High Hopes

Ronald DeFeo, Sr., had attained a trophy-size piece of the American dream when he purchased the house at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, Long Island. Having been born and raised in Brooklyn, Ronald had worked hard in his father-in-law’s Brooklyn Buick dealership, and after many years began to reap rich benefits. Money was no longer a concern when he finally made the decision to leave the City and move to Long Island. The home he chose was a classic piece of Americana, two stories plus an attic, several rooms, and a boathouse on the Amityville River. There was plenty of room for him, his wife Louise; and four children. A signpost in the front yard read "High Hopes," a testament to what the new home had symbolized for the DeFeos.

But beneath the veneer of success and happiness, Ronald was a hot-tempered man, given to bouts of rage and violence. There were stormy fights between him and Louise, and he loomed before his children as a demanding authority figure. As the eldest child, Ronald, Jr., bore the brunt of his father’s temper and expectations. As a young boy, Ronald, Jr., or Butch as he would come to be called, was overweight and sullen, the victim of schoolyard taunts and unpopular with other children. His father encouraged him to stick up for himself, but while his advice pertained to the treatment of schoolyard bullies, it apparently did not apply to how young Ronald was treated at home. Ronald, Sr., had no tolerance for backtalk and disobedience, keeping his eldest son on a short leash, and refusing to let him stand up for himself the way he was commanded to at school.

As Butch matured into adolescence, he gained in size and strength, and was no longer a sitting duck for his father’s abuse. Shouting matches often degenerated into boxing matches, as father and son came to blows with little provocation. While Ronald, Sr. was not highly skilled in the art of interpersonal relations, he was astute enough to realize that his son’s bouts of temper and violent behavior were highly irregular, even in relation to his own. He and his wife arranged for their son to visit a psychiatrist, but to no avail as Butch simply employed a passive-aggressive stance with his therapist, and rejected any notion that he himself needed help.

In the absence of any other solution, the DeFeos employed a time-honored strategy for placating unruly children: they started buying Butch anything he wanted and giving him money. At the age of 14, his father presented him with a $14,000 speedboat to cruise the Amityville River. Whenever Butch wanted money, all he had to do was ask, and if he wasn’t in the mood to ask, he simply took it.

By the age of 17, Butch was forced to leave the parochial school he was attending. By this time he had begun using serious drugs such as heroin and LSD and had also started dabbling in petty thievery schemes. His violent behavior was becoming increasingly psychotic as well.

Altercations with his father were growing ever more frequent and correspondingly more violent. One evening, a fight broke out between Mr. and Mrs. DeFeo. In order to settle the matter, Butch grabbed a 12-gauge shotgun from his room, loaded a shell into the chamber, and charged downstairs to the scene of the altercation. Without hesitating or calling out to break up the fight, Butch pointed the barrel of the gun at his father’s face, yelling, "Leave that woman alone. I’m going to kill you, you fat fuck! This is it." Butch pulled the trigger, but the gun mysteriously did not go off. Ronald, Sr. froze in place and watched in grim amazement as his own son lowered the gun and simply walked out of the room with casual indifference to the fact that he had almost killed his father in cold blood. That fight was over, but Butch’s actions foreshadowed the violence he would soon unleash not only upon his father, but his entire family.

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. Ronald Sr. came to his own conclusions with regards to the incident, confronting his son on the matter. "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.

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.

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.

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.

"As far as I’m concerned, if I didn’t kill my family, they were going to kill me. 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."

Excerpted From TruTV

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2 Comments

  1. Bushwick is Beautiful
    Posted December 31, 2009 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    wow

  2. Kneiv
    Posted December 31, 2009 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Fantastic story – I really look forward to your posts. Happy New Year and please keep them coming next year.