We are in the second half of the seventies when suddenly the city of New York faces the attacks of a ruthless killer that strikes young victims, especially when in couple. A madman who kills with a pistol to disappear into the darkness.
A killer on the loose
July 29, 1976. Friends Donna Lauria, 18, and Jody Valenti, 19, have spent the evening together and are returning home. They park the car in front of Donna’s house and stop for a while to chat. At one point a man approaches their car, pulls out a gun and starts shooting. Donna dies instantly, Jody manages to escape. The killer escapes after running out of ammo.
The agents intervene on the spot and after the surveys they find that the weapon used is a .44 caliber. As for everything else, a big question mark remains. Who is the aggressor? And why did he go after those two young women?
October 23, 1976. Carl Denaro (20 years old) and Rosemary Keenan (18 years old), after spending the evening at a party, decide to get away by car in a quiet area. This moment is abruptly broken when a stranger looks into the car, fires five shots and walks away. Carl suffers severe head injuries while Rosemary remains unharmed. Once again the killer fired a .44 caliber. Carl, hospitalized in an emergency, survives. A metal plate is implanted to replace the missing part of his skull.
November 26, 1976. Joanne Lomino and Donna De Masi, respectively 18 and 16, are back home after being at the cinema. They find themselves in front of Joanne’s house when they are approached by a strange guy. “Can you tell me how to get there…”, the man does not even finish the sentence, takes out a firearm and starts shooting towards the two, wounding both of them. The young women are transported to the hospital. Donna will not be seriously injured, while Joanne, shot to the spine will remain paralyzed.
January 30, 1977. John Diel (30) and Christine Freud (26) are an engaged couple. The evening is over and they are heading for their car. As soon as they enter the car, they are hit by two gunshots. The girl is injured in the head. Fortunately John is left unharmed and starts running away asking for help. Christine is taken to the hospital in critical conditions and unfortunately will not make it.
At this point it is clear that in New York there is a madman who shoots wildly at random victims. He always uses the same weapon, a .44 Caliber. He is therefore called “The .44 Caliber Killer”.
March 8, 1977. It is 7:30 pm, Virginia Voskerichianun, a 19-year-old student, is returning home after class at the university. In front of her, a gentleman is coming from the opposite side. Virginia moves away to let him pass but the man pulls a gun from her jacket and shoots her fatally to the head.
Another inexplicable attack in just few months. The police organize a special team to try and catch this crazy murderer.
April 17, 1977. Alexander Esau (20) and Valentina Suriani (18), an engaged couple, are inside their car parked when suddenly they are hit by four gunshots. Valentina dies instantly, while Alexander will lose his life a few hours later, in the hospital.
This time, however, there is something different. A letter is found near the crime scene, addressed to Captain Joseph Borelli. In the letter, the killer describes himself as “Son of Sam”, he says that he is killing to please his father and threatens to continue hitting in the following days.
The alarm is growing more and more in the city and investigators are trying to accelerate the investigations. A psychological profile of the killer is drawn up. The subject would be a paranoid schizophrenic, convinced that he is possessed by demons.
On May 30, 1977, a letter arrives from the killer to Jimmy Breslin, a reporter for the Daily News. The killer writes delusional sentences and continues to declare his intention to continue with the murders.
June 26, 1977. Judy Placido and Sal Lupo, two 17-year-olds, are attacked in a car by a stranger with a gun. Fortunately they manage to survive, sustaining minor injuries. As forwarned in his missives, Son of Sam has started to strike again.
July 31, 1977. A little over a month has passed. Stacy Moscowitz and Robert Violante, two 20-year-old boyfriends, are having some intimacy in their car. Suddenly there are three shots from the dark. Bobby is shot in the face, Stacy in the head. The boys are transported to the hospital. Unfortunately Stacy can’t make it. Robert survives, losing his left eye and sight.
Following this ambush, an important testimony arrives. Cecilia Davis, a lady who lived near the crime scene, claims that minutes after the shooting she saw a man removing a fine from a parked Ford Galaxie. In addition there are reports that the police have received previously concerning a certain David Berkowitz, a strange boy with suspicious behavior, who owned just that type of car.
At this point the investigators decide to go to his home. They search his car, and inside they find the Caliber 44, maps of the places of the attacks and a letter addressed to Sergeant Dowd. The agents proceed with the arrest.
The nightmare is over. Son of Sam is captured.
Born on June 1, 1953 from the union between Betty Broder and Tony Falco, due to marital problems he is immediately placed in foster care to a couple, consisting of Nathan and Pearl Berkowitz. During his childhood and adolescence David grows up developing a solitary character and aggressive behaviors, arguing often with his peers.
In 1967, her adoptive mother, Pearl, dies of breast cancer. From this moment on, Berkowitz begins to do poorly in school, significantly lowering his average. In 1971 he is enlisted in the army, where he serves until 1974. It is during this period that he will be able to trace the identity of his biological mother. After a few visits, however, David decides to completely cut off any contact with her.
Once back from the army, he develops traits of pyromania, setting multiple fires. The boy takes refuge more and more in solitude, hardly ever goes out and indulges in murderous fantasies. In 1975 some boys at a party mention to him about witchcraft and occult practices. He becomes passionate about this world, even convincing himself that he is possessed by demons. He becomes obsessed so much that he imagines satanic scenarios with demonic beings who order him to kill. He thus sinks deeper and deeper into madness, until he starts going out with a gun, looking for victims.
Subjected to questioning, he confesses all the ambushes and crimes. He is then sentenced to six life sentences, one for each murder. For some, his claims about being possessed are made up. While in prison, Berkowitz said he changed his beliefs and converted to Christianity. He is currently locked up in Shawangunk Prison.
The story of the so-called Son of Sam is the stor of one of the most cynical and dangerous serial killers ever lived, a man that in a short span of time produced a chain of violent assaults that costed the lives of six people. His figure is nowadays still much discussed. Since 2002 he has asked for parole several times, until now always denied.
This story is part of the book
The insane stories of the worst serial killers of all time