"THE people of the City of New York can rest easy tonight because police have captured a man they believe to be the 'Son of Sam'", New York City Mayor Abraham Beame gleefully told a press conference after David Berkowitz's arrest.
After a year-long reign of terror which left six dead and seven more wounded, cops were relieved to have brought down the notorious lone gunman — but not everyone is convinced Berkowitz had acted alone, while some fear that others involved in the spree could still be out there.
Beginning with a double stabbing in 1975, Berkowitz's killings terrified New Yorkers until he was arrested in 1977.
The press took to calling him the .44 Caliber Killer after the type of pistol he used to shoot his victims, typically targeting people in pairs, often young women in cars with their boyfriends.
But after a handwritten letter was found alongside the bullet-riddled bodies of his victims at one fatal shooting, reports referred to him by the nickname he gave himself: Son of Sam.
Berkowitz would later tell investigators he'd been acting on the orders of a demon who disguised himself as the dog belonging to his neighbour, Sam.
Now Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness on Netflix is set to examine a shocking theory that Berkowitz didn't carry out his bloodthirsty rampage alone.
Could he actually have been part of a Satanic cult who planned and executed the killingstogether?
Rising tide of bloodshed
Berkowitz became known for his attacks with a .44 Bulldog revolver, but his first known attempt to take a life was with a hunting knife.
He was 22 on Christmas Eve in 1975 when he stabbed two female victims, one of whom was a 15-year-old girl named Michelle Forman.
Thankfully both survived — which pushed Berkowitz to find a deadlier weapon.
In July 1976, 18-year-old medical technician Donna Lauria and her 19-year-old nurse friend Jody Valenti were sitting in Valenti's Oldsmobile in the early hours after a night out.
As Lauria stepped out the car to leave, she noticed a man quickly approaching — without a word, he produced a pistol and started firing.
One bullet fatally wounded Lauria while Valenti was hit in the thigh before the gunman fled the scene.
After that attack, similar shooting incidents started cropping up in neighbourhoods all over New York.
In October, 20-year-old security guard Carl Denaro was sitting in his car in Queens with Rosemary Keenan, 18, when the windows suddenly smashed in.
Denaro managed to start the engine and speed away from the attack despite being shot in the head — he would later need a metal plate fitting in his skull.
Others weren't so lucky.
Joanne Lomino, 18, was left paraplegic after being shot along with her friend on the porch of her home in Floral Park.
Christine Freund, 26, died after being shot twice while sitting alongside herfiancé John Diel in his car in Queens — Diel was also hit, but he suffered only minor injuries.
A month later, in March 1977, 19-year-old student Virginia Voskerichian was walking home to her house, located less than a block from where Freund and Diel were attacked, when a stranger with a gun approached her.
It's thought Voskerichian tried to shield herself with books she was carrying, but her assailant fatally shot her in the head.
In the following days, Mayor Beame announced at a press conference that the same .44 revolver was used to kill Lauria and Voskerichian.
New York was being stalked by a serial killer.
'I love to hunt'
The month after Voskerichian's murder, the killer identified himself as "Son of Sam".
They did so in a letter left at their latest crime scene, in April 1977, alongside the bloodied bodies of their latest victims.
Tow truck operator Alexander Esau, 20, and aspiring model Valentina Suriani, 18, were shot dead in Suriani's car near her home in the Bronx at around 3am.
The handwritten note, which was addressed to NYPD Captain Joseph Borrelli, expressed the killer's plans to continue the carnage.
"I am the 'Monster'—'Beelzebub'—the 'Chubby Behemouth'," the note read.
"I love to hunt. Prowling the streets looking for fair game—tasty meat."
It concluded: "Police—Let me haunt you with these words; I'll be back! I'll be back!
"To be interrpreted [sic] as—bang, bang, bang, bank, bang—ugh!! Yours in murder Mr. Monster."
The following month, another letter was sent to New York Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin from Son of Sam.
