Across 13 months of 1976 and 1977, concern over the Son of Sam murders perpetrated by then-unknown serial killer David Berkowitz gripped the residents of New York City. Six ladies and men have been shot and killed in three of the town’s boroughs in additional than a dozen seemingly random assaults. The crimes spawned one of many largest manhunts of the town’s historical past.
Tabloid newspapers battled for the most recent data as every day gross sales soared. “It had absolutely everything going for it as a tabloid perfect storm,” Sam Roberts, the Daily News metropolis editor in 1977 informed the New York Times of the media frenzy. “It was an ongoing, unfolding crime story that New Yorkers were genuinely terrified about.”
Here’s a timeline of one of the most infamous killing sprees in modern history:
July 29, 1976: The killer attacks his first victims
The shootings first attributed to the killer who would become known as the Son of Sam occurred in the Pelham Bay area of the Bronx. Two women, Jody Valenti and Donna Lauria, 18, were sitting in Valenti’s double-parked Oldsmobile when a man approached the car and fired three bullets. Lauria was killed instantly and Valenti was shot in the thigh before the man walked quickly away. Valenti described her attacker as a white male in his thirties, approximately 5-foot-8 and about 200 pounds, with short, dark, curly hair.
October 23, 1976: Two more people are shot but survive
Carl Denaro, 20, and Rosemary Keenan, 18, were shot at while sitting in a parked car in a residential area of Flushing, Queens. Both survived, but Denaro was struck in the head by one of the bullets. Police would later speculate Denaro may have been mistaken for a woman due to his shoulder-length hair.
November 27, 1976: A couple is attacked by a man in military fatigues
Following a late movie, Donna DeMasi, 16, and Joanne Lomino, 18, were headed to Lomino’s home in Floral Park, Queens when they were approached on the street by a man dressed in military fatigues who produced a revolver and shot each woman once. Their attacker fired several more times before running away. Though shot in the neck, DeMasi survived without permanent injury. Lomino was shot in the back and was paralyzed.
January 30, 1977: Another assault with seemingly no motive
Christine Freund, 26, and her fiancé, John Diel, 30, have been shot as they sat in Diel’s automotive in Flushing, Queens. Panicked, Diel sped away. He suffered minor accidents however Freund was shot twice and later died in hospital. Like the earlier assaults there gave the impression to be no motive, however following this homicide the police made the primary public acknowledgment that the assault bore similarities to earlier incidents – all victims have been struck with .44 caliber bullets and the assailant gave the impression to be attacking younger girls with lengthy, darkish hair. At the time, police mentioned they have been on the lookout for a number of suspects.
March 8, 1977: A school pupil is attacked in a the identical space
Returning residence within the night after faculty lessons, Virginia Voskerichian, 19 — who lived in the identical neighborhood the place Freund had been attacked — was shot within the head and died immediately. With native newspapers the Daily News and New York Post now reporting on the shootings each day, it was revealed at a press convention two days after Voskerichian’s homicide that police strongly suspected the identical .44 Bulldog revolver had been used within the assaults.
April 17, 1977: The killer broadcasts his id for the primary time
In the early hours of the morning, Valentina Suriani, 18, and her boyfriend, Alexander Esau, 20, have been sitting in Suriani’s automotive close to her residence within the Bronx after they have been every shot twice. Esau died on the scene and Suriani later in hospital. For the primary time, the killer introduced his id by way of a handwritten observe left for police on the crime scene through which he referred to himself as “Son of Sam” and promised the killings would proceed.
May 30, 1977: A columnist receives a handwritten letter from somebody claiming to be the killer
Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin obtained a handwritten letter from somebody claiming to be the shooter. Within, the author namechecks one of many first victims, Lauria, warning Breslin to “not forget [her] and you cannot let the people forget her either. She was a very, very sweet girl but Sam’s a thirsty lad and he won’t let me stop killing until he gets his fill of blood.” The letter was signed “Son of Sam.” The Daily News introduced the missive to police and 10 days later published a redacted model in what would turn into one of many paper’s largest promoting points ever with multiple million copies offered.
With experiences now circulating that the victims all had lengthy, darkish hair, girls in New York started chopping their hair quick or using brilliant dyes to change their look.
June 26, 1977: A pair is attacked exterior a membership
After leaving a disco in Bayside, Queens, Judy Placido, 17, and Sal Lupo, 20, have been shot whereas sitting in Lupo’s parked automotive. Both survived their accidents with Lupo reportedly telling the police he and Placido had been discussing the Son of Sam killer solely minutes earlier than the assault.
July 31, 1977: The first assault involving a sufferer with blonde hair
Robert Violante, 20, and Stacy Moskowitz, 19, have been shot in Violante’s automotive whereas on their first date. Volante would lose his left eye, Moskowitz would die 18 hours after the assault which was the primary to happen within the borough of Brooklyn and the primary involving a sufferer, Moskowitz, with blonde hair.
Days later an eyewitness would come ahead claiming to have seen a person with what regarded like a gun minutes earlier than the Brooklyn shootings, and that different cops have been writing parking tickets in the identical space that night time. A search revealed one of many ticketed vehicles that night time belonged to Berkowitz, who was already being investigated over complaints of harassment to a neighbor.
August 10, 1977: Berkowitz is arrested and confessed the subsequent day
Berkowitz, 24, of Yonkers, N.Y. was arrested in entrance of his house constructing. Police had investigated Berkowitz’s automotive and found a rifle within the again seat, maps of the crime scenes and ammunition. Waiting till Berkowitz left the house constructing, police arrested him as he sat behind the wheel of his automotive. A bag containing the .44 caliber revolver was recovered subsequent to him, and a smiling Berkowitz reportedly mentioned to the arresting officer, “Well, you got me.”
The following day Berkowitz would confess to the shootings, claiming that Sam was a demonic spirit who spoke to him by way of his former neighbor’s black Labrador. Berkowitz additionally informed police he was accountable for 1,500 fires set across the metropolis. He was 23 on the time of the primary homicide.
May 8, 1978: Berkowitz pleads responsible to the murders
Berkowitz withdraws an madness protection and pleads responsible to the six murders, being given six 25-years-to-life sentences for the crimes, and for which he could be denied parole ever since. Following his arrest, Berkowitz made statements that he had been a part of a violent cult that aided him in finishing up the assaults and murders.
Though no arduous proof was uncovered to assist the declare, many nonetheless marvel if Berkowitz was appearing alone. According to Jim Rothstein, a retired New York Police Department detective who was engaged on the vice squad in the course of the Son of Sam killings and investigated suspicions a satanic cult was behind a lot of the violent legal exercise in the course of the 1970s, Berkowitz “didn’t do all of the killings.”
“Once they locked up Berkowitz and blamed him for every little thing, they mentioned it was performed,” Rothstein informed A&E Real Crime. “But Berkowitz was just the guy who took the rap. It was a much bigger thing.”
“I see that people will never understand where I come from, no matter how much I try to explain it,” Berkowitz informed CBS News in a uncommon 2017 tv interview. “They wouldn’t understand what it was like to walk in darkness.”
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