The true crime series dives into the killings that terrorised New York between 1976 and 1977, claimed to have been committed by an anonymous murderer who called himself ‘The Son of Sam’ in letters to the press and police.
While 24-year-old David Berkowitz was eventually convicted of the six murders and numerous attacks, some – including journalist Maury Terry – believe that he didn’t act alone.
This Netflix four-parter explores the theory that Berkowitz committed the crimes as part of a satanic cult and through archive footage, focuses on Terry’s own investigation.
As for David Berkowitz, where is he now? Here’s everything you need to know about the convicted serial killer.
Who is David Berkowitz?
David Berkowitz is a serial killer also known as the Son of Sam. Born in New York in 1953, the ex-US Army soldier was working as a letter sorter for the US Postal Service when he began a killing spree in New York City in the summer of 1976.
The adopted son of Pearl and Nathan Berkowitz, David has been the subject of numerous dramas, documentaries, movies and songs, including the Spike Lee film Summer of Sam, the TV series Mindhunter and the Beastie Boys’ 1989 track ‘Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun’.
What did David Berkowitz do?
Between July 29th, 1976 and July 31st, 1977, David Berkowitz committed eight separate shooting attacks on people in New York, using a .44 revolver.
His targets were often people sat in cars, including his first victims, teenage friends Donna Lauria and Jody Valenti. They were parked in the Pelham Bay area of the Bronx at around 1am on July 29th, 1976, when a man walked up to them, produced a pistol from a paper bag and shot them both. Lauria was killed instantly, but Valenti survived.
During these random attacks, Berkowitz killed six people and wounded seven others, sparking one of the biggest manhunts in New York City history.
Did David Berkowitz really act alone?
It depends on whom you talk to. While he is the only person to have been charged with the Son of Sam shootings, there are some investigators who worked on the case and journalists who have gone over the evidence since who believe that there may have been other gunmen involved in some of the crimes.
Netflix’s documentary series The Sons of Sam looks at the most popular theory – that Berkowitz was involved in all the crimes, but may not have pulled the trigger in every instance.
NBC journalist John Hockenberry has reported that Berkowitz claims he was part of a group of Satanists, and that he told writer Maury Terry in 1997 that the group were “working with Satan to try to bring in a lot of chaos.” That chaos allegedly included the murders, although the only two men Berkowitz has named as possible co-shooters – brothers John and Michael Carr – are both deceased so are unable to refute or confirm his accusations.
Where is David Berkowitz now?
Berkowitz is now 67 years old, and imprisoned at Shawangunk Correctional Facility in Ulster County, New York.
He was sentenced to the maximum prison term of 25 years to life for each of the six ‘Son of Sam’ killings, to run consecutively, meaning he received a sentence of over 300 years incarceration. However, because he pleaded guilty to all the charges against him, he became eligible for parole just 25 years after he was sentenced in 1978.
Berkowitz has been considered for parole every two years since 2002, but has been denied parole each time, and has not asked for his release. His last parole hearing was scheduled for the spring of 2020, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When he was interviewed in 2002 by CNN’s Larry King, Berkowitz talked about the work he was doing in prison for his fellow inmates. “I work in the mental health unit,” he said. “It’s called intermediate care program. And I’m there as like a peer counsellor for the men that have emotional problems. Every morning, Monday through Friday, I go over there to work with those guys. And that’s really a challenge, and I enjoy doing that very much.”
“It’s in an unofficial capacity,” he added. “I’m kind of like a combination chaplain, counsellor, guidance counsellor and just a friend to those guys.”
The Sons of Sam will be available to stream on Netflix from 5th May. Check out our lists of the best series on Netflix and the best movies on Netflix, or see what else is on with our TV Guide. Also visit our dedicated Documentaries hub for more news.