In the early evening hours of
November 13, 1974, the patrons of Henry’s Bar, a tavern located at
the corner of Merrick Road and Ocean Avenue in Amityville, chatted
while sipping their beers and cocktails. To them, the start of the
evening seemed just like a typical one in Amityville: calm and
uneventful. By night’s end, however, life in Amityville would never
again be the same.
6:30 p.m., Ronald DeFeo Jr., known by the locals as “Butch,” opened
the door to the bar and yelled, “You got to help me! I think my
mother and father are shot.”
the patrons seated at the bar was Robert “Bobby” Kelske, an out‑of‑work
brick mason and Butch’s best friend. Bobby raced to his friend, who had
fallen to his knees. Crying hysterically, Butch again pleaded for help,
“Bobby, you got to help me. Somebody shot my mother and father.”
you sure they’re not asleep?” Bobby offered.
saw them up there.”
on then; let’s go.”
got to his feet and called for others at the bar to follow Bobby and him
back to the house. Answering Butch’s call was John Altieri, Joey
Yeswoit, Al Saxton and William Scordamaglia, owner of Henry’s Bar. The
six men piled into Butch’s 1970 blue Buick Electra 225. Butch climbed in
the back while Bobby took the wheel.
Although the DeFeo house was only a block away, Bobby drove frantically
down the street. One of the men yelled out for him to slow down, but
Bobby ignored the comment, arriving at 112 Ocean Avenue in a matter of
DeFeo residence was a large, rambling, three‑story Dutch Colonial home
built in 1925. Because the property was long and narrow, the
dark‑shingled house sat sideways with the front door facing the
elongated driveway. At the end of the DeFeos’ 237‑foot‑long lot sat
their boathouse, right at the edge of the Amityville Creek.
most distinguishable characteristic of 112 Ocean Avenue was its dramatic
front yard. Overlooking the street were two quarter‑moon windows that
looked like eyes, a feature common in Dutch Colonial homes. On the front
lawn stood a lamp post with a sign attached that read “High Hopes,” a
symbolic title of the family’s life in suburbia. Kneeling behind the
sign were three figurines of children praying to a larger statue of St.
Joseph holding the baby Jesus.
pulled the car to a quick halt and climbed out. As he climbed up the
front‑porch steps, one of the other men cautioned, “Be careful! Somebody
might be in there!”
don’t care,” Bobby yelled as he opened the unlocked door to the DeFeo
house was quiet, except for the barking of Shaggy, the DeFeos’ sheepdog,
who was tied up to the inside of the kitchen’s back door. Because the
dog was not totally housebroken, the family routinely tied the animal
interior of the DeFeo home was just as impressive as the exterior. To
the right of the marble‑covered foyer was the formal dining room with
red, velvet‑textured wallpaper lining the walls. In the center of the
room, over the Dutch‑style table seating six, hung a crystal chandelier.
A textbook belonging to one of Butch’s younger siblings sat, unopened,
on the table next to a bouquet of wilting red roses.
the foyer was the living room, which contained a baby grand piano.
Fronting the large fireplace was a pair of white satin‑cushioned chairs.
Lavish paintings and statues were scattered throughout the room. It was
evident that Butch’s parents insisted on the most expensive items for
Bobby Kelske in the lead, the five men hurried up the stairs to the
second floor. Bobby, a regular visitor to the DeFeo household, knew
exactly where the master bedroom was located. As they reached the second
floor, they were overwhelmed with the stench of death.
stopped at the doorway to the master bedroom and hit the light switch.
Before him lay Ronald Joseph DeFeo Sr., 43, and his wife Louise DeFeo,
42. A hole in the center of DeFeo Sr.’s bare back was the first
indication the couple was not sleeping. Dried blood had trickled out of
the wound, disappearing beneath the obese man’s blue boxer shorts.
contrast, Louise DeFeo’s wounds were not clearly ascertainable because
her body was buried beneath an orange blanket as if she were protecting
herself against the evening chill. Behind the bed was a mirrored wall,
which eerily reflected the macabre scene.
that Bobby was ready to pass out, the other men led him downstairs, past
the life‑size portraits of family members that hung on the staircase
Altieri remained on the second floor and checked out the northeast
bedroom. Clipper ships, cannons and eagles dotted the room’s wallpaper.
On the dresser, to the left of the door, lay several statues and
figurines that one would expect to find in a devout Catholic home.
Strewn across the floor were athletic shoes and toys signaling that the
bedroom belonged to a boy, two boys to be exact.
opposite sides of the room lay the bodies of two young boys, face down
like their parents. In the bed on the left lay the body of John DeFeo,
nine. Altieri could not pinpoint the bullet hole in John’s back since
the “Knicks” sweatshirt he was wearing was covered in blood.
other bed lay John’s brother, Marc DeFeo, 12. Next to Marc’s bed was a
pair of crutches and a plain, gray wheel chair. The boy had recently
suffered a football injury and needed their assistance to get around. At
the foot of his bed lay a crumpled‑up green and yellow bedspread and an
orange blanket. This time, Altieri could make out the wound: a single
bullet hole in the center of the boy’s back.
more than he had wanted, Altieri left the room and rejoined the others
on the ground floor. There, Joe Yeswoit called 911, giving details to an
--The preceding was taken
from Chapter One of The Night the DeFeos Died.
MORE INFORMATION ON THIS SUBJECT
MATTER CAN BE FOUND IN
THE NIGHT THE DEFEOS DIED: REINVESTIGATING THE AMITYVILLE MURDERS.
BUY IT HERE