Shattered: Latest News
Shattered rough cut complete
MAR 22, 2010 - Katco has completed a preliminary rough cut of its documentary film "Shattered Hopes: The True Story of the Amityville Murders." The producers and principals of the project will gather on Saturday evening to hold the first private screening of the film, which now advances toward the score and audio/visual mastering processes.
|Our Friend, Dr. Howard Adelman|
When Ric Osuna wrote his informative volume The Night The DeFeos Died one of the people on his "wish list" to interview was Dr. Howard Adelman. Adelman had been the Deputy Chief Medical Examiner in Suffolk County, New York at the time that the DeFeos were murdered in November 1974. Obviously, Ric Osuna had a number of questions that he wished to pose to the forensic pathologist who had autopsied the DeFeos and conducted a crime scene investigation. Ric Osuna had been told on several occasions that Adelman was dead and thus his questions would never be answered. It happened that later, in the fall of 2006, I happened to run across Dr. Adelman and couldn't believe that it was the SAME Adelman. However, it was true----Adelman was alive, and as I would come to find out, he was even featured on a 2005 DVD documentary that appeared as one of the bonus features on The Amityville Horror remake by Michael Bay. I was stunned, and when I shared the information with Ric Osuna, he too was surprised. I can't imagine that the Suffolk County authorities who told Osuna several times over that Adelman was dead did so with honesty.
The Amityville subject is a touchy one at best for those who were present when the crime transpired in 1974. Some people are willing to talk; others are not, and very seldom do you find anyone "in the middle." In several cases I had spent days or weeks researching the whereabouts of different individuals involved only to call them and have them rudely slam the phone down on me. In other cases, I found folks who were very talkative and very willing to tell me of their account as it pertained to the story. With Dr. Adelman, I wasn't sure if he'd be willing to talk to me. I was sure that, like so many involved, he had probably been interviewed non-stop in the thirty-plus years since the crime.
A few hours later, my phone rang. It was Dr. Howard Adelman. He was very much alive, and reciting a variation of Mark Twain's famous quote: "the report of my death is an exaggeration." We both laughed, as it was a great ice-breaker.
Dr. Adelman's tone was cheerful, his demeanor pleasant.
We talked for probably an hour or so on the phone, and I remember I was firing questions to him in rapid procession about the DeFeo case. Dr. Adelman was more than willing to share his memories of the events with me. I found him informative and extremely sharp as he walked me through the house, room by room, recounting what he saw that night.
When we rang off, Dr. Adelman was tentatively in agreement to do an interview when I returned to New York. We talked back and forth for a considerable time over the next months. In the spring of 2007, we agreed upon a date for an interview based upon when I would be in the city.
"Before you come, I have something I want you to read to help you prepare for the interview," Dr. Adelman told me. He then emailed me a raw manuscript he had written entitled Manner of Death which was a chapter-by-chapter summation of his favorite and most memorable forensic cases. One extensive chapter centered on Amityville, of course, as it had been his most infamous case. Even thirty years later Adelman told me that people still wanted to know about Amityville moreso than any other case he had worked on.
I happily read Adelman's manuscript, Manner of Death. I was glued to it and devoured it in a sitting or two. Not only was Adelman a successful doctor of the forensic sciences, he was also a charming storyteller. While dealing with the often macabre subject of death, I often laughed aloud. Dr. Adelman's take on the subject often provided a light side, which is no easy feat to accomplish considering the dark subject at hand.
When I arrived at Dr. Adelman's apartment on the east side of Manhattan, he promptly gave me the guided tour. He had a stunning view of the city, and we engaged in quite a conversation about his family, the city, and, yes, the DeFeo case. We migrated to the living room where we set up the camera equipment, lights, and wired Dr. Adelman with a lav mic. Unfortunately, as soon as the interview was underway, so was an obscene amount of jack-hammering and construction noise. Apparently, one of the units on a floor above us was undergoing renovation.
"This happens all the time," I told Adelman with a laugh.
It never failed. Every single time we went to conduct an interview, we had some audio issue to contend with. We always had to wait it out, or we managed to successfully manipulate mics and audio equipment to filter the noise. We decided to abate the interview at that moment and simply head to a late lunch at one of Dr. Adelman's favorite pubs down the street. We had a great meal and continued our conversation.
