In 1974, I was not only the wife of Ronald Joseph “Butch” DeFeo Jr., but also the mother of his child.
I knew his family and loved them as my own. Part of my life ended when the DeFeos were murdered and my husband was accused
of committing this unspeakable crime.
After the DeFeo murders, I have had to remain silent and hidden, partly
out of fear for my children and partly out of respect for those who went to such great lengths to make sure I was not unjustly
implicated in the crime. The ones closest to the DeFeos suffered greatly from the tragic murders of their loved ones and from
the ridicule following a cruel hoax.
Until July 2000, nothing could be
said or done about all the lies told about Butch DeFeo, his family and their house; rich, powerful family members made sure
of that. But now that they are dead and my children are grown, it is time to set the record straight. --Geraldine
DeFeo, taken from The Night the DeFeos Died.
Lately, Amityville has been even more controversial than
normal. It all stems from the fact that one woman, Geraldine DeFeo (Rullo-Romondoe were her maiden names), has revealed that
she had an intimate relationship with Ronald "Butch" DeFeo prior to his involvement with the murders in Amityville.
Some may argue that Geraldine is looking
for fame and fortune, but this is far from the case. Geraldine, as reported by author Ric Osuna, waived any money she could
have received for her participation in Osuna's book, The Night the DeFeos Died. In fact, Geraldine even had a chance
to appear on A&E's City Confidential series, but passed instead. And, by no means is this woman on a crusade to
free her ex-husband. Of course, she would like to see the wrongs done in his case corrected, but she is the first one to admit
that Butch DeFeo's own mistreatment does not give him a license to hurt others. So, with no apparent motive to lie, it becomes
increasingly difficult to cast aside her testimony.
Joel Martin, news director for WBAB Radio
in Babylon, New York at the time of the 1974 murders, was the first reporter on the scene when the bodies were discovered
by the police. On Saturday, June 22, 2002, Ric Osuna had the opportunity to sit down with Joel Martin at the Nautilus Diner
in Massapequa for an interview for his book. Accompanying him was Geraldine DeFeo.
At first, Mr. Martin was
skeptical of Geraldine's claims regarding her marriage to Butch and her connections to the DeFeos and Brigantes. In the years
proceeding the DeFeo murders, Michael Brigante Sr. contacted Joel Martin to thank him since he was one of the only reporters
not to disrespect the memory of his daughter. Because he had spoken to him several times, Joel Martin was no stranger to the
mannerisms, language, and nuisances displayed by Michael Brigante Sr.
Over lunch, Geraldine was slowly making progress
by explaining why there was no record of her marriage to Butch DeFeo. Of course, it helped that Geraldine knew all of Brigante’s
favorite terminology. The remainder of Joel Martin's skepticism vanished after she pulled out her old photo ID.
After Martin examined the old photo identification of Geraldine, he explained, "I remember seeing her.
I can't remember what time I saw her. She looked so familiar to me. When I saw the old picture, I didn't know that was who
she was since she had been so sick [in recent years]. I looked at the picture and I said, 'I know her.' I did a double take,
and I said, 'I recognize you.' She must have been in some part of the story since I don't doubt that she was there.
She seems to know a tremendous amount about the story and about the people involved. And she has got those ID cards. I do
remember that face back then, but I just cannot place who she was. I am not sure what she has to gain from lying. Geraldine
seems to know too much, and she has too many details. Clearly, there was some kind of relationship [between Butch and Geraldine].”
Prior to Joel Martin's interview, on
Friday, October 26, 2001, Ric Osuna had the opportunity to ask Hans Holzer specific questions about his theories and books
during a tape‑recorded phone interview with him. One of the first questions Osuna asked was about Geraldine DeFeo. Not
only did Holzer recall meeting Geraldine, but he also told Osuna that he knew that she and Butch had been married prior to
the DeFeo murders.
Even William Davidge, Dawn DeFeo's boyfriend at the time
of the murders, informed Ric Osuna that Geraldine was involved with Butch DeFeo in 1974. Butch's two friends, Barry Springer
and Chuck Tewksbury, wrote affidavits attesting to the fact that Geraldine was Butch's wife prior to the murders and the mother
of Butch's daughter.
Although there are plenty of first-hand accounts and documentation to show that Geraldine had
a relationship with the convicted mass murderer before his family's deaths in November 1974, a marriage certificate cannot
be located. Therefore, even if it comes to pass that she only had a common-law relationship with Butch DeFeo, her relationship
is no less important.
