How 'Son of Sam' David Berkowitz Went From Following the Devil to God
It’s been 40 years since David Berkowitz, the prolific New York City serial killer known as the “Son of Sam,” was arrested and put behind bars for life.
But the man who claimed to be carrying out Satan’s work when he killed six people and wounded seven others between July 1976 and July 1977 says he’s found God while doing time at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility in upstate New York.
“If I had not become a Christian, I may have died a long time ago,” Berkowitz told Inside Edition in a 1993 jailhouse interview.
Berkowitz’s manhunt became the largest in the city’s history until his arrest on August 10, 1977, in Yonkers, N.Y.
He confessed to the killings of Donna Lauria, 18, Christine Freund, 26, Virginia Voskerichian, 19, Alexander Esau, 20, Valentina Suriani, 18, and Stacy Moskowitz, 20. He claimed he’d been given orders to kill from his neighbor’s dog.
On May 8, 1978, Berkowitz pleaded guilty to the six murders and was given six 25-years-to-life sentences.
Following his sentencing, he was sent to Attica State Prison in upstate New York. In 1979, Berkowitz was slashed in the throat.
"Another inmate tried to take my life by cutting my throat with a prison-made razor blade,” he told Inside Edition in 1993. "I’m lucky to be alive. The doctor there who stitched me up said, ‘It is a miracle you are alive.'"
It took 56 stitches to close the wound. His neck still bears the scar.
“As with many inmates, life in prison is a struggle,” he wrote on his website, AriseandShine.org. “I have had my share of problems, hassles and fights. At one time I almost lost my life when another inmate cut my throat. Yet all through this — and I did not realize it until later — God had His loving hands on me.”
A decade after claiming he’d killed in the name of Satan, Berkowitz converted to Christianity.
In 1987, he was transferred 250 miles away to Sullivan, where he remains today, and soon met another inmate who introduced him to the religion. In the 1993 interview with Inside Edition, Berkowitz recalled picking up a Bible for the first time.
“The words began to seem very real as if God were talking to me,” he said.
“It was at that moment, in 1987, that I began to pour out my heart to God," he wrote on his website. "Everything seemed to hit me at once. The guilt from what I did. The disgust at what I had become. “I told Him that I was sick and tired of doing evil. I asked Jesus to forgive me for all my sins. I spent a good while on my knees praying to Him.
“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. I grieve for those who are wounded, and for the family members of those who lost a loved one because of my selfish actions. I regret what I've done and I'm haunted by it."
Berkowitz, or inmate No. 78-A-1976, now calls himself the “Son of Hope.”
Now 64, Berkowitz preaches behind bars as a minister. He has also created a video series where he discusses his reform and gives sermons. He insists that neither he nor his webmaster profit from the money they make from his speeches or interviews.
In the late 90s, he sold a series of self-help VHS tapes about reform. He later released his prison journals as a book, Son of Hope: The Prison Journals of David Berkowitz.
He has also spoken to high school, college, and law school students around the world via email and handwritten letters.
“It is like a nightmare that just keeps coming back,” he told Inside Edition in a 1999 interview. “Every time you hear, ‘Son of Sam! Son of Sam!’ I don’t even know who that person is.”
He has been denied parole every time he has been eligible, most recently in May 2016.
Berkowitz, a veteran, told the parole board last year that he is no threat whatsoever to the public.
It was the first time he’s openly declared that he should be paroled after years of telling the media, including Inside Edition in 1993 and 1999, that he should never be let out.
His next parole hearing is in May 2018.
“I feel people can change — let him change in jail,” Donna DeMasi, one of his surviving victims, told InsideEdition.com in a recent interview. “He is never going to come out. I will never see him and never have to see him and I am thankful."