When we returned to the apartment it was a bit after 5 p.m., and the construction effort had ended----thankfully. We now had silence.
Dr. Howard Adelman's written knack for storytelling was also present in his on-camera persona. Adelman was as good of a storyteller in front of the camera as he was on paper. When I asked him to introduce himself and set up the scene of November 13, 1974, he did so with incredible detail and a keen, sharp recollection of the events. With the tape rolling, Adelman recounted the DeFeo crime scene in vivid detail. I knew, sitting there, asking question after question that much of his material would never make it into the film because of timing. When you produce a documentary, or any film for that matter, you have to keep a smooth, quick-flowing pace. Adelman's information was so specific and detailed that I knew, sadly, much of it would get cut in favor of maintaining pace. Regardless, Dr. Adelman was so compelling that I didn't want to miss anything he had to say. After all, tape is cheap, so let the camera roll.
Once I had the whole story, from Adelman's perspective, I then had very specific forensic questions I wished to ask. One by one, I got them answered. I presented Adelman with some photos that I wanted him to review from the crime scene. Like myself, Adelman had seen the crime scene photos hundreds of times over. However, I had some new ones that I didn't believe he had seen. He very candidly gave me his take on them. We also talked at great length about trajectories of bullets and the position of Big Ronnie DeFeo in the bed, and Adelman noted to me that he felt that the angle at which Big Ronnie laid on the bed was very peculiar. It was, overall, one of the most satisfying and successful interviews I had conducted, and we had exchanged a great deal of information in the course of such.
Joining us for the "late" session of the interview was Geraldine DeFeo-Gates. Gates, a controversial character in the Amityville story was allegedly married to Amityville murderer Ronald "Butch" DeFeo prior to the 1974 murders. She had come into the city with me earlier in the day along with my production assistant. Now, as it was getting late, she phoned to get my status. I told her about the delay in getting started and that I was going to be a while longer. I asked Dr. Adelman if he would mind Gates joining us. He had no problem with this proposition, and Gates was graciously invited to come up to his fifth floor residence. I think that Adelman was as intrigued at meeting Geraldine Gates as she was in meeting him since Adelman had read Ric Osuna's book, The Night The DeFeos Died.
Throughout the remainder of the interview, Gates sat in quietly watching the taping. Gates stated that she had accompanied Butch DeFeo's grandfather to the Suffolk County morgue in the days following the family's massacre. She had some rather vivid memories of the events, and she carefully waited to interject, cautious not to interrupt my train of thought or the flow of the interview. She told Adelman "I know I didn't meet you that day, but I did meet someone at the medical examiner's office," and she proceeded to recount the events. Based on the physical description that Geraldine Gates gave Adelman, he was able to indicate the identity of who this individual likely was at the ME's office which she had spoken to while waiting for Mike Brigante. I decided to let the camera roll, and the conversation was captured on tape. When we left, later that night, Geraldine commented to me: "Adelman is one hell of a nice guy. What a gentleman." Indeed, he was.
In summation, and at the end of our interview, I said to Dr. Adelman: "Thirty years ago, when Gerard Sullivan asked you on the witness stand if you thought that Butch DeFeo could have committed the crime alone, you replied by saying 'I don't see how any one person could have done this alone.'" Adelman smiled broadly, knowing what was coming. "Now, Dr. Adelman, thirty years later, do you have a different opinion?" Smiling broader, Adelman candidly replied, saying almost verbatim the same thing that he said at the DeFeo trial. "No, I do not understand how one person could have committed this crime by his or her self." He then went further, explaining in detail how a stunned Gerard Sullivan dropped the line of questioning "like a hot potato."
In all, when I left, I had just over two solid hours of interview with Dr. Howard C. Adelman.
In the months that followed, Dr. Adelman and I stayed in contact and talked frequently via email. We struck a deal, eventually, for the publication of his manuscript, Manner of Death. I found the book to be intriguing and felt that Katco, my small press publishing company, could find an audience of readers for the book. Dr. Adelman was very pleased at the prospect of getting the book put into print.
As the years went by a friendship evolved.