Geraldine DeFeo, who has since remarried and has a new last name, has had a few legal problems
herself. She was convicted of check fraud--an incident she blames on Butch DeFeo--and penalized for harboring too many stray
dogs rather than allowing them to be euthanized. Her critics argued that since she does not have a "clean" record that her
testimony should be disregarded. Her supporters, of course, disagreed, citing more evidence of her authenticity than in comparison
with the supernatural stories of the case.
In fact, Geraldine DeFeo refused to testify for Butch DeFeo at a
1992 appeals hearing, even though it may have helped her ex-husband. Butch wanted the courts to believe that Geraldine's non-existent
brother, Richard Romondoe, an obvious alias for DeFeo's real murder accomplice, was present during the commission of the crime.
However, Geraldine refused to lie under oath and say she had a brother.
What is worse is that at times to protect
her children and her new family, Geraldine has had to deny she had a relationship with Butch DeFeo prior to the murders. Of
course, Geraldine and her daughters, insist that Geraldine only denied her relationship with the DeFeos out of fear. Commenting on this, Geraldine’s daughter,
Stacy, said, “The cops persecuted my mother for information. It seemed to me that they bothered her a lot."
In fact, British criminologist Christopher Berry-Dee reported
in his book, Talking with Serial Killers, that after Geraldine came forward in the early 1980s, she was "threatened,
pushed to the ground, arrested, and released by the police for conspiracy in the Amityville slayings."
For those not
familiar with the case, Butch DeFeo testified at his trial that he also was beaten up during the interrogation. According
to Berry-Dee, the officer responsible admitted to him that Butch DeFeo was roughed up, claiming, "Sure, of course we did a
good job on him....what do you expect?"
There certainly is enough evidence that the Suffolk
County Police Department--during the timeframe of the DeFeo murders--had a confession rate of over 90 percent because interrogating
officers often coerced confessions or tortured suspects into admitting responsibility for crimes they did not commit. (See The Injustice that Followed section.)
The situation in Suffolk County law enforcement had deteriorated so much that former Governor Mario Cuomo requested
the state's Commission of Investigation to investigate in the mid-1980s. Three years after, the Suffolk County homicide squad
was fired, resigned or forced to retire. The commission's report certainly gave credence to Butch DeFeo's claims that he was
tortured during his interrogation.
So, why is Geraldine a threat to so many people involved in the business of Amityville?
Geraldine has exposed countless lies, including her ex-husband's, who has since denounced her out of her refusal to
remarry him a third time and her refusal to help him profit from the murders. Butch DeFeo now claims Geraldine is a fake and
her daughter is not his, even despite all of his notarized affirmations that say otherwise. In fact, the examination of Geraldine's
1989 remarriage to Butch DeFeo brings out an interesting detail--according to affidavits, Geraldine and Butch were married
for the first time in the 1970s.
It was not until 1989 that a federal
judge reversed a New York law prohibiting inmates with life sentences, like Butch DeFeo, the right to marry. However, the
Cayuga County Sheriff's Department issued identification dated July 16, 1985 to Geraldine in the married name of DeFeo. Obviously,
the Cayuga County Sheriff's Department is not in the habit of issuing identification in the name of just anyone. Geraldine
must have had to present some convincing evidence, such as a marriage certificate, to prove she was married to Butch DeFeo
prior to the law changing and therefore warranted an identification with the name "DeFeo" on it.
Author Ric Osuna, during his investigation, took
the identification card along with Geraldine DeFeo to the Cayuga County Sheriff's Department to have it authenticated. The
sheriff's clerk wrote, "The enclosed personal identification card is true and original
from the Cayuga County Sheriff's Department, which was issued on July 16, 1985.”
If readers simply discount Geraldine's
testimony, then there is more than enough evidence to support Geraldine's assertions that Butch DeFeo had accomplices in the
murder of his family, the undeniable Mob elements associated with the DeFeos, the corruption from the Suffolk County justice
system in 1974 that prevented Butch DeFeo from having a fair trial, and the ghost stories surrounding the famous Amityville
house were nothing but a hoax.
Ever since stepping forward, Geraldine has been ridiculed and labeled a fraud by those who feel threatened by her
existence. Despite this hurdle, she has not changed her story. In fact, her daughters, two of which were old enough to remember
Butch in their lives, support their mother and vouch for her authenticity.
have been so many fanciful claims surrounding Amityville that it all comes down on what someone chooses to believe in: A demonic pig with walls oozing green slime, an angry Indian chief
possessing Butch DeFeo, or a woman with little motive to lie? In the end, readers will have to decide for themselves.