Did Ronald DeFeo Jr. Act Alone? Documentarian Says He Had Help In Killings

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It was a crime that gripped the New York area. Six family members were wiped out in a gruesome mass murder that inspired one of the scariest movies ever made: The Amityville Horror.

Thirty-seven years later a claim that new evidence has been unearthed is raising new questions.

Neighbors told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan that they remain spooked by the infamous house.

“I wouldn’t go in there at night,” Anthony Oldham said.

But as terrifying as the movie is, the real-life events that inspired the blockbuster were much more frightening.

“It’s a very tragic story,” said Amityville resident Peter Stein.

It all unfolded on Nov. 13, 1974, when 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo Jr. used a high-powered rifle to shoot and kill his parents, two younger sisters, and two younger brothers, while his victims lay sleeping in their beds.

DeFeo confessed to the killings, telling police that “the voices from the house made him do it.”

Oldham said that the murders were an “open and shut case,” but documentary film maker Ryan Katzenbach begs to differ.

“This crime did not happen the way it is commonly accepted,” he said.

New evidence suggests that there could have been a second shooter.

“We firmly believe that there was indeed a second gun involved in the commission of the crime,” Katzenbach said.

Katzenbach is working on his third documentary about the murders. He insists that he has the documents and the evidence to prove that there was more than one person responsible for the murders.

A team of underwater archeologists, hired by Katzenbach, have found a gun in the canal behind the house.

Aqua Survey’s Mark Padover told CBS 2 that “Once we cleaned it off, you could see that there was a trigger and a handle.” Padover said that the gun was turned over to a crime lab immediately for a forensic ID.

Katzenbach said that this new evidence confirms a long-standing belief that DeFeo didn’t act alone. He needed help to kill six people.

Katzenbach has long questioned the idea that a single person could have committed the crime.

“How could a person walk through a three-story Dutch colonial and shoot six different victims, on two separate levels and no one got out of bed, no one put up a struggle?” Katzenbach said.

Other details about the case, taken together, add up to a second gun and a second shooter, he said. Evidence like a photograph of a pillow case found in a trash can next to the canal.

“We knew that DeFeo had used pillow cases in the cleaning up of the crime scene,” said Katzenbach.

After the killing police said that DeFeo used a pillowcase to carry a rifle and other evidence that he took from the house and tossed it all in a storm drain. They found his hand gun holster but no gun. Katzenbach said that the missing gun is the one that his team pulled out of the canal.

Katzenbach claims that other details from the 1974 police report point to the possibility that someone else helped DeFeo kill his family. Eyewitness reports, crime scene photos, and hand written notes all add up to a second gunman, according to Katzenbach.

But Suffolk County Police aren’t convinced. They say that only one gun and one shooter killed the family.

“People are very creative and the Internet allows them to pull up items that they think are facts, when in fact, they’re not facts,” said Detective Lt. Gerard Pelkofsky, Homicide Chief for the Suffolk County Police Department.

Katzenbach maintains that evidence was overlooked once the police found a suspect and got a confession.

“It’s a very famous case for Suffolk County. DeFeo has been sitting in prison for 37 years now. To open this up and to chance DeFeo getting a new trial, I just don’t think that’s the route they want to go,” Katzenbach said.

The gun is still being examined, but with decay and a lack of a legible serial number it may be impossible to ever identify.

DeFeo is currently serving six consecutive sentences of 25 years to life. Over the years he has changed his account of the murders numerous times.

For more information pertaining to this case, please click here.

Was there a second shooter? Should Suffolk County re-open the case? Let us know in our comments section below…

Comments (15)
  1. john says:

    if you want to go with the story that one person used an extremely loud weapon six times over without disturbing people out of bed in various stages of a house or neighbours because New Yorkers are deep sleepers and super ghost-powers are involved , buy my bridge . its a nice bridge , a good bridge , and for you , a great deal !

  2. michelle says:

    No they should reopen case that means there might still be a killer out there on our streets.The cops should not be allowed to cover there ass like that..

  3. April says:

    Im 17 so you may not take me seriously. But I think they should look into it more. I’d like to know, in the autopsy, was one level of the house shot by the hand gun and one by the rifle? that could show something right there. DeFeo says the voices from the house did it, but what would the other person’s motive be? I wanna know that too. It won’t bring back the family, but justice is important for letting the family RIP, ever over 30 years later.

  4. charlie0212 says:

    Leave it alone it won’t bring back any of the family… let them all RIP

    1. Ariana says:

      I get wat ur trying to say i agree at that butt for the most part ..some ppl like me wonna know the truth ..thers so many docments books movies that might all be a lie …i wonna meet this person to find out did all this really happen or like why did he do that

  5. jen says:

    plus i heard from a person that her teacher say him on drugs walking down the street thata night

  6. jen says:

    why reopen the case after 37 years
    robert defeo said in an interview that i heard from him on tv that his sister dawn told him to do the killings
    plus some jerky girl married him in prison
    leave it alone

    1. Ariana says:

      im gonna tellu like i told that guy charlie i gett it that u wnt every bdy to leave him alone to leave the case alone butt u ppl gotta understand ppl like me wonna knw the trut and why he did it ….ifhe didnt wnt ppl botheroing him then why do it

  7. T.Hayes says:

    I don’t know what happened that night, other than a family being murdered. BUT… if in fact there was another shooter, doesn’t everyone agree that the victims deserve full justice, meaning ALL involved should be held accountable?! No matter what…. we ALL have to agree that all 6 in the same house, different levels…and yet NO ONE heard anything? It just seems too simple. I do believe that Ronald was fully involved, however who can prove he was alone? Who can prove he had help? Now with that said….who can honestly state that if this was YOUR family, you would be satisfied with another possible shooter that has never been tried or convicted? I believe all evidence should be checked, rechecked and checked again in every homicide case. Police and Investigators get tunnel vision all the time, that’s the problem with being human. With sooo much publicity and the community demanding answers it’s easy to want it to all go away, and accept the easiest solution, it’s not always the correct solution however.

  8. Very conservative says:

    Liberalism is a mental disorder.

    1. benR says:

      And what on God’s green Earth does this have to do with this story? I think spouting nonsense in response to stories where that nonsense doesn’t even relate would be the disorder.


      1. Voice of Reason says:

        Most poorly written article I’ve ever read. Most likely written by a Liberal, no facts, just flighty out of context, irrelevant statements. There is an assertion of a second gun, yet there no where in the article does it say a second gun was ever found – only that the original was found in a canal.

        “Other details about the case, taken together, add up to a second gun and a second shooter, he said. Evidence like a photograph of a pillow case found in a trash can next to the canal.” – Yet, the author did not mention what the other details were – DeFeo Jr. used a pillowcase to clean blood. So what?

        Guarantee the author is a Liberal. No facts. No sense. Just blabbering.

  9. nycsewer says:

    Suffolk County Police need this nonsense like a hole in the head.They have a serial killer raping ,killing and dumping young outstanding girls in a prime beach area.Leave the Suffolk County Police alone and do not make more work for them

  10. Larry G says:

    How could a news outlet misspell “victim’s”?

  11. Nick says:

    There must be a delay in posting comments as to when they are uploaded on the site?

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