Bath Beach

Smithsonian Channel revisits ‘Son of Sam’ case

Notorious killer was captured 40 years ago

June 28, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This old black and white photo from 1977 shows David Berkowitz in police custody. Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Channel

To anyone who was living in New York City in 1977, the words “Son of Sam” have a chilling connotation even to this day.

Serial killer David Berkowitz went on a slaying spree that started in 1976 and went on for more than a year. Berkowitz, who called himself “Son of Sam,” terrorized the city during the height of the Disco Era by killing six people and critically wounding seven others until he was captured in the summer of 1977. Many of his victims were young adults enjoying a night of dancing at discos.

His final murder took place when he fatally shot Brooklyn resident Stacey Moskowitz on Shore Parkway in Bath Beach. Moskowitz’s date, Robert Violante, was shot in the eye and seriously injured but he survived.

Forty years after Berkowitz’s arrest, the Smithsonian Channel is presenting the “Son of Sam” saga as the latest episode in its immersive and critically acclaimed series “The Lost Tapes.”

“The Lost Tapes” features no narration or recreations. The history of that time in New York City is captured by media reports and home videos, including rarely-seen interviews with people who knew Berkowitz.

“The Lost Tapes: Son of Sam” will premiere on Smithsonian Channel on Sunday, July 30, at 9 p.m.

Berkowitz had already struck five times before the police were able to confirm that the bizarre shootings were all committed by the same individual. The documentary features rare press conference footage of Michael J. Dodd, the police commissioner at the time, announcing that the murders were all connected and were carried out using a .44 caliber Charter Arms Bulldog pistol.

It wasn’t until Berkowitz struck for the sixth time that he left a note promising to continue killing as the “Son of Sam.” He began sending bizarre letters to newspapers describing the details and motives behind his attacks.

NYPD formed a 200-person task force, Operation Omega, to track down the killer and bring him to justice. It wasn’t until a Bensonhurst resident tipped the police off to a suspicious man on her street the night of his latest attack that any progress in the case was made.

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After checking every parking ticket issued that night in the area, police got a hit on a 1970 yellow Ford Galaxie, which belonged to David Berkowitz, a resident of Yonkers.

The notorious “‘Son of Sam” had finally been captured.

Berkowitz pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 25-years-to-life for each of the six murders and he remains in prison to this day.

“The Lost Tapes” series is produced by Tom Jennings of 1895 Films, the same team behind the Peabody Award-winning “MLK: The Assassination Tapes.” The executive producers for Smithsonian Channel are David Royle, Charles Poe and John Cavanagh.

For more information, visit smithsonianchannel.com.

 

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