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'Amityville Horror' theory leads to search

Ryan Katzenbach, producer of a docu-drama about the

Ryan Katzenbach, producer of a docu-drama about the notorious “Amityville Horror” murders, provided this photo he says is a Nov. 14, 1974 evidence photo of a waste can at Coles Bulkhead in Amityville provided to him by the Suffolk County police department. Credit: Handout

A decades-old photo of a metal trash can along a canal and ballistics reports in old case files from the notorious "Amityville Horror" murders got Ryan Katzenbach thinking.

The producer of a three-part docu-drama about the infamous 1974 case, Katzenbach decided to dispatch a dive team to look for a pistol that he theorized may have been used in the slayings of the DeFeo family and then thrown in the canal not far from the "Amityville Horror" house.

"The photo just made me think," Katzenbach said, "that this is where the gun was."

On Thursday, during the latest in a series of dives, a diver found a corroded handle and frame of a gun, found buried in about five feet of mud and silt under more than eight feet of water.

"It does not appear that there is a connection," to the Amityville case, a police spokesman said Friday, declining to elaborate. Police said a marine bureau officer was there when the discovery of "a firearm or flare gun" was made.

Katzenbach, 37, of Los Angeles, said he is still not convinced there's still no connection.

Katzenbach's theory, based in part on the ballistics reports and the 1974 evidence photo of the trash can with a pillow inside it, is that a rifle found in a canal down the block from the infamous house wasn't the only weapon used to kill six members of the DeFeo family, as police have asserted.

Police long ago had explored whether there was an accomplice who assisted Ronald DeFeo Jr. or another weapon used -- allegations made by DeFeo's defense -- but never found confirming evidence. On Friday, police declined to comment on Katzenbach's theory that a pistol was used in the Amityville case and had been discarded into a nearby canal.

Katzenbach's quest ended with Thursday's discovery off the intersection of Coles Avenue and Ocean Avenue in Amityville -- a block from the house where the 23-year-old DeFeo fatally shot his mother, father, two sisters and two brothers on Nov. 13, 1974.

DeFeo, 60, is serving six consecutive sentences of 25 years-to-life at the Greenhaven Correctional Facility in Beekman.

Katzenbach, who has been working on his project for about a decade, said the barrel and cylinder of the revolver were not found Thursday, and said the frame that was found was so corroded it is likely forensic experts may never be able to locate a serial number.

With Bill Bleyer and William Murphy

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