2012 documentary

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SATURDAY NIGHT SHOCKER: The Amityville Horror, Part 2

SATURDAY NIGHT SHOCKER: The Amityville Horror, Part 2

Part two of a special two-part Saturday Night Shocker: The Amityville Horror

On November 13th, 1974, Butch DeFeo arrived Henry's Bar, saying he was locked out of his house and couldn't get back in or get in touch with anyone in his family. He and several friends went back to the house and Butch broke a window to get inside. He found his parents and younger brothers and sisters all shot to death in their beds.
The authorities arrived. The bodies were taken away and the police tried to console the distraught Butch. He said he would do anything he could to help and speculated that he thought a man named Louis Falini was responsible. Butch said Falini, who supposedly had ties to the mob, had a falling out with Ronald and was heard threatening the DeFeo family. Butch went to the police station, mostly for his own protection, while the police continued to analyze the crime scene. The longer Butch was questioned, the more inconsistencies crept up in his story. Finally, he confessed to killing his family.
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Eric Walter (Inset: Danny Lutz)
Then Butch started changing his story. He said that Louis Falini and others came into the house and made him watch as they shot his family. After that, he said he and some friends, including Bobby Kelske, had been caught by Ronald searching for his stash of money. One of Butch's friends shot his father and then killed the rest of the family to cover it up. Another version of the story had Butch and Dawn planning to kill the family together. Butch shot Ronald and Dawn shot Louise; Butch left the house, came back to find that Dawn had killed the children and he killed her in a fit of rage. Butch's relatives also tried to intervene, saying the confession had been coerced by police brutality and that his rights had been violated when he was denied the legal counsel of a family friend who was a lawyer.
Butch DeFeo's trial for the murder of his six family members began in October of 1975. His lawyer, William Weber, tenaciously pursued an insanity defense. He claimed Butch heard voices and that those voices eventually made him kill his family, even manifesting as a pair of black hands that gave him the gun. Howard Zolan, the psychiatrist who examined Butch, claimed that he had an antisocial personality disorder but did know what he was doing and was legally competent. There was also testimony from cellmates and guards where Butch was being held who heard him say he killed his family and say that he knew how to feign insanity well enough to be acquitted.
Ronald "Butch" DeFeo Jr. was found guilty of six counts of murder on November 21st, 1975. He was sentenced to life in prison.
After the loss in court, William Weber contacted acquaintances George and Kathy Lutz. They had a few glasses of wine and discussed things like the Lutz's interest in the occult and transcendental meditation. They concocted a plan that started when the couple bought the DeFeo house and has never really ended.
After they fled the house, George and Kathy Lutz contacted Laura Didio, a reporter from a local news station, with their story and she put them in touch with paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens did a walk-through of the house with several people from a psychical research institute and claimed to feel negative supernatural energies due to the property's history. They said the land had been used by the Shinnecock Indians as an asylum for their ill and insane. The house had also been owned by a man named John Ketchum, a practicing warlock who fled persecution in the Salem Witch Trials. The Warrens alleged that Butch practiced black magic, which may have turned him into a conduit for the spirits that possessed him and made him murder his family. Butch backs up the claims in his letters to Long Island-based medium Jackie Barrett, mentioning that he attended more than one black mass when he was a teenager.
George and Kathy contacted author Jay Anson, who turned their story into his book The Amityville Horror. The book and subsequent movie, starring Jame Brolin and Margot Kidder, were wildly successful. As William Weber had hoped, his plan did generate some attention for Butch but didn't get his sentence reexamined and he couldn't even profit from the media franchise. Instead of monetary compensation, Butch had notoriety inside prison as well as outside. He wrote to Jackie Barrett that he fought off an attack from the "Son of Sam" killer David Berkowitz when he and Berkowitz were in the same correctional facility and that he was also approached by people who bribed him to kill Berkowitz.
He was interviewed by renowned paranormal researcher Hans Holzer. Holzer reiterated the Warren's story about possession and spirits of Native Americans tied to the property. He wrote a book based on the DeFeo family and their murder, the basis for the movie Amityville 2: The Possession. Holzer's book was a fairly accurate portrayal of the malicious and domineering father and subservient mother who couldn't remove her children from the abusive environment. He even included the incident where Butch pointed a rifle to his father's head to make him stop beating his mother. Holzer took a huge liberty with the story, however, when he added the element of incest between the two oldest siblings. Butch has said his sister was his co-conspirator or that she committed some of the murders on her own but insists that they never had an incestuous relationship.
The Lutzes didn't deny any of what they said happened to them in the house, despite William Weber's claim that it was a story they fabricated together. The Lutzes sued Weber, as well as Paul Hoffman, who was originally going to write the book about the haunting, and others for invasion of privacy and mental distress. The claims were all dismissed for lack of evidence but George and Kathy never wavered in their accounts of things like unexplained loud noises and doors being ripped off the hinges. Neighbors report never hearing the noises George mentioned and the next owners of the house, the Cromartys, said that all of the doors had their original hardware and they never encountered anything supernatural. Nevertheless, George and Kathy Lutz believed their story so strongly they were able to take polygraph tests that showed no evidence of lying. Despite telling Laura Didio that he "didn't want publicity," George Lutz would introduce himself as "the Amityville guy." George and Kathy went on a year-long promotional tour and left Danny in a monastery school where, in his 2012 documentary My Amityville Horror, Danny says the priests tried to perform exorcisms on him because they thought he was possessed by evil spirits.
Daniel Lutz comes off as abrasive and troubled. The documentary shows him going to therapy but being defensive when talking to his therapist. Her asks her about the most traumatic thing she's ever experienced to gauge whether she can understand what he has been through. He insists that everything happened just as it did in his parents' book.
Daniel's dislike of George Lutz is evident whenever he mentions his stepfather. The strained family relationships didn't withstand the publicity of the Amityville horror; Danny left home in his teens and George and Kathy divorced in the early 80s, which he says was the best thing his mother ever did. Daniel's siblings declined to be interviewed and he doesn't mention them. Despite the turbulence the claims of the haunting brought to his childhood, he interacts amiably with Laura Didio and Lorraine Warren when filmed with them in the documentary. Lorraine suggests leading Daniel and the film crew in a prayer over religious artifact she has on a necklace. Daniel beholds the article reverently but reacts with hostility upon finding out that one of the crew members present isn't actually a believer. At the end of the documentary, the director asks if Daniel was ever approached about taking a lie detector test. He says, angrily and indignantly, that many people have suggested that but doesn't say if he took one. The implication is that, unlike his parents, he doesn't know if he would pass a polygraph.
The story of "America's most famous haunting" is built on a foundation of lies and omissions of truth. The specters were abusive and selfish parents. The witnesses are people with reputations to protect. The restless spirits are the memories of the deceased and the troubled people still struggling with the legacy of 112 Ocean Avenue.
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Ronald Joseph "Butch" DeFeo Jr.
Posted by Laura D. James in BRUTAL REALITY, PARANORMAL, 0 comments