As reported by Deadline.com, Ronald Defeo Jr., the Long Island man convicted of murdering his family in a 1974 crime that would inspire The Amityville Horror book and film franchise, died March 12th at the Albany Medical Center in New York at the age of 69. The cause of death is currently pending an autopsy.
Defeo was 23 when he shot and killed his father Ronald Defeo Sr., his mother Louise, and younger siblings Dawn, Allison, Mark and John Matthew in the early morning hours of November 13th, 1974. Defeo initially claimed the killings were connected to organized crime before confessing during the interrogation the day after the murders.
In 1977, author Jay Anson published The Amityville Horror, claiming the story to be based on the experience of the Lutz family who moved into the house following the murders. The book was adapted by American International in 1979 under the same title. Directed by Stuart Rosenberg and starring James Brolin and Margot Kidder, The film would become the highest-grossing independent film of all time until 1990.
The success of both the novel and film helped spawn a franchise of sequels both in print and film. Nearly 30 films – either theatrical or direct-to-video – have used the Amityville title of concept. More direct sequels like Amityville II: The Possession (1982) or spin-off/ loosely based concepts such as Amityville Dollhouse (1996). Recently, a new film called Amityville 1974 was given the greenlight. In 2018, the Lutz family, doing business as Amityville Enterprises, filed legal documents to remove Dimension Films’ option on the franchise from the court-supervised sale of Weinstein Co. assets.