When thinking of a village nestled along a coastline, most people would think it would be the idyllic place to grow up or raise a family. Amongst the beaches, boats and the water affluent families live the American Dream. Often well educated with good careers, money was no object and the finer things in life were within easy reach. Beautiful homes line the canals in the village of Amityville, NY, but the DeFeo’s lived anything but that picturesque life. On the surface, all was serene, but underneath were very turbulent waters that culminated in the mass murder of six people.
Ronald and Louise DeFeo lived at 112 Ocean Avenue with their five children: Ronald, Jr., Dawn, Allison, Marc and John. Ronald, Sr. made a comfortable living working as a salesman at his father-in-law’s Buick dealership. They had the finer things in life: cars, boats, a beautiful home and wanted for nothing, but Ronald, Sr. had an incredibly volatile relationship with his family, often verbally and physically abusive toward his wife and children. Ronald, Jr., also known as Butch, received a good amount of the aggression from his father. In the documentary First Person Killers: Ronald DeFeo, trial juror Amelia Franza, recounted a story from Butch’s early childhood in which Butch was cranky at a family wedding. While Butch’s mother tried to console him, Ron, Sr. “just whacked him against a chair and that was the end of his crying.” That maltreatment Butch encountered as a child continued as he matured and he consequently began to emulate those behaviors toward his father and the few friends he had. Not only did he emulate them; they continued to escalate as Butch began to drink heavily and coupled it with drugs like LSD and heroin. In an episode the week before the murders, Butch’s father questioned him about why he wouldn’t cooperate with the police regarding a theft at work. “"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."” (Lynott) The following Thursday, November 14, 1974, six members of the DeFeo family were murdered in their beds, everyone except for Butch.
Butch, an early suspect, was arrested when his account of the circumstances behind the murders and the evidence against him began to pile up. Dr. Harold Zoldan, the psychiatrist for the prosecution, diagnosed and was able to convince the jury that Butch suffered from antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). Among the many behaviors that define ASPD, Butch possessed many; including “theft, fighting during childhood, deceitfulness, excessive alcohol/drug use, reckless regard for the safety of self or others, impulsivity, and aggressive behavior during adolescence.” (Hickey 86)
In an attempt to curtail Butch’s hostility, his parents lavished him with gifts and money and he consequently amassed a cache of guns. Butch’s temper and his love for guns made for an unruly pair for, on more than one occasion, he demonstrated the...