The "Doc" as I called him periodically traveled to California to visit his son and daughter-in-law. Any time that Howard would travel to the west coast, he'd usually give me a heads-up and if time permitted, I would try to visit Howard and his family for dinner. Howard's three-year old granddaughter was the light of Howard's eye. From the first time I had met Howard in New York City at his Gramercy apartment, he told me stories about her on a regular basis with a glimmer in his eye. I can only imagine how sorely he will be missed by his grandchildren. He absolutely adored them.
Doc wasn't just proud of his grandchildren-----he had an equal admiration for each of his three boys----Adam, Dan and Jeremy. He always took the time to brief me on what each of them were up to, and of their talents he would lament "I have no idea how and where they got their talents because I don't have them!"
One talent that the Doc had was for humor, though perhaps his sense of humor was not one that would be appreciated by everyone. I remember one time, as we were leaving a restaurant following dinner in California, he looked at me and said "you know the definition of an optimist don't you?"
"Can't say that I do, Doc," sensing an impending joke.
"That's a man who commits suicide by jumping from the observation deck of the Empire State Building, and at about floor 25, he says 'yep, this is going pretty good.'" I always looked forward to his jokes, and I always appreciated them. I think both of us had a sense of humor that was but a bit twisted, dry and dark.
Doc's book, Manner of Death was moving along slowly. We had formatted the book, then we had mutually changed our mind as to the format and agreed to reformat it. This meant, essentially, that the book would have to be completely recomposed from beginning to end. As a result, and unable to find the time to power through the production, I would work on it here and there. After all, there's always more time, more time, more time in life.
In the meantime, while he was eager to get Manner of Death into print, and waited very patiently for me, he basked in the success of a Forensic Medicine textbook that was published in 2008. He was very proud of this achievement, and rightfully so. I opened a manilla envelope at my office one day to find my very own copy of it. Inscribed in the front page: "To Ryan, my friend in California. -Howard."
In the spring and summer of 2009 I managed to pull the entire Manner of Death manuscript out of the filing cabinet and got back to work on it. Over the months of 2009, Howard and I briefly chatted via email, and I let him know that I had resurrected the book and was working on it----regrettably not as fast as I would have liked. However, progress was being made.
In the fall of 2009, Howard wrote me and was telling me of some disturbing health issues, though his tone was cheerful and the prognosis good. Our last exchange was in late October 2009, whereupon he told me he was home and of good health and spirits. At that time, his musician son Jeremy was working on a new album, and the Doc told me he would be sure to send me a copy.
On 25 January, having not heard from him in a while, I dropped Doc a quick line to let him know that I planned to release the book in conjunction with the release of the Shattered Hopes film in the fall of this year and that I had, what appeared to be a decent window of time in front of me to finish production. I was also planning to talk to him about the possibility of doing the title as an audio book as well----something I have become recently fascinated with.
I was shocked when I received a reply from his son stating that Howard had passed at the end of November. I find myself overwhelmed with sadness and disappointment. I am sad at the passing of a friend. I am disappointed that I didn't get his book into print in time for him to see it come to fruition. The bottom line, I guess, is that while we think there is always plenty of time, there really isn't. We shouldn't take time for granted.
I wish to relay my condolences to the Adelman family. I felt it appropriate to write something about my experiences with the Doc, the time we shared and the very fond memories I will always have of him. This project has allowed me an opportunity to develop some great friendships during the course of its filming. Dr. Howard C. Adelman was a great friend to myself and my endeavors. He will be sorely missed.
The True Story of the Amityville Murders
ALL CONTENT ON THIS WEBSITE COPYRIGHT 2009 BY RYAN KATZENBACH & KATCO MEDIA; ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. SITE WAS DESIGNED
<html>Amityville Horror DeFeo murders Ronald DeFeo Butch DeFeo Louise DeFeo Ron DeFeo Ron DeFoe Amittyville Ryan Katzenbach Geraldine DeFeo Ric Osuna The Night The DeFeos Died Amityville Possession demons murder George Lutz Kathy Lutz Kathleen Lutz Amityville Horror truth documentary shattered hopes the true story of the amityville murders .35 marlin rifle dutch colonial house 112 ocean avenue 108 ocean avenue november 14 november 13 november 12 1974 jury trial judge thomas stark suffolk county police