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The Sons of Sam: A Descent into Darkness is a new documentary on Netflix that will have you wanting to carve out time to watch all four episodes straight through.
True Crime fans will LOVE this new Netflix documentary from Joshua Zeman (THE KILLING SEASON) that does an amazing job of combining archival news footage and present day interviews with those closest to author and journalist Maury Terry (Ultimate Evil).
Synopsis of The Sons of Sam: A Descent into Darkness
The hunt for the “Son of Sam” captivated the world in the late 1970s, but the story behind one of America’s most notorious serial murderers is all but forgotten — until now. While the arrest and conviction of David Berkowitz brought the nightmare to an end for many New Yorkers, for journalist and Ultimate Evil author Maury Terry, the real mystery was just beginning.
Terry, convinced Berkowitz had not acted alone, would go on to spend decades attempting to prove that the web of darkness behind the murders went deeper than anyone imagined – and his pursuit of that elusive truth would eventually cost him everything. Filmmaker Joshua Zeman (CROPSEY, THE KILLING SEASON) draws on archival news footage, conversations with the people closest to the investigation, and Terry’s own words and case files to tell a cautionary tale of a man who went down a rabbit hole and never came out. But was Maury Terry just chasing ghosts – or are the true Sons of Sam still out there…
The Sons of Sam Timeline
- David Berkowitz was born Richard David Falco to Elizabeth Border on June 1, 1953, in Brooklyn, New York.
- David Berkowitz was adopted by Pearl and Nathan Berkowitz as an infant.
- David Berkowitz joined the United States Army in 1971 (aged 17) and served with an infantry division in South Korea
- David Berkowitz was honorably discharged from the Army in June 1974.
- After the war, Berkowitz found his birth mother Betty and found the details of his birth and adoption to be very traumatic and distressful.
- David Berkowitz claims his first attack was on Christmas Eve, 1975, when he used a hunting knife to stab 15-year-old Michelle Forman and an unknown woman in Co-Op City.
- July 29, 1976: The first Sons of Sam shooting. Donna Lauria, an emergency medical technician, 18, and her friend Jody Valenti, a nurse, 19, were sitting in Valenti’s double-parked Oldsmobile, in the Bronx. Laura was instantly killed while Valenti was shot in the thigh.
- October 23, 1976: The second Sosn of Sam shooting. Carl Denaro, a Citibank security guard, 20, and Rosemary Keenan, a Queens College student, 18, were sitting in Keenan’s parked car when the windows suddenly shattered. They both luckily walked away from the attack even though Denaro had a bullet wound to the head and needed a metal plate to replace a portion of his skull.
- November 27, 1976: The third Sons of Sam shooting. High school student Donna DeMasi, 16, and Joanne Lomino, a student at Martin Van Buren High School, 18, walked home from a movie and were talking on Lomino’s porch in Floral Park, New York. Both were shot and survived. DeMasi was shot in the back of her neck and Lomino was shot in the back and eventually declared a paraplegic.
- January 30, 1977: The fourth Sons of Sam shooting. Christine Freund, a secretary, 26, and her fiancé John Diel, a bartender, 30, were sitting in Diel’s car near the Forest Hills LIRR station in Queens when they were shot at. Freund was killed while Diel suffered superficial injuries.
- After the Freund killing, the police acknowledged that there might be a connection between all the ‘Son of Sam’ shooting, all the young women had long dark hair, and that all the shootings involved a .44 caliber gun.
- Young women in New York started to fear for their lives and began cutting their hair, putting their hair up in ponytails and buns and kerchiefs.
- March 8, 1977: The fifth Sosn of Sam shooting. Columbia University student Virginia Voskerichian, 19, was walking home from school and shot in the head. She tragically died despite trying to shield herself with her textbooks.
- April 17, 1977: The sixth Sons of Son shooting. Alexander Esau, a tow truck operator, 20, and Valentina Suriani, an aspiring actress and model, 18, were sitting in Suriani’s car near her home in the Bronx. Each was shot twice and both died from their injuries.
- A letter addressed to NYPD Captain Joseph Borrelli was found near the bodies of Esau and Suriani using the term “son of sam”.
I am deeply hurt by your calling me a wemon hater. I am not. But I am a monster. I am the “Son of Sam.” I am a little “brat”. When father Sam gets drunk he gets mean. He beats his family. Sometimes he ties me up to the back of the house. Other times he locks me in the garage. Sam loves to drink blood. “Go out and kill” commands father Sam. Behind our house some rest. Mostly young—raped and slaughtered—their blood drained—just bones now. Papa Sam keeps me locked in the attic, too.
I can’t get out but I look out the attic window and watch the world go by. I feel like an outsider. I am on a different wave length then everybody else—programmed too kill. However, to stop me you must kill me.
