The Devil I Know: My Haunting Journey with Ronnie DeFeo and the True Story ofthe Amityville Murders

BOOK: The Devil I Know: My Haunting Journey with Ronnie DeFeo and the True Story ofthe Amityville Murders
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My Haunting Journey with Ronnie DeFeo
and the True Story of the Amityville Murders



Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA

Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England • Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) • Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) • Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) • Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

This work is a true and accurate report of the events described. For reasons of privacy, however, the author has in some instances disguised or altered the identities of certain individuals. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.


A Berkley Book / published by arrangement with the author


Berkley premium edition / August 2012

Copyright © 2012 by Jackie Barrett.

Cover photo of author by Joanne Agnelli.

Cover design by Oyster Pond Press.

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

ISBN: 978-1-101-61066-4


Berkley Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

BERKLEY® is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

The “B” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

If you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

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To William, Joanne, and Jude


To I. J. Schecter, no words could ever express my sincere appreciation for all your hard work, dedication, and enormous talent! My editor, Shannon Jamieson Vazquez, at The Berkley Publishing Group, you have my deep appreciation on such a complex and twisted tale of murder/possession, a project that many couldn’t handle. You are truly a step above and beyond excellence! Jim McCarthy, my literary agent with Dystel and Goderich, your strength and leadership has been a gift to me—you’re amazing.

To my husband, William, who has never left my side, you are my guard in the dark and my shade in the light, you have opened every door and pulled me through loving you always. My fearless daughter and co-partner, Joanne Agnelli, we have lived what others could only imagine. There is no one prouder of you and your strength of steel. Embrace your gift, it belongs to you! Uncle Ray, who can always find a smile and a sandwich, you are loved.

To Victoria Laurie, author and intuitive, my true sister beyond blood, who stood by my side in the dark and gave me light. My love forever. Jude Weng, a phenomenal executive producer, director, writer, and co-founder of brand-new entertainment productions. You made it possible for me to break my chains and face the devil more times than I can count. I am forever grateful to such a powerhouse of a woman, and am honored to work with you. Scott Morgan, producer and head cameraman, my otherworldly partner, we have shared what lies beyond. I’m truly thankful for your wisdom and knowledge.

And in loving memory of my dog Max. Forever and after.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the one to see you all…

Just when I think it’s done, the mirror cracks, and out you come.


One of the first letters Ronnie wrote me. After this, I knew I couldn’t just walk away.

Table of Contents

















About the Author

Photo Insert


The drowned teenager’s name was Kieran McCaffrey.

His body, bloated and waterlogged, had been found floating on Long Island’s south shore several months earlier. But a recovered body, as I had observed countless times, gives little comfort to a grieving family if all the other circumstances of death remain shrouded in mystery. When the questions surrounding a child’s death go unanswered, families seek information like starving people seek food: with blind desperation. The only kind of comfort left to them is knowledge—“closure,” as it’s often referred to. But the wounds don’t ever close. They just get filled in bit by bit, answer by answer. The families may hope these wounds will heal, but in their hearts, they simply crave whatever fact, whatever truth, they can acquire. Because at the end of the day, it’s at least better than guessing. You accept whatever bits and pieces might provide the illusion of someday making you whole again.

On a chilly morning in March 2009, I stood with Adam Quinn, NYPD’s recently retired captain of Cold Case Homicide and head of Search and Rescue, on the deck of the thirty-foot boat
off the coast of Long Island, New York. I watched Adam pull on his diving gear as rain needled into the water. Cameramen fixed their tripods in place and adjusted lighting levels as we set out along the south-shore canal and crawled past coveted beachfront properties and boathouses.

The evening before, I’d felt exhilarated. For several days, Adam and I had been shooting scenes for the pilot of a proposed A&E reality show called
Medium P.I.
, a series that would follow us in our quest to fill in the gaps of unsolved deaths. The network had high hopes for the show, so the fact that it had rained every day of the shoot hadn’t bothered us. We were determined to try to help families in pain while hopefully creating a good piece of entertainment.

I’d done lots of TV before, including, a couple of years earlier, a show called
America’s Psychic Challenge
, which pitted psychics against each other. I hadn’t wanted to do it, since it shot in California and meant being away from my home and family in New York, so I agreed to do the pilot only. But my agent, and the producers, helped change my mind by telling me about the $100,000 prize. My plan was to win the thing and then donate the money to the Red Cross and an animal shelter in Louisiana.

I was told just to be myself. They didn’t have to tell me that; I don’t know any other way to be. Viewers seemed to like me. I think I must have differed from whatever stereotype they had in mind for a psychic.

I finished second—but in this case, losing was more like winning. I may have walked away without the $100,000, but between the end of the finale and my flight home to New York, my phone rang multiple times with producers offering me my own series. One of those calls turned into
Medium P.I.

But what Adam and I were doing here wasn’t just cooked up for the cameras—we’d worked together for twenty years on various cases, and we’d conducted this type of exercise dozens of times before. More often than not, we’d been successful—via logic and steely resolve on Adam’s side, instinct and perception on mine—in unearthing evidence that had escaped others. We were a formidable team and an interesting contrast for the cameras. For years, Adam and others in the world of law enforcement had used my psychic gifts to help them untangle cases that had seemed unsolvable. Now, for TV, they were finally revealing me as the secret weapon they’d kept in the background for so long.

BOOK: The Devil I Know: My Haunting Journey with Ronnie DeFeo and the True Story ofthe Amityville Murders
8.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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