New York City in the 1970s is often talked about as if it was Hell on Earth. While the reality on the ground wasn’t quite as sensationalistic as some would like to think, the city was suffering from high crime, pollution, widespread poverty, and from 1976 to 1977 lived in fear of the .44 Caliber Killer, also known as the Son Of Sam. Targeting young girls with long, wavy hair and often their boyfriends as well, he hunted his victims throughout the city’s outer boroughs before police tracked down David Berkowitz and arrested him on August 10th, 1977, 39 years ago today.
Though Berkowitz later claimed his first victim was Michelle Forman, whom he stabbed in December 1975, his first shooting was on July 29, 1976, when he shot Donna Lauria and Jody Valenti, killing Lauria with a single shot. He would go on to kill 5 more and shoot and maim others over the following 12 months. By that spring NYPD confirmed the city had a serial killer on its hands. The killer left letters at some of the crime scenes and also sent missives to New York Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin, bragging about his crimes and calling himself the “Son Of Sam.”
A witness said she had seen a suspicious car being ticketed near the scene of the July 31, 1977 shooting of Stacy Moskowitz and Robert Violante in Bath Beach, Brooklyn. After reviewing the records of all the ticketed cars in the area that night, NYPD zeroed in on David Berkowitz, a 24-year-old postal worker living in Yonkers, just north of the Bronx, where several of the shootings had occured. They contacted Yonkers police who already considered Berkowitz a person of interest in the case. On August 10th they located his car and saw a rifle in the backseat. While waiting that night for a warrant to investigate further, Berkowitz emerged from his apartment building and got in the car. When confronted by the police, he admitted to being the killer. By his side was the .44 caliber revolver used in the shootings. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for each murder, to be served consecutively.