The Caliber Serial Killer David Berkowitz
It was the era of New York disco fever—of platform shoes, leisure suits, dancing to the Bee Gees while a mirrored globe spun and flashed overhead. But for a little more than a year, between 1976 and 1977, the disco beat turned into a pulse of fear as a gun-wielding madman prowled the city streets at night. His weapon was a .44 revolver—and at first the tabloids tagged him the “.44-Caliber Serial Killer.”
The terror began on July 29, 1976, when two young women were shot in a parked car in the Bronx. Young people in cars—often dating couples—would continue to be the killer’s targets of choice. On one occasion, however, he gunned down a pair of young women sitting on a stoop. On another, he shot a woman as she walked home from school. Frantically she tried protecting her face with a book—but to no avail. The serial killer simply raised the muzzle of his weapon to the makeshift shield and blasted her in the head. Before his rampage was over, a total of six young New Yorkers were dead, seven more severely wounded.
At the scene of one double murder, police found a long, ranting note from the serial killer. “I am the ‘Son of Sam.’ I am a little brat,” he wrote. From that point on, the serial killer would be known by his bizarre new nickname.
For months, while the city was gripped by panic, police made no headway. When a break finally came, it happened as a result of a thirty-five-dollar parking ticket. On July 31, 1977, when a couple was shot along the Brooklyn shore, a witness noticed someone driving away from the scene in a car that had just been ticketed. Tracing the summons through their computer, the police came up with the name and address of David Berkowitz, a pudgy-faced postal worker living in Yonkers.
When police picked him up, they found an arsenal in the trunk of Berkowitz’s car. Son of Sam had been planning an apocalyptic act of carnage—a kamikaze assault on a Long Island disco.
Under arrest, Berkowitz explained the meaning of his bizarre moniker. “Sam” turned out to be the name of a neighbor, Sam Carr, who—in Berkowitz’s profoundly warped mind—was actually a “high demon” who transmitted his orders to kill through his pet dog, a black Labrador retriever. Insane as this story was, Berkowitz was found mentally fit to stand trial. He was eventually sentenced to three hundred years in the pen, where he has recently undergone a religious conversion and become a jailhouse televan-gelist, preaching the gospel on public-access TV.