Beverly Hills, CA (The Hollywood Times) 8/3/17 – On the 40th anniversary of the capture of David Berkowitz, Investigation Discovery (ID) will premiere the two-hour documentary special SON OF SAM: THE HUNT FOR A KILLER on Saturday, August 5th from 9-11 p.m. ET. New York City was in a panic for more than a year in the late ‘70s while Berkowitz taunted law enforcement, toyed with the media, and played a fatal game of cat and mouse with its residents armed with a .44 caliber gun.
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.
Through a combination of first-person testimony and detailed archival footage, SON OF SAM: THE HUNT FOR A KILLER tracks the investigative moves of the NYPD and New York media in their hunt for a suspect and provides a platform for the survivors and victim’s families. The show explores how police pieced together a seemingly random slew of shootings to build a psychological profile of the killer.
Detectives who worked the various homicides offer insight into how they captured the killer, including Captain (Ret.) of the NYPD and head of the Omega Task Force, Joe Borrelli; Queens detective and original task force member Marlin Hopkins; arresting officer William Gardella; and NYPD Psychologist Harvey Schlossberg, who was tasked with profiling Berkowitz.
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.
Additional content pertaining to SON OF SAM: THE HUNT FOR A KILLER will be made available on Investigation Discovery’s social platforms on Facebook and Twitter as well as its TV Everywhere app, ID GO, and website at InvestigationDiscovery.com. Companion articles will appear on its dedicated crime news blog, Crimefeed.com.
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.
David Berkowitz (born Richard David Falco on June 1st, 1953 in Brooklyn, NY) is currently serving six consecutive life sentences (365 years) for initiating a reign of terror from July 29th, 1976 to July 31st, 1977 throughout the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn. Berkowitz is better known as the .44 Caliber Killer and Son of Sam.
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 YORKDAILY NEWS, newspapers with graphic crime reporting and commentary. Foreign media featured many of the reports as well.
On May 30th, 1977, famed NYDN columnist Jimmy Breslin received a handwritten letter from Berkowitz. The NYDN published parts of this letter a week later and Breslin urged the killer to surrender himself. The dramatic article made that day’s paper the highest-selling edition of the NYDN to date—more than 1.1 million copies were sold.
Berkowitz’ New York killing spree achieved worldwide notoriety and he appeared to enjoy the media attention that made him into a celebrity of sorts. Later he was also implicated in many unsolved arsons in the city.
The Son of Sam shooting victims’ names (in order) are Donna Lauria, Jody Valenti, Carl Denaro, Rosemary Keenan, Donna DeMasi, Joanne Lomino, Christine Freund, John Diel, Virginia Voskerichian, Alexander Esau, Valentina Suriani, Sal Lupo, Judy Placido, Stacy Moskowitz, and Robert Violante.
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!
This view was confirmed by Dr. Scott Bonn at the TCA press tour Investigation Discovery panel held on Wednesday, July 26th, 2017 at the Beverly Hilton. Bonn is a criminologist who specializes in serial killers and was granted one of the very last ever interviews with David Berkowitz (who declined to participate in the ID documentary).
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.
Dr. Bonn did not believe that David Berkowitz was a cold-blooded psychopath like Ted Bundy, another notorious serial killer who was probably “born” rather than “made” like Berkowitz. Most psychiatrists would probably agree with Bonn’s analysis based upon the adult Berkowitz’ unusually productive adjustment in prison. Berkowitz actually hugged Bonn before the prison interview and seemed very friendly.
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.
Also present on the ID panel were Henry Schleiff, Group President for Investigation Discovery, American Heroes Channel, and Destination America; Marlin Hopkins, a retired Queens homicide detective and original member of the Omega Task Force created to bring Berkowitz to justice; Steve Dunleavy, a NEW YORK POST columnist who extensively covered the Son of Sam case; and Son of Sam survivor Carl Denaro.
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.
According to Hopkins, the Son of Sam Omega Task Force started off with 30 men that spread to hundreds and then to the whole police department plus the FBI. Organized crime even got involved!
Hopkins spent three hours with Berkowitz during the interrogation immediately after he was captured. Unlike Dr. Bonn, Hopkins thought Berkowitz seemed psychotic. Hopkins was unsure about cult involvement with the Son of Sam crimes.
In closing Dr. Bonn said, “I did not believe [David Berkowitz] was either clinically or legally insane. He knew what he was doing. He was packaged for the media. He gave himself his own brand name, ‘Son of Sam.’ He wanted the attention. We have to remember that this took place in the ’70s, practically the Stone Age of media. It was before the Internet, before satellite television, before social media. And it still held New York City, and largely the United States, riveted for an entire year. If this case happened today God forbid this was to happen again, it would be the biggest crime story in the history of the world, without a doubt.” Let that serve as food for thought!