Divers hired by a documentary film crew found a gun in the canal behind the infamous Amityville Horror house, adding to a filmmaker’s suspicion that Ronald “Butch” Defeo did not act alone in killing his family nearly 40 years ago.
“We found a pistol that we believe could have been connected with the DeFeo killings in 1974,” Ryan Katzenbach, writer/director of “Shattered Hope,” told the Press.
Island Diving found the firearm in mid-December. Bill Pfeiffer, the owner of the commercial diving company, started the dive after he was contacted by Katco Media, a Los Angeles-based film production company.
Defeo is serving life in prison after he was convicted of fatally shooting his parents and four younger siblings as they slept in their Amityville home. Before, during and after the trial he gave countless contradicting statements, one alleging that his sister Dawn killed his family and he, in turn, killed her.
The house on Ocean Avenue gained notoriety when the next occupants, the Lutz family, wrote a book about their claims that the house was haunted with demonic voices, green oozing walls and red-eyed flying pigs. The book spawned a series of horror movies.
Katzenbach’s three-part documentary explores different theories of the murder, including the theory that there was another shooter and a possible mafia link. If there had been another shooter, Katzenbach concluded that a second pistol would be found in the canal.
Divers found it underneath more than five feet of mud and gravel, Pfeiffer said.
“The decomposition of the firearm itself, the amount of rust and deterioration, indicates that it was in the water for a very long time,” he said. But Pfeiffer isn’t convinced it’s linked to the murders.
“There isn’t any way that anybody could say that that’s the pistol,” he added, noting that the 37 years in the water would’ve erased any forensic evidence.
Pfeiffer said that the weapon was immediately confiscated by the Suffolk County police, who supervised the dive. A police spokeswoman confirmed that they had the firearm, but that a Homicide Squad detective lieutenant determined it does not appear to be connected to the 1974 murders. She added that the gun is not a pistol, but appears to be the handle of a handgun or flare gun.
Katzenbach will explain his theory on why he believes the discovery has ties to the Defeo murders in a CBS News report scheduled to air on Ch. 2 at 11 p.m. Monday.