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Son Of Sam And A Summer Of Terror

Editor Picks | September 14, 2021

Source: (AP News).

From the summers of 1976-1977, the young people of Queens and the Bronx were on edge. During this time period, David Berkowitz shot and killed six people and wounded seven more using a .44 Special caliber Bulldog revolver. He did so from a distance and then left cryptic messages for the police.

Berkowitz was given up for adoption after his birth and began to show troubling signs early on: destroying property, setting fires, stealing, and killing animals. He didn’t have much of a social life and was unable to find a girlfriend. At 18, he enlisted in the Army, passing the physical and emotional tests. He became an infantryman and qualified as a sharpshooter. He was posted in the demilitarized zone in Korea but was demoted after two infractions because he struggled with punctuality. He returned to Fort Knox, and after three years in the service, he was honorably discharged. After this, he found work as a mailman. 

Source: (Pinterest).

It Started With Rejection And A Stabbing

Before his killing spree began, he had his first only sexual encounter, with a prostitute, and he contracted a venereal disease. He moved into an apartment in Yonkers, and shortly thereafter, he located his biological mother, who he had believed was dead. She showed no interest in him, and by Christmas Eve, 1975, he became completely unhinged. He stabbed two teenage girls in the back. They survived the attack, but this was just the beginning for Berkowitz. He moved into a two-family home in Yonkers, where he claimed he was kept up all night by his neighbor’s barking dog. After buying the .44, he killed his first victim on July 29, 1976. He approached a parked car from behind, fired shots into the car, killing Donna Lauria, and wounding Jody Valenti. 

1st Son of Sam letter. Source: (Wikipedia).

Taunting The Police

In April 1977, after his sixth attack, he started to leave the letters with the New York City Police Department, as well as with the Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin. These letters earned him the name “Son of Sam.” In one of the letters, he wrote, “To stop me you must kill me. Sam’s a thirsty lad and he won’t let me stop killing until he gets full of blood.” He also wrote disturbing letters to his neighbors and landlords. They did report the letters, as they became suspicious that Berkowitz was the Son of Sam, but the reports were lost among the numerous tips the police received.

Although the attacks seemed random, they did have a pattern: all of them happened at night and six of the eight involved couples in parked cars. As terror spread across the city, women began to react by buying wigs, cutting their hair, or dying their hair blonde because several victims had long dark hair. 

Source: (Den of Geek).

It Ended With A Parking Ticket

On July 31, 1977, when Berkowitz killed Stacy Moskowitz and blinded Robert Violante, there was a witness. The witness reported seeing a man holding a “dark object” and removing a parking ticket from his car as he had parked illegally by a fire hydrant. When authorities tracked him to his apartment, they saw his car, which had a rifle, ammunition, crime scene maps, and another letter. As Berkowitz left his apartment, the arresting officer pointed a gun at him and said, “Now that I’ve got you, who have I got?” Berkowitz replied, “I’m Sam.” Upon searching his apartment, they found evidence of all of the crimes he had committed.

Source: (Wikipedia).

The Dog Didn't Tell Him To Do It

Finally, on August 10, 1977, Berkowitz was arrested and indicted for eight shootings; he confessed to all of them but claimed that he was simply obeying the commands of a demon that had manifested as his neighbor, “Sam’s” dog. Despite his crazy explanation, he was found competent to stand trial. He pled guilty and admitted that his dog story was a hoax. However, he has since claimed that he was a member of a violent Satanic cult and that the cult orchestrated the killings as part of their ritual. He was sentenced to 25 consecutive life sentences. Because Berkowitz seemed to enjoy the celebrity status he had found, the New York State Legislature enacted the “Son of Sam laws” so that criminals could not profit financially from publicity for their crime. 

Tags: David Berkowitz | Son Of Sam

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Kellar Ellsworth

Writer

Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!