Attention all police: Shoot me first—shoot to kill or else. Keep out of my way or you will die! Papa Sam is old now. He needs some blood to preserve his youth. He has had too many heart attacks. Too many heart attacks. “Ugh, me hoot it urts sonny boy.” I miss my pretty princess most of all. She’s resting in our ladies house but I’ll see her soon. I am the “Monster”—”Beelzebub”—the “Chubby Behemouth.”
I love to hunt. Prowling the streets looking for fair game—tasty meat. The wemon of Queens are z prettyist of all. I must be the water they drink. I live for the hunt—my life. Blood for papa. Mr. Borrelli, sir, I dont want to kill anymore no sir, no more but I must, “honour thy father.” I want to make love to the world. I love people. I don’t belong on Earth.
Return me to yahoos. To the people of Queens, I love you. And I wa want to wish all of you a happy Easter. May God bless you in this life and in the next and for now I say goodbye and goodnight. Police—Let me haunt you with these words; I’ll be back! I’ll be back! To be interrpreted as—bang, bang, bang, bank, bang—ugh!!
Yours in murder Mr. Monste
- June 26, 1977: The seventh Sons of Sam shooting. Sal Lupo, a mechanic’s helper, 20, and Judy Placido, a recent high school graduate, 17, were sitting in Lupo’s parked car when three gunshots blasted through the vehicle. Both were wounded but thankfully survived their attacks.
- July 31, 1977: The eighth Sons of Sam shooting happened just a few days after the one year anniversary of the first shooting. Stacy Moskowitz, a secretary, and Robert Violante, a clothing store salesman, both 20, were in Violante’s car, in the neighborhood of Bath Beach, on their first date when they were shot at. Moskowitz [the only blonde woman attacked by Berkowitz] was killed and Violante lost his left eye due to the attack.
- Cacilia Davis was walking her dog when she saw patrol officer Michael Cataneo ticketing a car that was parked near a fire hydrant just before the shooting of Moskowitz and Violante. She had felt threatened by a young man on the scene and reported it a few days later. The NYPD subsequently checked each car that had been ticketed in the area that night. Berkowitz’ car was among the list of cars.
- August 9, 1977: NYPD detective James Justis telephoned Yonkers police to ask them to schedule an interview with Berkowitz. He spoke with police dispatcher Wheat Carr, the daughter of Sam Carr and sister of Berkowitz’s alleged collaborators John and Michael Carr. [This detail will be very important when watching The Sons of Sam: A Descent into Darkness.]
- August 10, 1977: David Berkowitz was arrested in his car and in possession of a .44-caliber Bulldog revolver.
- August 11, 1977: David Berkowitz confessed his crimes to Detective John Keenan.
- May 8, 1978: David Berkowitz pleaded guilty to the shootings.
- June 12, 1978: David Berkowitz was sentenced to 25 years to life for each murder, to be served consecutively.
- 1987: Maury Terry’s The Ultimate Evil book was released.
- December 10, 2015: Maury Terry died following a brief illness.
Who Was Maury Terry?
Maury Terry was a journalist and the author of The Ultimate Evil. According to the book, Terry was suspicious of Berkowitz’s confession. Spurred by conflicting witness descriptions of the killer and clues overlooked in the investigation, Terry was convinced Berkowitz didn’t act alone. Based upon the evidence he had uncovered, Terry theorized that the Son of Sam attacks were masterminded by a Yonkers-based cult that was responsible for other ritual murders across the country.
After Terry’s death in 2015, documentary filmmaker Josh Zeman (Cropsey, The Killing Season, Murder Mountain) was given access to Terry’s files, which form the basis of his docuseries with Netflix and a companion podcast. Taken together with The Ultimate Evil, which includes a new introduction by Zeman, these works reveal the stunning intersections of power, wealth, privilege, and evil in America—from the Summer of Sam until today.
Why You Should Watch The Sons of Sam: A Descent into Darkness
Josh Zeman’s The Sons of Sam: A Descent into Darkness is a first rate documentary. The way he dug up all that archival news footage was impressive. The footage seems to have been scrubbed and cleaned and smoothly made to fit into a widescreen HD program.
And for those of us who had never read Terry’s book, there is a heap load of information that will be new and surprising. Such as the suggested connection between Charles Manson and David Berkowitz.
The show goes into detail about all the Son(s) of Sam shootings and killings.
There are archival photos used of blood soaked locations.
There is discussion about Berkowitz and others killing dogs and drinking their blood.
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Continue the Conversation
What do you find most fascinating about the Sons of Sam killings and shootings?
I lived in the area where this happened and was at the age where I was going out and partying. It was a very scary time and we were afraid to go out. I haven’t watched this yet but will try and see if I can get through it all these years later.
wow. must have been so scary to live through that. I am glad you were kept safe.