullivan walking back to his seat.           Now it was time to introduce the prosecution’s expert witness, Dr. Harold Zolan who had twice examined DeFeo in preparing for his testimony. Sullivan and Zolan had worked out an effective strategy. Zolan would engage in a question and answer format in which the jury would gain access to Zola’s thought process and follow his progression of thinking right through his diagnosis. It was hoped the jury would reach that same conclusion after having it all broken down for them.      Zolan took the opposite view of Dr. Schwartz in that he felt if DeFeo was a victim of anything; it was of an antisocial personality disorder. He described it as, “. . . people who have a code of their own. People who are grossly selfish and callous, who are extremely egotistical, who have no capacity to experience or to feel guilt. . . their main in life is self- gratification. . . and [they are] both passive and aggressive.”      The distinction between antisocial disorders and legitimate mental illness is that those afflicted are fully capable of differentiating between right and wrong. They are simply compelled by their own overblown sense of self-value and their extreme arrogance. Butch DeFeo had morphed into a very violent and dangerous individual and taking the life of his family was a means of displaying how much bigger he was than they. There was no psychosis in Dr. Zolan’s mind. This was a cold, calculating killer who was responsible for his own actions. Zolan further portrayed DeFeo as a skilled liar and a “malingerer.”      After a few more witnesses were called, Weber and Sullivan made their closing arguments and on Wednesday, November 19, 1975, Judge Stark read his instructions to the jury before sending them off to deliberation. Sullivan felt he had made a solid case for DeFeo’s lifetime incarceration and the general “vibe” in the courtroom seemed to support that, but he would take nothing for granted as juries sometimes operate under with different mind-set when sequestered from the actual courtroom.           His uneasiness was well-founded as the jury returned a vote of 10 to 2 to convict. The two dissenters were still not convinced about DeFeo’s mental state at the time of the killings. The second vote was 11-1. The final no vote was eventually swayed in large part after reading the testimony of DeFeo being able to hear the barking dog but not the gun shots. Shaggy had played a huge role in the conviction of his former owner. The jury convicted Ronald DeFeo, Jr. of six counts of second-degree murder. On November 21, 1975, He was sentenced to 25 years to life on all six counts. He showed no reaction when the sentence was read to him.      He remains incarcerated at the Green Haven Correctional Facility in Stormville, NY and has been denied parole three times since 1999.            AND THEN THERE ARE THE LINGERING QUESTIONS. . .           This was not a case that was ever going to simply fade from the public conscience. It was too sensational, too morbid and too full of unanswered questions to simply be a chapter in the annals of crime. Keeping it alive and thriving perhaps more than anyone was Butch DeFeo himself who after years of incarceration, kept on serving up variations of his story which only served to whet the public’s appetite to finally learn the the truth as to what happened the morning of November 13, 1974. The case would also spawn a vast number of books, articles and documentaries devoted to the DeFeo murders, to say nothing of an even more fantastic tale yet to come. In closing the actual crime aspect of the story, it is prudent that some of the more serious issues with the story be addressed.   1. WHY DIDN’T ANYONE TRY TO ESCAPE?      As briefly noted earlier, there remains the question of how 6 people could be brutally murdered in their own home in a systematic manner but yet none fought back, ran or apparently moved from their beds. Various theories have been put forward with the most often cited being; 1) The family was somehow drugged, effectively immobilizing them and; 2) A silencer was used. 3) They were shot elsewhere and placed in their beds, face down       In response to the first, Dr. Howard Adelman, the Deputy Chief Medical Examiner of Suffolk County, was present at the crime scene and personally performed the autopsies of the bodies. “We did extensive toxicology not only on the blood and urine but on all of the organs that we removed and it turned up zero that there wasn’t anything in their body”, Adelman explained.      Regarding the use of a silencer, there are stories circulating that claim Ronnie wanted to purchase one for the rifle, but such a device would have to be custom-made and there is no empirical evidence that had happened. The use of a silencer was ruled out in large part because a suppressor would likely to have resulted in some type of shrapnel found at the scene, a conclusion supported by DeFeo’s attorney. “The next theory was, well, he had a silencer on it. That theory didn’t hold water”, William Weber said. “There would have been fragments of the silencer that would have been left on the crime scene.”       The basis of the notion that the bodies had been moved and placed in their beds was primarily due to Herman race’s assertion that certain pieces of photographic evidence were being withheld. He maintained that because the floor of two rooms were not depicted on any crime scene pictures he saw, it stood to reason that a cover-up was in place wherein the police did not want to acknowledge the bodies were dragged or carried there and there was unusual blood smear on the rugs from those acts. The reasons for the subterfuge was that either they did not want to take any chances that Ronnie DeFeo would not be charged with all six murders, they did not want to besmirch the name of any deceased family member, or…a combination of both. While DeFeo was not held in high regard by the police and they were likely quite pleased he was going away, it’s unfathomable that they would ignore any possibility of also arresting and charging any possible accomplice among his living friends or acquaintances if proof of their complicity existed.         It has been determined by crime scene experts that some members of the family in fact were awakened by the gunshots, but apparently made little to no effort to escape. According to autopsy and ballistic evaluations, all the family members had been shot in the position they were found in - face down on their beds. Again, there have been theories floated that surmise the bodies had been moved, but no solid conclusion supports that claim.        Because of the positions of the bodies, forensic experts have drawn what they feel is a fairly accurate picture of what happened that night. DeFeo opened his parent’s bedroom door and saw them asleep. Raising the rifle, he fired the first of 8 total shots, this one entering his father’s back, through his kidney and exiting his chest. Ronnie fired one more round into his father, piercing his spine and becoming lodged in his neck.      His mother had woken and began to move on her side of the bed, but within seconds, Ronnie fired two more shots into her body, shattering her rib cage and collapsing her right lung. At this point, it appears that no other family members moved from their rooms.      He moved on to his brother’s room where he stood over them firing one shot each into their prone bodies. The bullets penetrated the heart, lungs, diaphragm and liver of each victim. John’s spinal cord was severed by the bullet.        Next he entered Allison’s room. Based on the position of her body, it is surmised she looked up at him just as he lowered the rifle to her face and fired, killing her instantly. The bullet exited the body, hit the wall and came to rest on the floor.      He concluded the carnage in Dawn’s room where he aimed the weapon at her head and literally blew the left side of her face off. Ronnie testified that Dawn got up and was told to return to bed at which point DeFeo shot and killed her. (Because of the constant discrepancies and changes in his story, this cannot be taken at anything but face value.) 2. NO ONE OUTSIDE THE HOUSE HEARD THE SHOTS       A ballistics exam on the murder weapon determined that it was possible to hear it fired from almost a mile (or 5 blocks) away and on the surface it seems incomprehensible that no neighbors reported hearing it fired that night. While it might seem reasonable that none were awakened by a solitary gun shot, bear in mind 8 shots total were fired at a decibel level of 140 each and this all took place in anything but a home isolated from neighboring properties.      The answers are myriad (if not totally satisfactory) so here are some theories about the lack of “earwitness” testimony.          Neighbors hearing the shots, but thinking it might have been Ronnie “playing with his guns again” or early morning hunters who were known to frequent that area.           A car backfiring.          Not wanting to get involved because of the family’s assumed mob ties.      Simply sleeping through the noise.      The windows being closed on a brisk November night and muffling the sound.           
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