Ronald DeFeo Jr., the infamous mass murderer convicted of slaying his family in 1974 and inspiring The Amityville Horror, has passed away. DeFeo, who had been serving a 25 years-to-life sentence for the murders at Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, died last week according to New York State officials. He was 69 years old.
An official cause of death hasn’t yet been determined, pending the results of the Albany County Medical Examiner’s Office. Per officials, Ronald DeFeo Jr. had been transferred to Albany Medical Center to be treated for undisclosed ailments, where he was later pronounced dead on the evening of March 12. A spokesperson speaking on behalf of the State Department Corrections and Community Supervision said she cannot yet comment on the incident.
DeFeo, known to guards and other inmates as “Butch,” was convicted on Nov. 21, 1975, and he was sentenced to six sentences of 25 years-to-life at the time. Had he not passed away, DeFeo would have been eligible for a parole hearing in July. Given the horrific nature of the crimes, the number of victims, and the national attention on the case, it still seems very unlikely that the murderer would ever have been granted a release from prison.
According to police, DeFeo shot and killed his mother, father, two sisters, and two brothers on Nov. 13, 1974. The killings occurred inside the Dutch Colonial-style family home on Ocean Avenue in Amityville. His attorney had argued for an insanity defense at the trial, as DeFeo claimed he killed his relatives in self-defense after allegedly hearing voices that they were conspiring against him. It didn’t work, and DeFeo has been sitting behind bars ever since.
It wasn’t so much the murders of the family that inspired the Amityville horror franchise so much as the reports of paranormal activity that would occur at the home afterward. In particular, the Lutz family claimed they had been terrorized by malevolent spirits when they bought the home and moved in, forcing them to flee within weeks. The authenticity of the reports has been debated, but the stories are among the most popular legends ever told.
In 1977, the killings and reports of a haunting inspired the 1977 horror novel The Amityville Horror, A True Story by Jay Anson. This was followed up with the hit horror movie adaptation The Amityville Horror in 1979, a film that has become a cult classic and one of the most popular ghost movies of all time. It would also bring about several sequels over the years, along with a large variety of other movie adaptations that continue to this day. No less than four indie Amityville horror movies were developed just last year alone.
James Wan’s hit horror sequel The Conjuring 2 also featured its lead characters, a pair of paranormal investigators played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, investigating the infamous Amityville house. Another well-known movie inspired by the killings is the 2005 reboot of The Amityville Horror which starred Ryan Reynolds as the Lutz family patriarch. Brendan Donaldson played DeFeo in the movie. This news comes to us from Newsday.