Amityville: An Insight to Ronald DeFeo in Prison
Being an infamous criminal in the prison system can lead to many different kinds of encounters.
For many men and women who had their names splashed across the nation after their crimes were discovered this can lead to dangerous and life threatening situations, such as when Charles Manson was set on fire in a California institution in 1984.
However, sometimes these individuals are able to pretty much live their lives like any other prisoner to the outside observer, at least until the cases that made them famous are brought back out for the odd crime documentary or two.
Ronald DeFeo never quite did escape the lime light, not because of the tragic events of November 1974 when he killed not only both his parents but his four siblings as well, but because the house the murders were committed in on Ocean Ave in Amityville, Long Island would later become the setting for one of the greatest paranormal stories ever told.
The Amityville Horror became a force of it’s own in the paranormal world and the horror movie genre, spawning a legacy of books, films and documentary projects that try to shed light on the twenty-eight days the Lutz family spent in this apparent haunted house.
Naturally the house being the site of a multiple murder was thought to be one of the possible causes of the events that took place at the residence and at one time Ronald DeFeo even tried to fit the spooky scenario into one of his many version of what happened that night in 1974.
None the less. there is a man behind the myth, a man who gets up each morning to the routine of prison while serving his six twenty-five year to life sentences for his henious murder.
A man convicted robber turned author and journalist Daniel Genis got to know during his stay at Green Haven Correctional Facility…
Daniel Genis spent four years of his life in close proximity to Ronald DeFeo and recently told of the experience to Vice this month.
Genis not only had the real horror of substance addiction to share ith DeFeo, but also the fact that both hailed from Amityville. In fact Genis told of a dare in his younger days that saw him enter the actual property on Ocean Ave after the murders and alleged haunting took place:
“In 1991, three of us took a rubber dinghy over a fingertip canal to the back of the property in the middle of the night and sneaked into the empty house to look for the red room beneath the stairs, where the devil allegedly resided. We did not find it. Thirteen years later, Ronnie confirmed to me that there was no evil room beneath the stairs.”
Genis notes that conversation with Ronald DeFeo would start out in the early days of their friendship with small talk about local Amityville locations like the best pizza parlor in town to details of his marriage with Geraldine Gates, who married DeFeo in 1989.
Eventually, after gaining DeFeo’s trust, the subject matter would turn to the murders themselves and in classic fashion, DeFeo would change the story as time wore on:
“During my first year with Ronnie, he spun me a story out of Goodfellas. He claimed his great-uncle Peter DeFeo was a caporegime in the Genovese crime family. Some dispute over mob money caused the mafia to send out hit men, who killed everyone except for Ronnie, who somehow managed to get away.
[A year later DeFeo] admitted that he’d made up the mobster killers. His sister had lost it, DeFeo now claimed; Dawn was always unstable and hated the family and ended up executing them all with a shotgun. Ronnie survived by wrestling the gun away from her and killing her himself.”
Ronald DeFeo would also confide later to Genis that his family were ‘monsters’ and that if he had to do it again he would still commit multiple murder.
Genis’ tale reminds us of the multiple points of comfusion, debate and conjecture that surround the entie Amityville story that has taken on a life all it’s own.
– Thomas Spychalski
Special Thanks to Sharon of Sharon King Photography for some of the editing work on the photos for this piece.