Terror gripped New York in the late 1970s. An mysterious serial killer was on the loose in America’s largest city. Six women were murdered, chosen randomly. Seven others were injured.
That summer New York was sweltering under intense heat. A major blackout plunged the city into darkness. Looters roamed the streets. Two daily papers, the New York Post and the Daily News were fighting for readership. A serial killer wandering the city provided a news story that fueled the competition and the growing panic of everyone who lived there. The entire world was intrigued by the grisly murders.
The murder weapon was first a knife and then a .44 caliber Bulldog revolver. Police dubbed the shooter ” the 44 caliber killer.” The murderer led the police on a year long chase. The first victim was shot on July 31, 1976. Donna Lauria, age 18, was murdered as she sat in a parked car with Jody Valenti, 19, who survived the shooting.
Carl Denaro, 20 (wounded) and Rosemary Keenan, 18 (unwounded) – October 23, 1976.
Donna DeMasi, 16 (wounded) and Joanne Lomino, 18 (wounded) – November 27, 1976.
John Diel, 30 (Unwounded) and Christine Freund, 26 (killed) -January 30, 1977.
Virginia Voskerichain, 19 (killed) -March 8, 1977.
Valentina Suriani, 18 (killed) and Alexander Esau, 20 (killed) -April 16, 1977.
Salvatore Lupo, 20 (wounded) and girlfriend Judy Placido, 17 (wounded), -June 25, 1977.
Bobby Violante, 20 (wounded) and Stacy Moskowitz, 20 (killed) -July 31, 1977.
He apparently targeted young women with long dark hair. The police were pretty sure about that. As a result, many women dyed their hair blonde and cut their hair shorter. They said they were afraid they might be next.
But later in his crime spree, he attacked young women who meet his criteria plus anyone with them. The survivors often suffered permanent injuries including blindness and paralysis.
Another diabolical side of the killer soon emerged. He wrote compelling yet jumbled letters to police and the news media. That’s where the name “Son of Sam” came from. The killer chose it himself.
“I am a monster. I am the “Son of Sam,” he wrote. “Sam” as it turned out referred to his neighbor who he claimed had a black, demonic dog, Harvey, possessed by a supernatural force. And this dog, according to the letter, ordered him to kill.
The letter was signed “Yours in murder, Mr. Monster.”
After this letter, several psychiatrists diagnosed him as a paranoid schizophrenic.
Film Director Spike Lee produced a movie about the crimes.
Who committed these terrible crimes? How was the murderer caught?
The reign of fear ended just days after Berkowitz butchered Stacy Moskowitz age 20 on July 30, 1977. Her friend Robert Violante age 20 was seriously injured. A woman noticed a man acting very strangely near the death scene and called police.
David Berkowitz, then 32, was arrested August 10, 1977. He asked police “What took you so long?
He was tried and convicted of six murders. He was sentenced to six consecutive life terms. He is still imprisoned at the Sullivan Correctional Facility, Wallkill, New York.
Berkowitz or “Son of Sam “confessed after he was caught. At first, he admitted he liked the notoriety and the nickname. But later he rejected this, saying “That moniker, Son of Sam was not me. That was a demon. I despised that name.” He also blamed his behavior on a violent satanic cult which used ritual murder.
Born Richard Falco on June 1, 1953, he was adopted shortly after birth and renamed David Berkowitz. Reports said he had a troubled childhood and was arrested for larceny and arson.
Berkowitz insists he committed many other crimes. These claims include setting 1500 fires and a 1975 knife attack on two women. Both victims survived.
As a result of these crimes, New York passed “Son of Sam” laws. Convicted criminals could not profit from their acts by writing books or otherwise benefiting.
Tales report that Berkowitz became a born-again Christian. He renamed him self “Son of Hope.” In 2006 he wrote “Son of Hope: The Prison Journals of David Berkowitz.” He credits his personal transformation to his religious conversion.
But is he really changed? Can a psychopath become normal? Only David Berkowitz knows for sure.