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In 1974, Ronald DeFeo killed his entire family, including his parents, brothers and sisters, while they were sleeping in their beds.
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Despite having a comfortable childhood in Amityville, New York, Ronald DeFeo grew up emotionally troubled. One night in 1974, he murdered his entire family as they slept. The murders were popularized in several novels and films, including The Amityville Horror: A True Story.
Ronald "Butch" DeFeo Jr. was born on September 26, 1951, in Amityville, New York. Ronald DeFeo was the oldest of four children born to Ronald and Louise DeFeo, a successful car salesman and his wife. Ronald, Sr. worked at his father-in-law's Brooklyn Buick dealership, and provided the family with a comfortable, upper middle-class lifestyle. But he also served as a domineering authority figure, and engaged in hot-tempered fights with his wife and children. The most frequent target of abuse was their eldest child, Butch, of whom much was expected. It only got worse at school, where the overweight and brooding boy was the victim of relentless taunting from his classmates.
As Butch matured, he began lashing out physically against his father, as well as his few friends. His concerned family took him to a psychiatrist, but the visits didn't sit well with Butch, who denied that he needed help. The trips to the doctor stopped, and in their place the DeFeos used the incentive of cash and presents—including a $14,000 speedboat—in the hopes that the gifts would placate their troubled son. But the new tactic only made the problems worse; by the age of 17, Butch had become an LSD and heroin user, and was expelled from school for his violent outbursts.
In spite of his academic setbacks, the DeFeos continued to reward their son. At the age of 18, Butch received a prized position at his grandfather's car dealership, with little to no expectations. He also earned a weekly stipend from his father, regardless of his attendance or job performance at work. Butch funneled this salary into his new car—another present from his parents—as well as guns, alcohol and drugs.
Butch DeFeo's strange behavior seemed only to increase with time. He threatened a friend with a rifle during a hunting trip then, later that day, acted as if nothing happened. He also attempted to shoot his father with a 12-guage shotgun during a fight between his parents. Butch pulled the trigger at point-blank range, but the gun malfunctioned. His surprised father ended the argument, but was left stunned by the confrontation. The incident foreshadowed the more violent events to come.
In 1974, Butch, feeling irritated by what he believed a meager salary, plotted methods for embezzling money from the car dealership. In late October, the dealership entrusted DeFeo with the responsibility of depositing more than $20,000 to the bank. Butch planned a mock robbery with a friend, agreeing to split the money evenly with his accomplice. The plan went off without a hitch until police came to the dealership to question DeFeo. Instead of calmly answering the officers' questions, Butch exploded into rage.
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