Ronald DeFeo, convicted murderer who inspired ‘Amityville Horror,’ dead at 69, officials say

Long Island
Ronald DeFeo Jr., accused in the Amityville murders, is led away in handcuffs by police

Ronald DeFeo Jr., center, leaves Suffolk County district court after a hearing on Nov. 15, 1974. DeFeo was later found guilty of killing his parents, two brothers and two sisters in their home in Amityville, New York, on Nov. 13, 1974 (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

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NEW YORK — Ronald DeFeo Jr., who was convicted of murdering six members of his family and was the inspiration behind the film “The Amityville Horror,” died on Friday, according to the state Department of Corrections.

DeFeo, 69, shocked the nation in 1974 when he went on a rampage and killed his father, mother, two brothers, and two sisters while they slept in their home in Amityville on the south shore of Long Island. He was convicted on six counts of second-degree murder.

The home became the basis of a horror-movie classic after another family briefly lived there about a year after the killings and claimed the house was haunted.

A book and two movies — the 1979 original, starring James Brolin, Margot Kidder and Rod Steiger, and a 2005 remake — portrayed a home with strange voices, walls that oozed slime, furniture that moved on its own, and other supernatural features.

DeFeo was serving a sentence of 25 years to life at the Sullivan Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in upstate New York.

He had pursued an insanity defense at his trial, saying he heard voices that drove him to kill his family.

DeFeo unsuccessfully sought a retrial in 1992, claiming that his 18-year-old sister killed the other five family members and that he then shot her.

“I loved my family very much,” he said at a 1999 parole hearing, where he also said he had gotten married while in prison.

DeFeo was pronounced dead at Albany Medical Center, where he had been receiving care since Feb. 2. The medical examiner will determine his cause of death.

The corrections department said it couldn’t disclose why DeFeo was hospitalized, citing health privacy laws. The Albany County Coroner’s Office, tasked with determining what caused his death, said it doesn’t release such information, except to relatives of the dead.

Home of Amityville Murders on Long Island
Police and members of the Suffolk County coroner’s office investigate the murder of six family members found shot in their home in Amityville, New York on Nov. 14, 1974. The family’s eldest son, Ronald DeFeo Jr., was later convicted in the murders of his parents, two sisters and two brothers. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

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