March 15 (UPI) -- Ronald DeFeo Jr., whose 1974 murders of his Long Island, N.Y., family inspired the horror movie franchise The Amityville Horror, has died in prison at age 69, state officials said Monday.
New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision records showed DeFeo died last week while serving a 25-to-life sentence at Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, N.Y., Newsday initially reported.
A department spokeswoman later confirmed that DeFeo was pronounced dead Friday at the Albany, N.Y., Medical Center. She did not reveal why he was hospitalized and indicated the cause of death would be determined by the Albany County Medical Examiner's Office.
DeFeo was convicted of using a .35 caliber rifle to murder his father, mother, two brothers and two sisters in their five-bedroom waterfront Dutch Colonial home in Amityville, N.Y., on Nov. 13, 1974.
The family that bought the house after the killings complained of ghosts and paranormal activities and moved out less than a month later. Their story formed the basis of the 1977 horror novel The Amityville Horror, A True Story, by Jay Anson, followed two years later by the cult classic film The Amityville Horror and several subsequent sequels.
DeFeo claimed insanity at his 1975 trial, saying his drug use led him to believe his family was plotting against him. Experts, however, testified that while DeFeo had indeed used LSD and heroin, he was sane at the time of the murders.
He claimed in a 2006 documentary that both his drug use and the killings were triggered by abuse he suffered at his father's hands. He alleged that one of his sisters, Dawn, was an accomplice in the killings and that she had actually slain three of their younger siblings.
He said the two of them fought after the slayings and that he killed her accidentally.
During the interview, DeFeo recanted his trial admission that he had killed all of the family members, claiming it was a lie made in an effort to appear to be mentally ill.