This Day in the Law
October 14

The Real Story Behind The Amityville Horror Plays Out (1975)

On October 14, 1975, the man whose gruesome actions led to the writing of The Amityville Horror went on trial for murder. A trial consists of the presentation of evidence to a neutral and competent tribunal related to a specific issue for purposes of determining the truth behind that same issue. The tribunal can either be a jury or a judge.

On the evening of November 13, 1974, just eleven months prior to standing trial, Ronald DeFeo Jr. shot and killed his parents and four siblings in their beds in Amityville, New York. Upon being questioned by Suffolk County police, the twenty-two year old man claimed that the murders were mob-related; however, within only one day of being questioned, DeFeo admitted to murdering his own family members. Investigators were able to determine that all six members of the DeFeo family appeared to have died in their sleep, and there were no signs of struggle.

On October 14, 1975, DeFeo’s trial began, and his attorney initially argued that his client was insane when he committed the six murders. Just one month later, DeFeo was found guilty of six counts of second-degree murder. He was later sentenced to six consecutive sentences of twenty-five years to life in prison.

In December 1975, the house that belonged to the slain DeFeo family was sold to a family with three young children. After only 28 days in the DeFeo home, the new family escaped from that home, claiming that it was haunted by the spirits of the DeFeo family. Two years later, in 1977, an author by the name of Jay Anson published The Amityville Horror, a novel that was based on the gruesome DeFeo murders. The book became a best seller, and eventually led to two separate movies, the original being created in 1979, and the remake being created in 2005.