Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Real Life Amityville Horror

Frantic Phone Call

The Amityville murders - Removing the bodies (CORBIS)
The Amityville murders - Removing
the bodies (CORBIS)

It was another routine evening at the Suffolk County, NY, emergency dispatch switchboard. Calls had not been pouring in, and anyway, this placid New York City suburb scarcely had any crime to complain of, at least by City standards. Suddenly, at 6:35 p. m., the calm was destroyed by a phone call that would shatter the safe suburban aura that pervaded the county. Transcripts from the conversation demonstrate the caller's rattled composure as he tried to relate to an operator the horrifying scene he and his friends had been led to:

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 . .
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 . . . 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. 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: "It's in the village limits, 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?"
Man: "Yeah."
Police Officer: "All right, you stay right there at the house, and I'll call the Amityville Village P.D., and they'll come down."

By the end of the evening, police investigators would find an additional two bodies, bringing the Ocean Avenue death toll to six. Six of seven members of the Ronald DeFeo family had been methodically murdered as they slept in their beds, leaving Ronald DeFeo, Jr., as the sole survivor of the grisly suburban bloodbath.

 

 

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