Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Real Life Amityville Horror

Shots in the Night

In the weeks before the slayings, relations between Butch DeFeo and his father had reached the breaking point. Butch, apparently dissatisfied with the money he "earned" from his father, had devised a scheme to further defraud his family. Two weeks before the slayings, Butch was sent on an errand by one of the staff at the Buick dealership, given the responsibility of depositing $1,800 in cash and $20,000 in checks in the bank. Instead, Butch arranged to be "robbed" on his way to the bank by an acquaintance, with whom he later split the loot.

Butch and another accomplice from the dealership departed for the bank at 12:30. They did not return for two hours, and when they did, they reported that they had been robbed at gunpoint while they were waiting at a red light. Ronald Sr., was at the dealership when his son returned, and exploded with rage when he heard Butch's story, berating the staff member who had sent him in the first place. The police were called, and when they arrived they naturally asked to speak to Butch. However, instead of engaging in a charade of cooperation, instead of at least devising a basic description of the fictional bandit, Butch became tense and irritable with the police. He became outright violent as they began to suspect that he was lying, and their questions started to focus on the two hours he was away. Wouldn't he have hastened back to the Buick dealership once he had been robbed of so much money? Where had he been during that time? In response to their questions, Butch began to curse at them, banging on the hood of a car in his grandfather's lot to emphasize his rage. The police backed off for the moment, but Ronald, Sr. had already come to his own conclusion about the motive for his son's behavior.

On the Friday before the murders, Butch had been asked by the police to examine some mug shots in the possibility that he might be able to finger the thief. He initially agreed, but pulled out at the last minute. When Ronald, Sr. heard of this, he confronted his son at work, demanding to know why he wouldn't cooperate with the police. "You've got the devil on your back," his father screamed at his son. Butch didn't hesitate. "You fat prick, I'll kill you." He then ran to his car and sped off. This fight had not come to blows. But the final confrontation was imminent.

The still shroud of night blanketed the village of Amityville in the early morning hours of Thursday, November 14, 1974. Stray house pets and the odd car were the only signs of life as families and neighbors slumbered. But hatred and savagery were brewing beneath the seeming calm at 112 Ocean Boulevard. The entire DeFeo family had gone to bed, with the exception of Butch. As he sat in the quiet of his room, he knew what he wanted to do, what he in fact was going to do. His father and his family would be a nuisance to him no longer.

Butch was the only member of the family with his own room. His violent disposition and the fact that he was the eldest had afforded him this small luxury. It also afforded him a private storage place for a number of weapons he collected and sometimes sold. On the night of the murders, Butch selected a .35-caliber Marlin rifle from his closet, and set off, stealthily but resolutely, towards his parents' bedroom.

He quietly pushed aside the door to their room and momentarily observed them as they slept, unaware of the horror at the foot of their bed. Then, without hesitation, Butch raised the rifle to his shoulder and pulled the trigger, the first of 8 fatal shots he would fire that night. This first shot ripped into his father's back, tearing through his kidney and exiting through his chest. Butch fired another round, again hitting his father in the back. This shot pierced the base of Ronald, Sr.'s spine, and lodged in his neck.

Louise DeFeo, victim
Louise DeFeo, victim

By now, Louise DeFeo had roused herself, and had barely a few seconds to react before her son began to fire upon her. Butch aimed the weapon at his mother as she lay prone on her bed, and fired two shots into her body. The bullets shattered her rib cage and collapsed her right lung. Both bodies now lay silently in fresh pools of their own blood. 

Despite the distinct snap of each rifle shot, no one else stirred in the house. Butch quickly surveyed the destruction he had wrought, before resuming his massacre of the innocent. His two young brothers, John and Mark, would be the next victims of Butch's murderous sense of self-righteousness and rage.

Mark & John Mathew DeFeo, victims
Mark & John Mathew DeFeo,
victims

He entered the bedroom the two boys shared and stood between their two beds. Standing directly above his two helpless brothers, Butch fired one shot into each of the boys as they lay sleeping. The bullets tore through their young bodies, ravaging their internal organs, laying waste to the lives that lay ahead of them. Mark lay motionless, while John, whose spinal cord had been severed by his brother's heartless attack, twitched spasmodically for a few moments after the shooting. Again, the shots had not roused the only remaining members of the DeFeo family, and Butch skulked unchallenged to the bedroom his sisters Dawn and Allison shared. Dawn was the closest in age to Butch, while Allison was in grade school with John and Mark.

Allison & Dawn DeFeo, <br /> victims
Allison & Dawn DeFeo,
victims

As Butch entered the room, Allison stirred and looked up just as he lowered the rifle to her face and pulled the trigger. His youngest sister was murdered instantly. Butch aimed his weapon at Dawn's head as well, literally blowing the left side of her face off.

It was just after 3:00 a.m. In a span of less than fifteen minutes, Ronald "Butch" DeFeo, Jr., had brutally slain each defenseless member of his family in cold blood. The DeFeo's dog Shaggy was tied up out by the boathouse, and was barking violently in reaction to the brutality occurring in the house. His barking didn't distract Butch one bit, however. Aware that he had completed the task he had set out to do, he now turned his attention to cleaning himself up and establishing an alibi to throw the inevitable police investigation off the trail. Butch calmly showered, trimmed his beard, and dressed in his jeans and work boots. He then collected his bloodied clothing and the rifle, wrapped them up in a pillowcase, and headed out to his car. He threw the evidence into the car, and took off into the pre-dawn hours before sunrise. Butch drove from the suburbs into Brooklyn, and disposed of the pillowcase and its contents by casting them into a storm drain. He then returned to Long Island, and reported to work at his grandfather's Buick dealership, business as usual. It was 6:00 a.m.

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