In August 1977, New Yorkers breathed a sign of relief after the man known as "Son of Sam," David Berkowitz, was taken into custody after a year-long reign of terror. The serial killer killed six and wounded seven others in eight separate attacks between July 1976 and July 1977.
This is the story of the search for Berkowitz, what he did before being caught and what happened after he was captured.
“Well, you got me.”
These were the words uttered by David Berkowitz on Aug. 10, 1977 — the day the fear gripping New York City finally came to an end.
Berkowitz, who became known in the tabloids as the “Son of Sam” and the “.44 Caliber Killer,” killed six people and wounded seven others in eight separate attacks between July 1976 and July 1977.
The manhunt dedicated to tracking him down would become one of the most extensive in the history of New York City.
The killer first struck in the Bronx on July 29, 1976, shooting 19-year-old Jody Valenti and killing her friend, Donna Lauria, 18, in front of Donna’s home after they had left a nightclub. Lauria was his first victim to succumb to her injuries.
Denaro and Keenan
In October 1976, he struck in Flushing, Queens, as Carl Denaro, 20, and Rosemary Keenan, 18, were hanging out in a car. Denaro was shot in the back of the head but Keenan was unharmed.
DeMasi and Lomino
In November 1976, Donna DeMasi, 16, was sitting on her friend Joanne Lomino’s porch in Queens after a night out in Manhattan when a man approached them.
“He came up and asked questions; he pulled out a gun and shot,” DeMasi, the youngest of Berkowitz's victims, told Inside Edition Digital in 2017. “I never saw him before. He wasn’t with anyone else.”
The bullet struck her neck and grazed her spinal cord. She spent a month in the hospital and had to re-learn how to use her left side. Lomino, then 18, was left paralyzed. The two women are no longer in touch.
Berkowitz's weapon of choice was a .44 caliber bulldog revolver.
Detective James McClafferty and Detective William Brevaire check over the facts at the 109th Precinct, as the search continued for the "Son of Sam."
“We had a psycho out there and he had to get caught,” retired Detective James Justus, who was assigned to a special task force to catch the killer, told Inside Edition Digital in a rare interview in 2017. They operated under the notion that “he is going to screw up somewhere,” he said.
The NYPD created a task force to capture the "Son of Sam," and cops exhaustively looked at fingerprints to capture the killer.
Berkowitz taunted police and journalist Jimmy Breslin with a series of letters in the spring of 1977 until his capture that summer.
Berkowitz claimed that his neighbor, Sam Carr's dog, was speaking to him and giving him orders to kill straight from the devil.
The story was one of the biggest hitting New York City until he was caught.
Funeral for victim victim Christine Freund, 26, who was killed in January 1977, as she sat inside a car with her 30-year-old fiance, John Diel, who survived the attack.
Columbia University student Virginia Voskerichian, 19, was murdered by "Son of Sam" as she was walking to her Queens home just around the corner from where Freund was killed months earlier.
Suriani and Esau
In April 1977, he killed two more people, 18-year-old Valentina Suriani and 19-year-old Alexander Esau, in the Bronx. He also left behind a letter that police initially withheld from the public.
A bullet casing found after one of the shootings helped police tract a pattern that the killer was using a .44 caliber revolver.
Berkowitz in the Military
Berkowitz was trained on how to use a firearm when he served in the military.
Police examine the car in which 17-year-old Judith Placido was shot by "Son of Sam." Placido and her friend, 20-year-old Sal Lupo, were attacked in Queens. They both survived.
Sketches of the madman were distributed around New York City and surrounding areas. The sketches changed over time as more witnesses and people were attacked.
Cops continued to search for clues in the car that Lupo and Placido were attacked in.
Sal Lupo in wheelchair at Flushing Hospital following being attacked in June 1977.
More of the threatening letters sent by the "Son of Sam" to police and reporters.
Wanted posters featuring the sketch of "Son of Sam" were hung up around the city.
The murderer sent letters to New York Daily News journalist Jimmy Breslin.
He started his correspondence by saying, "Hello from the gutters of NYC," and promised there would be more deaths because he felt compelled to kill.
