David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam, the .44 caliber killer, held the city of New York in gut wrenching fear from July 29, 1976 up until his capture on August 10, 1977. At the end of his reign of terror, six people were killed and another seven were injured. Avoiding trial, Berkowitz, who has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, pled guilty to second degree murder, attempted murder and assault. On June 12, 1978, he was sentenced to six 25-years-to-life sentences. The Omega task force, that had been assigned to bring him to justice, had gotten the heinous killer off of the streets. While the series never asserts that Berkowitz wasn’t responsible for death and mayhem, it posits the idea that perhaps there were others involved in the shootings. (As an aside: Prior to the shootings, Berkowitz was responsible for two stabbings. The first of which, that of fifteen year old, Michelle Forbes, took place on December 25, 1975).
The man responsible for raising the idea of others being involved in the murders was an award winning investigative journalist by the name of Maury Terry. His book, “The Ultimate Evil,” which detailed his painstaking investigation, was published by Doubleday Books on January 1, 1987. Throughout its 512 pages numerous assertions are made that the Son of Sam killings, while involving Berkowitz, were actually the work of a satanic cult.
In brief, at the time of his arrest, David Berkowitz was a twenty-four year old postal worker. According to the newspaper and broadcast stories, during the months that preceded his capture, he seemed to be targeting young women with long brown hair. This prompted women with that hair color, to cut it short, dye it blonde or purchase a wig. Furthermore, because of the randomness of the shootings, people starred refraining from going out at night. It’s been well documented that Berkowitz claimed that he got his orders to kill from his neighbor Sam Carr’s black Labrador retriever, Harvey, who he felt was possessed by a demon. Berkowitz has in the intervening years recanted that claim.
From the start, Maury Terry felt there was more to the story. He believed that the police rushed to judgment, because with Berkowitz behind bars, it allowed a city on edge to breathe a collective sigh of relief. Terry’s first suspicion that something wasn’t right stemmed from the eyewitness sketches. Each one of them was different and none of them resembled Berkowitz. From there, as previously stated, Terry spent countless hours following every lead, interviewing whomever he could, and documenting his every move.
Those interviewed throughout the series include, but are not limited to, the following: Members of law enforcement such as NYPD Ret. Lead Detective Joseph Borrelli, who was a leader on the Omega task force; Kevin Murphy, a retired detective who worked for the Yonkers police department. Yonkers is where Berkowitz was living when he committed his crimes and where Terry began his investigation into the satanic cult; Fellow journalist, producer and writer Wayne Darwen, who was a believer in the validity of Terry’s work. For personal context into the type of person Terry was, his lifelong friend Charlie Ott speaks throughout the series, as well as Terry’s ex-wife, Georgina Byrne. Furthermore, Carl Denaro, a Son of Sam victim, backs up Terry’s theory by stating that the person who shot him, was not David Berkowitz.
“The Sons of Sam: A Descent into Darkness” was directed by Joshua Zeman (Cropsey). The four episodes are narrated by Emmy winner Paul Giamatti (John Adams). The documentary series contains the genres of crime, horror, and mystery. Each of the four episodes that comprise the series are approximately one hour. Netflix released the series for worldwide streaming on May 5, 2021.
For those interested in true crime, or even for those interested in mysteries, this should hold your interest. Terry presents a great deal of plausible evidence to prove his theories. So as not to be a spoiler, and give anything away, I will simply say that, viewers who stay with the series until the end of episode four will watch as one of Terry’s theories is proven to be true. This was an absorbing series that held my interest from start to finish.