Little Bits of History

July 29

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 29, 2017

1976: Donna Lauria, 18, is killed. She and her friend Jody Valenti, 19, were in the Pelham Bay area of the Bronx discussing their evening at a local discotheque. At around 1.10 AM, Lauria got out of the car and a man suddenly appeared. She was startled and angered by the man who drew a gun from a brown paper bag and while crouching, shot her once, killing her instantly. He fired another shot which hit Valenti and a third shot that missed both women. He then fled. Valenti survived and was able to give an adequate description of the assailant to police. A second similar shooting took place on October 23, another shooting incident took place on January 30, 1977, and again on March 8, April 17, and June 26.

During this time, police were investigating the series of shooting which left six dead and eight wounded. The shooter moved around New York City as police attempted to bring in the man responsible who used a.44 caliber Bulldog revolver. On March 10, 1977, New York City Mayor Abraham Beame held a press conference linking several of the city’s unsolved murders to the same assailant. When the killer struck again in April, he left a handwritten letter near the bodies of his two latest victims. He called himself “Son of Sam” and the name quickly replaced the press’s moniker of “the .44 Caliber Killer”. The killer promised to continue his spree and taunted police and their inability to catch him.

On May 30, Jimmy Breslin of the Daily News, received a handwritten letter from someone claiming to be the .44 caliber shooter. The letter contained more taunts to the police as well as symbols. It also mentioned the upcoming one year anniversary of the first killing. Even as the police were on the alert, on July 31, Son of Sam struck again. Witnesses at the scene were able to describe the getaway car and finally on August 9, NYPD detective James Justice called Yonkers police to schedule an interview with David Berkowitz. He was arrested on August 10.

The next day, he was questioned for about thirty minutes and quickly confessed to the shootings and inquired how to plead guilty. He claimed he was told to kill people by the neighbor’s dog. After three separate mental health examinations, it was determined Berkowitz was competent to stand trial. He appeared in court on May 8, 1978 and pled guilty to all the shootings. He was sentenced to 25 yars in prison for each killings, served consecutively. Because he pled guilty, he was eligible for parole in 25 years. His first parole hearing was scheduled in 2002 but he informed the current governor he should remain in prison. He is to have a hearing every two years and has consistently refused to ask for release. He remains in Shawangunk Correctional Facility in the state of New York.

I am deeply hurt by your calling me a women hater. I am not. But I am a monster. I am the “Son of Sam.” I am a little “brat”. – David Berkowitz, first letter

Hello from the gutters of N.Y.C. which are filled with dog manure, vomit, stale wine, urine and blood. Hello from the sewers of N.Y.C. which swallow up these delicacies when they are washed away by the sweeper trucks. Hello from the cracks in the sidewalks of N.Y.C. and from the ants that dwell in these cracks and feed in the dried blood of the dead that has settled into the cracks. – David Berkowitz, second letter

Well, you got me. How come it took you such a long time? – David Berkowitz, at arrest

I’d kill her again. I’d kill them all again. – David Berkowitz, at his sentencing

Son of Sam

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 12, 2011

David Berkowitz

June 12, 1978: David Berkowitz is sentenced. He was born on June 1, 1953 and named Richard David Falco. He was called the Son of Sam and dubbed the .44 Caliber Killer, citing his weapon of choice. After his arrest, he confessed to six murders and admitted to wounding seven others. He was responsible for eight shootings between July 29, 1976 and July 31, 1977. He later recanted and admitted to only two shootings and three people killed with a fourth wounded.

Berkowitz was adopted when he was only days old and had a “somewhat troubled” childhood. An intelligent child, he had a lackluster academic career, instead leaning toward petty crime. His adoptive mother died when he was 13 and he did not care for his father’s second wife. He claimed his new step-sister got him interested in witchcraft and the occult. He served honorably in the US Army from 1971 to 1974.

He joined a cult in 1975 and claims these people got him involved in violent crime beginning with killing dogs. Donna Lauria was killed and Jody Valenti shot about 1:19 AM on July 29, 1976. Valenti had not recognized their assailant. The next attack was on October 23 with two people shot, but surviving. In November, two more were shot and survived. In January 1977, two people were shot with one dying and in March a woman was killed on her way home from a college class. In April two people were killed and in June two more were shot and survived. Two more were shot, with one surviving as the killing spree ended in July 1977.

Berkowitz was questioned on August 11, 1977 and confessed to the Son of Sam murders. He claimed Sam, a neighbor, had a dog who was possessed by an ancient demon and the demon had commanded Berkowitz to kill. He was sentenced to 365 years in prison. He was given added time for assault in prison. He became a born-again Christian in 1987 but states he deserves to “be in prison for the rest of my life.” That is where he remains to this day.

“I am deeply hurt by your calling me a wemon [sic] hater! I am not. But I am a monster. I am the “Son of Sam.” I am a little brat.” – opening of the Son of Sam letter

“Police: Let me haunt you with these words: I’ll be back! I’ll be back! To be interpreted as — bang bang bang, bank, bang — ugh!! Yours in murder, Mr. Monster” – closing of Son of Sam letter

“Hello from the gutters of N.Y.C. which are filled with dog manure, vomit, stale wine, urine and blood. Hello from the sewers of N.Y.C. which swallow up these delicacies when they are washed away by the sweeper trucks.” – opening of the Breslin letter

“Please inform all the detectives working the case that I wish them the best of luck. “Keep ’em digging, drive on, think positive, get off your butts, knock on coffins, etc.” Upon my capture I promise to buy all the guys working the case a new pair of shoes if I can get up the money. Son of Sam” – closing of the Breslin letter

Also on this day:
If It Doesn’t Fit, You Must Acquit – In 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman are murdered.
Medgar Evers – In 1963, this Civil Rights leader was assassinated.