William Weber: Attorney In it for Profit

William Weber escorting Ronald DeFeo Jr. out of the the courtroom.
Courtesy of Newsday papers
William Weber escorting Ronald DeFeo Jr. out of the the courtroom. Courtesy of Newsday papers

We have all heard the infamous story of the Amityville horror, the alleged “haunted” house along the south shore of Long Island, New York. The reason for its boom in publicity started with the Lutz family incident and their claims that the house was haunted, although that isn’t where the story actually began. On November 13, 1974, Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered his entire family with a .35- caliber Marlin rifle as they slept. This started an investigation since DeFeo had gone to work after the crime and acted as if he had no idea what had happened. He claimed that he went home from work and found his family members dead, after which he ran to the nearest bar screaming for help. Although he acted as if he had nothing to do with the murder, the town already had  suspicions about him because of his background. As a kid, DeFeo was abused by his father and bullied in school, which resulted in a troubled childhood. He had quite the history with alcohol and drug abuse, several arrests due to violent fights he had gotten himself into, and as a child, had once pulled a gun on his father, but it jammed.1

The Amityville house where the DeFeo family was murdered

It didn’t take long for him to become the prime suspect, and he was quickly arrested and taken into custody. DeFeo’s trial began October 14, 1975, close to a year after the murder, and William Weber had been put on the case as his defense attorney. DeFeo claimed he had heard voices in his head telling him to kill his family. With that information, Weber decided to use a strategy that he believed would give DeFeo a lot less time in jail. Weber insisted on an insanity plea, promising DeFeo that he would be out in five years. He believed this was the best approach, considering DeFeo’s wide range of different versions of the story, which proved that he must have been insane. Unfortunately, this plan did not work, for the jury believed that even though he wasn’t mentally stable, he was completely aware of the situation and motivated by a self-centered attitude. The jurors found DeFeo guilty on November 21, 1975, and sentenced him to six consecutive life sentences.2

Mugshot of Ronald Defeo’s Arrest
Courtesy of Wikipedia

Not long after his imprisonment, films, novels, and documentaries came out about the murder incident. The Lutz family had moved into the house a little over a year after the murder, but they only stayed for twenty-eight days, leaving in the middle of the night with just a few days worth of clothes. They completely abandoned the Amityville house, never wanting to step foot in it again, and didn’t even want to reclaim any of the belongings they left behind. In September of 1977, The Amityville Horror: A True Story started the supernatural phenomenon when it took into account the Lutz family and their experiences.3

With this book, the story rapidly gained publicity, and started a controversy over whether the haunting was a hoax. William Weber wanted to use this popularity to his advantage. He began by using the popularity to try and open DeFeo’s case again. However, for an unknown reason it was never filed and DeFeo continues to be incarcerated at a correctional facility in Fallsburg, New York. Weber then reached out to the Lutz family, attempting to convince them to partner up on a book deal on the DeFeo case for a large advance. He often spoke with them although he was reluctant to work with them, but once they had heard he was planning to split the royalties with DeFeo, they cut Weber out of any future deals and were no longer on speaking terms. As he carried on by himself, the Lutz family sued the writer Weber enlisted to write the book for an invasion of privacy, settling the suit in 1979—causing the plan to fall through.4

This upset Weber, who was prepared to call out the family, claiming “it was was all a lie” while at the same time wanting to take credit for some of the creativity in it. Going to the press, he explained that the entire story was created over a bottle of wine between Mr. and Mrs. Lutz, even though they still claimed to have some sort of supernatural experience. It was only with his help that they started to exaggerate the details with the murder evidence that Weber had provided them. He eventually sued the Lutz family for $60 million, stating they were “stealing ideas.” The suit settled for $2,500. Even though William Weber’s plans to make a large profit didn’t go the way he wanted them to, he still managed to get a total profit of $15,000 for his connections with the book and movie.5

  1. Mike Mayo, “DeFeo, Ronald, Jr.” American Murder, (2008): 23- 52.
  2. Ric Osuna, The Night the DeFeos Died: Reinvestigating the Amityville Murders (Xlibris Corp, 2002), 84-92.
  3. Jay Anson, The Amityville Horror (New York : Pocket Star Books, 2005), 67.
  4. New York Times. 2006. s.v. “George Lutz, 59; Found Horror in Amityville.”
  5. Patricia D. Netzley,. “Amityville Haunting” The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena, 2006.

