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What Were the Son of Sam Murders?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2016
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Between 1976 and 1977, a string of murders left residents of New York City shaken to the point of near panic. Generally occurring at night on the weekends, the Son of Sam murders were committed by David Berkowitz, a mentally unstable Yonkers resident also known as the .44 Caliber Killer. Berkowitz perpetrated several slayings, consistently using a .44 caliber Bulldog handgun and immediately fleeing the scene without any physical contact with the victim. In all, the Son of Sam Murders perpetrated by Berkowitz claimed the lives of seven victims. Another nine victims survived their attacks but in some cases were left with severe or debilitating injuries.

The Son of Sam Murders began in the early morning hours of July 29, 1976 with the shooting of Donna Lauria and her friend, Jody Valenti. The two friends had been sitting in Valenti’s car, and when Lauria got out of the vehicle she noticed a man approaching. The man dispensed three rounds from his handgun, shooting Lauria in the chest and killing her instantly. Valenti was struck in the thigh but survived her injuries. The killer fled the scene immediately. The police recovered a .44 caliber slug from the scene, verifying it as the bullet from the murder weapon.

The next several attacks by Berkowitz took place against couples and occurred on the weekends. The Son of Sam Murders in this period claimed another victim and caused several severe injuries. At the scene of one of the murders, police discovered a handwritten letter from the self-proclaimed Son of Sam, which became an important piece of evidence that led to Berkowitz’s capture. The letter detailed his bizarre motives for the murders, and more letters were later sent by the killer to police and media outlets.

Working on a tip from a neighbor, police conducted a search of Berkowitz’s car and subsequently requested a warrant to search his apartment. Based on the evidence they found there, police apprehended Berkowitz and charged him with the Son of Sam Murders, many of which Berkowitz confessed to. Many investigators believe that Berkowitz was consumed with guilt because he believed his mother had died during childbirth; his adoptive mother, Pearl Berkowitz, died in 1967 of cancer, thereby compounding Berkowitz’s guilt and anger. Later in his life, Berkowitz would briefly reunite with his birth mother, but this did not stem the tide of his guilt. Whether this was enough motive for the murders is still up for debate.

Berkowitz claimed his neighbor’s dog was possessed and had convinced him to commit the murders. The "Sam" Berkowitz had referred to in his letters was Sam Carr, Berkowitz’s former neighbor and owner of the "possessed" dog Berkowitz referred to. After his imprisonment, Berkowitz became a Born-Again Christian and has advocated for his continued incarceration, once failing to show for his parole hearing. He is currently serving out six life terms for the Son of Sam Murders.

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anon180881
Post 3

@cmsmith: well David was and is one serious fruit loop. he was neither a psychopath or sociopath. he just had schizophrenia (or so I believe), which explains the "possessed" dog.

DinoLeash
Post 2

@cmsmith10: David Berkowitz was responsible for the Son of Sam Murders. When he was arrested, he told police that Sam was a “high demon” who transmitted his powers to him through Sam’s black Labrador retriever. David Berkowitz now claims he was participating in a satanic cult and that is why he killed people.

cmsmith10
Post 1

What was the reasoning behind the Son of Sam Murders?

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