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By Sara Netzley
March 15, 2021 at 09:51 PM EDT
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Ronald DeFeo
Credit: Richard Drew/AP/Shutterstock

Ronald "Butch" DeFeo, who committed the murders at the heart of the Amityville Horror book and movies, has died in New York state custody.

DeFeo, 69, died March 12, 2021, while receiving treatment for an illness at Albany Medical Center, according to the Niagara Gazette. He was an inmate at Sullivan Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in the Catskills.

The Albany County Medical Examiner's Office has not yet released his cause of death.

In 1975, DeFeo was convicted of six counts of second-degree murder for the deaths of his mother, father, two brothers, and two sisters. His victims were found face down in their beds, shot to death with a .35-caliber Marlin hunting rifle in the early hours of Nov. 13, 1974.

The murders were immortalized in Jay Anson's 1977 book about the allegedly true paranormal experiences of the subsequent owners of the home. The book was then turned into a series of films, most notably a 1979 version starring James Brolin and Margot Kidder as the new owners and a 2005 remake starring Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George in the same roles.

Ronald DeFeo
Credit: Richard Drew/AP/Shutterstock

During their initial investigation, police reported that DeFeo told them "the voices of the house" compelled him to commit the crime.

Although DeFeo attempted to defend his actions in court through insanity and self-defense, the prosecution successfully argued that he was aware of the consequences of his actions.

The murders were the subject of a 2012 documentary, Shattered Hopes: The True Story of the Amityville Murders, in which filmmaker Ryan Katzenbach argued that the DeFeos were killed by more than one person.

DeFeo, who was 23 at the time of the murders, would have been eligible for a parole hearing in July.

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