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True Grue: Ronald Defeo and The Amityville Murders

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Welcome to “True Grue,” a weekly article that dives into real life, harrowing horrors. For the interest of good taste, this graphic feature aims not to be exploitative, but rather informative, and rest assured, there are many different territories that will be strictly off-limits. But for those with a hungry mind and a strong stomach, read on at your own discretion…

For years, the Lutz family and the investigating Warrens have come under intense scrutiny over The Amityville Horror in terms of how much of their experience was actually real. No matter what sentiment and denials can be issued towards that story however, the preceding murders committed by Ronald Defeo Jr. on that very property is as real as it gets.

There were a total of seven members of the Defeo family residing at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York before the fateful night. Ronald was 23-years of age, while his father and mother, Ronald Sr. and Louise, were only about 20 years older than he. Meanwhile, his siblings were much younger, ranging between eighteen (his sister, Dawn Defeo) to nine (John Matthew Defeo), with his two other siblings Marc and Allison, in between. Despite rumors that spawned post-massacre, there wasn’t much about the Defeos that publicly seemed out of the ordinary.

For those who revisit the case, Ronald’s motivation remains unclear. The more commonly accepted reasoning being that of reaping their collective life insurance policies has been argued over ever since the murders occurred, and any suggestion that these murders may have been driven by the paranormal is tenuous at best. The latter argument had been used mostly to tie into Ronald’s supposed psychosis as described by his defense attorney. To this day, in which Ronald is still serving his life sentence in jail, Defeo has yet to close the book on why exactly he did what he did.

What did Ronald Defeo Jr. do, exactly? Despite no evidence of a drugging or of a struggle, Defeo ritualistically shot his family members, person by person. He shot each as they lay stomach down on their beds, without using a silencer or binding them in their positions. The gunshots went surprisingly unheard by the neighbors. Following the executions, Defeo washed up and began concocting a story that involved a well-known mafia hitman.

Ronald’s erroneous stories and alibis soon drove him to admit responsibility for the murders. In almost a year’s time, Ronald was set to trial, convicted and handed six sentences of “25-to-life.” Over the years, Defeo has since changed his story, claiming to have committed the murders with up to four other co-conspirators, one of which was his sister, Dawn, whose idea it was to murder their siblings. Yet the murders have still been presented on screen with a supernatural slant, most prominently in films like THE AMITYVILLE HORROR and SHATTERED HOPES.

You can look at the grim photos of Defeo and his family post-murder below, and once again, be very careful as these are not safe for work…

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Web Content Manager for FANGORIA, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, a graphic novel and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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