ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The man convicted of slaughtering his parents and four siblings in a home that later inspired the “The Amityville Horror” book and movies has died, prison officials said Monday.
Ronald DeFeo, 69, died Friday at Albany Medical Center, where he was taken Feb. 2 from a prison in New York’s Catskill Mountains, the state Department of Corrections and Community Services said. The cause of his death wasn’t immediately known.
DeFeo was serving a sentence of 25 years to life in the 1974 killings in Amityville, on suburban Long Island.
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 had pursued an insanity defense at his trial, saying he heard voices that drove him to kill his family.
He 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.
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.