This Day In History: The ‘Son of Sam’ Terrorises New York (1976)

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On this day in history, a serial killer was stalking New York and terrorizing its citizens. One this day the killer pulled a gun from a bag and fired six shots at a couple. The incident happened in the Bronx and they were shot while they were sitting in their car. The young  woman was killed and her boyfriend seriously wounded. It was the first  in a series of shootings, that seemed to be targeting young couples.

The killer became known as the Son of Sam after he signed a letter claiming responsibility for his attacks. In the letter, he declared that

“…I am a monster. I am the Son of Sam. I love to hunt, prowling the streets looking for fair game. The women are the prettiest of all …”

The name Son of Sam is a reference to the devil and the killer believed that he was the son of the devil.

Another  attack  was on  a couple was shot as they sat in a car in Queens.  A month later two girls on their way home were also attacked. One of the girls was paralyzed for life the other one escaped serious injury.

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David Berkowitz terrorised New York in 1976-1977

The Son of Sam attacked again early 1977. An observant bystander described him as an ugly and overweight white man. There was another attack in Brooklyn and the public became increasingly worried. Many people started to carry weapons for protection and the newspapers were full of stories about the attacks and Son of Sam. Vigilante groups were also established by the public such was the terror caused by the attacks.

It was noted by the police that women with dark hair were often targeted.  Women, particularly those with dark hair, were discouraged from traveling at night in the city.

In July 1977, there was another attack. One man died in this attack when the killer opened up on his car with a machine gun. The police gave chase to the escaping killer and they caught him. He was caught red-handed with a weapon that was used in several attacks.

Son of Sam was revealed to be an individual by the name of Berkowitz. It soon became apparent that he was mentally disturbed. He claimed that  the devil  was sending messages to him via his neighbor’s pet dog.  Berkowitz had earlier tried to kill the dog and when it recovered from his wounds- he believed that it had special powers and that it communicated the devil’s messages to him.

Berkowitz was eventually sentenced to 300 years in prisons and was diagnosed as mentally unstable and a danger to society. Berkowitz had been adopted as a child and had become a recluse as an adult.  Since his imprisonment he has claimed that he has become a born-again Christian.

 

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