Full Court Press
Chief of Detectives John Keenan and Deputy Police Commissioner Frank McLaughlin appeared frustrated as they answered the press' question concerning progress being made in manhunt for the "Son of Sam" killer. By this point, 100 police officers had been added to the full-time search for the killer, who by then killed five and wounded eight with his .44-caliber revolver.
More letters, which featured ramblings and manifestos, were sent to police and media. Sometimes he signed off with his signature symbol indicating that he was the "Son of Sam."
The aftermath following the final shooting in Bath Beach, Brooklyn, in July 1977.
The Final Crime Scene
Scene of the car where Robert Violante was shot in the head and Stacy Moskowitz was murdered.
A police officer holds up some of the letters sent by "Son of Sam" to authorities and shows them to the media.
Cacilia Davis was walking her dog, Snowball, and said she came face to face with the killer later identified as David Berkowitz, giving cops a crucial lead after what they would later come to know as his final shooting.
Days after the final shooting, an eyewitness who lived in Bath Beach said she’d been walking her dog before the attack and saw a man with what looked like a gun. She told the police that there had been officers on her block writing parking tickets.
After the final shootings, Detective James Justus told Inside Edition Digital in 2017 he went through the parking tickets filed that night. As he ran through the summons filed, he said he came across one, for $25 and assigned to a car that was parked in front of a fire hydrant. It had a registration from Yonkers, N.Y.
Berkowitz was arrested August 10, 1977 by the NYPD outside his Yonkers, New York, apartment.
The outside of Berkowitz's apartment building where he was arrested.
A police officer stands guard as detectives searched the Yonkers apartment of David Berkowitz.
Berkowitz's Ford Galaxie LTD, which matched the description of the car on the parking ticket. Inside the car they saw a semi-automatic rifle and .44-Caliber Charter Arms Bulldog revolver.
Inside His Apartment
Inside Berkowitz's messy apartment.
Inside His Apartment
Cops found the bachelor's pad to be full of garbage and unkempt.
Berkowitz confessed to the killings. He said he’d been planning to attack the Hamptons, a popular, affluent seaside resort, before the end of the summer.
He claimed he had been given orders to kill by his neighbor’s dog, the black Labrador retriever he’d once shot. The dog survived with the bullet lodged in its backside.
“I am happy to announce that the people of the city of New York can rest easily this morning because the police have caught the person known as Son of Sam,” then-New York City Mayor Abraham Beame told reporters.
Overjoyed at Berkowitz’s arrest, authorities held a press conference to deliver the good news to the public.
On May 8, 1978, Berkowitz pleaded guilty to the six murders and was sentenced to six consecutive sentences of 25 years to life in prison.
Berkowitz has been denied parole every time he has been eligible.
Map of Killings
A map of the "Son of Sam" killing spree, which lasted over a year.
Following Berkowitz's arrest, members of the NYPD hold up the .44 Charter Arms bulldog revolver recovered at Berkowitz's home.
Side by Side
Berkowitz's mugshot and the police sketch side by side.
Members of the NYPD read the news that Berkowitz has been arrested.
Removal of Fear
With Berkowitz behind bars, New York City began a recovery process from the fear he once inflicted.
“This is New York City; we are never normal,” Justus said. “But it took a lot of pressure off. The clubs started getting more people.”
A Changed Man?
After converting to Christianity behind bars, he now goes by “Son of Hope” and runs a website offering his preaching services and prayers.
“As I have communicated many times throughout the years, I am deeply sorry for the pain, suffering and sorrow I have brought upon the victims of my crimes," Berkowitz, now 68, wrote in a statement on his website. “I regret what I've done and I'm haunted by it."
DeMasi on Berkowitz's Alleged Change
"I feel people can change. Let him change in jail,” Donna DeMasi, one of his 1976 victims, told Inside Edition Digital in 2017. “He is never going to come out. I will never see him and never have to see him and I am thankful.”
Berkowitz on Inside Edition
In 1993, Inside Edition visited Berkowitz for the first time in prison for one of his first major interviews since his conviction. Berkowitz recounted what happened and how he was arrested.
Berkowitz on Inside Edition
He also spoke to Inside Edition in 1999 and described his conversion to Christianity. He said that he receives many letters from people who need guidance and have problems they want to discuss.