"You must not forget Donna Lauria and you cannot let the people forget her either," it read.
"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."
Panic began to take hold in the city, with women dying their hair blonde and cutting it short in the belief that Son of Sam was specifically targeting victims with long brown hair.
On July 31, 1977, Son of Sam broke the pattern with his final killing.
Stacy Moskowitz and Robert Violante, both 20, were kissing in Violante's car in Brooklyn after a date when bullets ripped through the vehicle.
Violante lost his left eye in the attack but Moskowitz, the only blonde-haired victim of Son of Sam, died from her injuries.
'Well, you got me'
It was the shooting that would lead to Berkowitz's downfall.
Cacilia Davis had been walking her dog, Snowball, near the site of the attackminutes before the shooting and had noticed a man walking strangely and looking her directly into her face as he passed.
When she heard gunshots five minutes later and read about the double murder the next day, she was certain the man she'd seen pulled the trigger.
She also remembered seeing a cop ticketing a cream-coloured car illegally parked one block from the murder site.
When detectives checked records of all the vehicles ticketed that evening in the area, one turned out to be Berkowtiz's 1970 Ford Galaxie, registered to an address 25 miles away.
They wondered why the car was there in the middle of the night and, when they found the vehicle outside Berkowitz's Yonkers address, they could see a rifle on the back seat.
Cops waited for him to leave the building to arrest him — when they approached, Berkowitz reportedly said: "Well, you got me. How come it tookyou such a long time?"
Police also found .44 Bulldog revolver in the car and, in his flat, the walls were covered in Satanic graffiti.
He quickly confessed during questioning, explaining that his neighbour's dog Harvey demanded the blood of young girls, though he later said thismotive was a hoax.
At trial, he calmly pleaded guilty to all the shootings after rejecting his defence team's advise to deny responsibility by reason of insanity.
During sentencing, Berkowitz had to be restrained after attempting to jump out of the courtroom's seventh floor window, shouting that his final victim was "a whore" and "I'd kill her again, I'd kill them all again".
In 1978, Berkowitz was given 25-years-to-life in prison for each of his six murders, and he's currently caged in the Shawangunk Correctional Facility in New York.
Satanic cult theory
With Berkowitz behind bars, the Son of Sam case was closed — until a bizarre theory about a Satanic cult threw new light on the killings.
In 1993, Berkowitz gave a series of shocking TV interviews to Inside Edition in which he claimed that he had not acted alone during his 1970s bloodbath.
"I was at more or less all of them," he said, referring to the eight shootings.
"I did not pull the trigger at every single one of them. And I believe the police know that."
Instead, he alleged he'd merely been the lookout at some of the murders, which had actually been carried out by members of a mysterious cult he'd joined in 1975.
Journalist Maury Terry devoted his life to the Son of Sam case and wrote the book Ultimate Evil: An Investigation into a Dangerous Satanic Cult, whose theories inform the Netflix documentary.
In it, Terry argues that the murders were actually the cult's human sacrifices for the devil.
Two of the men Berkowitz claimed were in the cult, John and Michael Carr, were long dead by the time Berkowitz made his claims.
But the multiple killers theory was bolstered by the fact that shooting witnesses gave radically differing accounts of the appearance of the gunman.
And even families of the victims have publicly stated they thought Berkowitz probably wasn't acting alone.
“There's no way that David Berkowitz did all the shootings," Carl Denaro, who himself survived Son of Sam's bullets, previously told NBC.
"I personally think it was a cult. I don't know that for a fact. But I am convinced that — and no one can unconvince me — that more than one person was involved.”
Despite Berkowitz changing his story, no one else has ever been charged with the murders, and an FBI profiler concluded that Berkowitz was too much of an introverted loner to take part in a group operation.
"It was a time of foolishness for me, a time of spiritual darkness, a time of a lot of confusion,” Berkowitz told Terry of his spree in a 1997 interview.
Whether or not the new documentary clears up the confusion around the case remains to be seen.
The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness is available on Netflix
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