By Valerie Milano
SON OF SAM traces the parallel stories of a serial killer’s unsuspecting victims and the dedicated detectives who worked tirelessly to capture the madman who left six people dead, seven wounded, and a city in chaos.
The show will also feature testimony from survivors Carl Denaro and Robert Violante and discussions by reporters who covered the case such as the NEW YORK POST’S Steve Dunleavy and the NEW YORK DAILY NEWS’ Brian Kates, who worked alongside Jimmy Breslin.
SON OF SAM: THE HUNT FOR A KILLER was produced for Investigation Discovery by Cream Productions in association with Absinthe Film Entertainment. Kate Harrison, Richard Curson Smith, and David Brady are Executive Producers for Cream/Absinthe.
Max Culhane is Executive Producer, Sara Kozak is Senior Vice President of Production, Jane Latman is Executive Vice President of Development, and Kevin Bennett is General Manager for Investigation Discovery. Investigation Discovery is part of Discovery Communications (Nasdaq: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK), the world’s #1 pay-TV programmer reaching nearly 3 billion cumulative subscribers in 220 countries and territories.
Following the biggest police manhunt in New York history Berkowitz was apprehended in front of his apartment in Yonkers on August 10th, 1977. He was deemed competent to stand trial several times despite saying that the instructions for these murders came from a demonic dog named “Harvey” who belonged to his neighbor “Sam” Carr.
Berkowitz left a series of letters mocking the police and promising further crimes that were highly publicized by the press. “I live for the hunt—my life,” he claimed.
On March 10th, 1977 NYPD officials and New York City Mayor Abraham Beame held a now-celebrated press conference about the crimes Berkowitz had committed, which were discussed by the local media virtually every day. Circulation increased dramatically for the NEW YORK POST and NEW YORK DAILY NEWS, newspapers with graphic crime reporting and commentary. Foreign media featured many of the reports as well.
Lauria, Freund, Voskerichian, Esau, Suriani, and Moskowitz died of their injuries. Lomino was rendered paraplegic from wounds to her back and Violante was rendered almost completely blind from wounds to his head.
Almost all of the female victims had long dark hair. Carl Denaro’s dark hair was also quite long and it was thought that he had been mistaken for a female through the window of the car where he was shot.
During the dreadful “Summer of Sam” New York City also experienced a blackout that was described by some as “apocalyptic”. It was as if the entire city was caught up in some odd Satanic rite orchestrated by the Son of Sam.
This terrifying serial killer turned out to be a perfectly ordinary-looking, rather chubby man with wavy dark hair and a soft, almost sweet, voice. He had been given up for adoption by a mother who later told him the details of his illegitimate birth after Berkowitz located her in 1974.
Berkowitz’ Son of Sam killing spree began soon afterwards. He was reputed to have been a difficult and spoiled child who later lacked success with women.
At his sentencing, Berkowitz caused an uproar when he attempted to jump out of a window of the seventh-floor courtroom. In prison he became a born-again Christian, changing his name from Son of Sam to Son of Hope.
The former Son of Sam stays involved with prison ministry and regularly counsels troubled inmates. He is considered to be a model prisoner and completed a community college degree with honors while behind bars.
Perhaps the security and structure of prison had the desired effect upon Berkowitz, turning him from a sinner into something resembling a saint, or at least a viable member of society!
Bonn believed that Berkowitz’ unfavorable childhood was responsible for much of the fear and rage later witnessed throughout the Son of Sam crime wave during which he “struck back at society” and held the entire city of New York hostage for a year. His sense of insignificance lay at the heart of his violent actions.
This is not to deny Berkowitz’ scariness. Any serial killer, whether born or made, loves to kill. Killing becomes a form of addiction for them.
Dunleavy and Denaro speculated on whether Berkowitz had acted alone or in collusion with a Satanic cult, a question that remains open to this day. Dunleavy thought he had acted alone and Denaro thought he had colluded with a cult after conducting 28 years of independent research.
Hopkins spoke about the huge number of leads that came in about the Son of Sam case through the media, which he saw as both a good thing and a bad thing. Naturally for every good lead there were any number of bad ones, and many came from out of the country.