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This Post Has 40 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Aracely Beltran

    Great article! Honestly, when I read the title I thought to myself “aren’t we all” but then I read the full article. The horror story of the murders is scary. I can’t imagine hearing voices telling you to kill your family. And the attorney really tried to do something there and failed, he was in it for the money and didn’t care about the family.

  2. Avatar
    Melanie Fraire

    I have heard about the Amityville House many times and all the stories I’ve heard/read describe the house as a complete nightmare. I knew that there was a family murdered in the house however I did not know it was by a man who killed his own family but I find it disgusting how people want to profit from such an unfortunate event.

  3. Avatar
    Shriji Lalji

    I have never actually heard of this house or horror story. However I am very curious whether the house is actually haunted and if anyone lives in it today. I would assume the Lutz family was not aware of the murders before moving in. In regards to the lawyer, I know there are many lawyers who specialize in just suing people for money. Most of the time over intellectual property or copyrights. Although it may not be the most ethical approach they gotta make money somehow, and the people they sue are breaking laws. However in this case I definitely think the attorney was in the wrong. He was clearly trying to take advantage of a popular story along with the Lutz family to gain some wealth.

  4. Avatar
    Brisella Olivares

    I have heard of the movie “Amityville Horror”, but never got a chance to watch it. The beginning of the story was really interesting, with the whole background of the story and what DeFeo did to his family. As I kept reading, I got lost with the whole stealing ideas and the lawsuit, but other than that it was a good article.

  5. Mitchell Yocham
    Mitchell Yocham

    I had never heard of this murder case despite him saying that everyone has. However I think that it is terrifying to think that the reason that DeFeo murdered his family was due to voices in his head and the family that had moved in quickly moved out due to house being considered paranormal. I also got kind of lost on the whole point of the book and stealing ideas, but the main idea on the haunted house was creepy.

  6. Avatar
    Mara Martinez

    Reading about who originally owned the house before the story was created was very interesting. While this article got a little hard to follow, maybe because I am multitasking, the idea of the book being created, then the family getting mad about the book, and so on and so forth was very interesting. I never knew why this book was created, well obviously I did but I had never heard the real story and what occurred in someone else’s words. This was interesting.

  7. Avatar
    Alin Bocardo Felix

    This is such an interesting read, but it just had so much going on at once. First, the murder and DeFeo’s background, which would accustom to other homicides, but then the voices and the supernatural is brought in, and then the making of books and films and the corrupt lawyer. I would love to read more on each section, but especially that of the haunting and other ways it has been proven to be true.

  8. Avatar
    Judy Reyes

    It was interesting to learn about the owners before the common story of the Amityville horror. Many people know of the story but not of the previous owners. Ronald Defeo Jr. had murdered his entire family while they were sleeping. Also, he tried playing it off as if he was never home during the time of the incident. It is sad to see that there are people out there that kill with absolutely no remorse.

  9. Avatar
    Addie Piatz

    What DeFeo did was wrong but also what Weber did was wrong. I hadn’t heard about this story until reading this but I honestly think the whole story was very interesting. It was very unfortunate what DeFeo did by murdering his family but his attorney, Weber, made it sound like he was going to help him. I personally think its sick to use this to make money off of.

  10. Avatar
    Sebastian Azcui

    I recently have seen a movie about Amityville and how that place is haunted and has many supernatural interactions. It is a very known place for its stories and how many things happen there that cannot be explained. But, apart from that I can’t believe how a lawyer took advantage of this situation and was only interested in the money. He did not want to help the family in the court case to prove them right and to give them justice, he just was interested in the money.

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