Did convicted Son of Sam killer David Berkowitz act alone?
In 1977, the country breathed a sigh of relief when police finally captured the serial killer called “Son of Sam.” David Berkowitz confessed to killing six people in New York City and injuring seven others. But now, reporter Maury Terry has convincing evidence that there may have been others involved.
Son of Sam’s reign of terror began on July 29th, 1976. Two young girls were shot with a .44. One died. A composite sketch of the gunman was created from the survivor’s eyewitness description.
Three months later, a man from Queens was shot in the head with a .44 caliber gun. A month after that, again in Queens, a man appeared from nowhere and shot two girls. Both survived, but one was left paralyzed and was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. Eyewitnesses helped police create a new composite of the gunman.
Six months later, two other women were killed in separate shootings. Again, a .44 caliber revolver was used. Eyewitnesses helped create two new sketches of the killer. However, these sketches didn’t look anything like the earlier drawings.
Almost nine months after the first murder, there was another shooting just three blocks from the scene of the first attack. This time, a hand printed letter was left by the killer. It read, in part: “I am a monster … I am the Son of Sam. I’m a little brat.” According to retired NYPD Detective Henry P. Cinotti, the city was paralyzed with fear:
“The people in the local neighborhoods, particularly in the Bronx, were petrified. I remember people yelling to people in the street, ‘Get in, that nut’s out there.” And this is in early afternoon.”
On Memorial Day, “Son of Sam” sent another letter, this one to columnist Jimmy Breslin. It was written in the same distinctive style and contained references to Satanism.
Finally, in late July, Son of Sam struck for the last time. Stacy Moskowitz was killed, her date Robert Violante was partially blinded. Nineteen-year-old Tommy Zaino witnessed the shooting:
“That guy came over to the car and blew those people away in less than four seconds.”
Tommy helped police with yet another composite. Again, there were more differences than similarities when compared to the earlier sketches.
As the police were investigating the most recent murder, they found that a car near the crime scene had been issued a parking ticket. The Ford Galaxy was owned by a postal worker named David Berkowitz. The police traced the ticket to Berkowitz’s home. As they approached his building, they saw the Ford Galaxy. Inside the car, they found a duffel bag with a rifle sticking out of it and a letter signed by “Son of Sam.”
The police staked out the area. Later that evening, Berkowitz walked towards his car carrying a brown paper bag. Inside was a .44 caliber revolver. As detectives moved in to arrest him, Berkowitz sat quietly in his car.
David Berkowitz confessed to all the shootings. He told police that his neighbor’s barking dog had told him to commit the murders. He pleaded guilty to all the charges and was sentenced to 25 years to life. But to author Maury Terry, his confession seemed too convenient:
“After the arrest of Berkowitz, just through fate or whatever, I started poking around into the case because I had some suspicions that maybe there was more to it than the public was being led to believe.”
Maury Terry suspected that Berkowitz didn’t act alone, but that he was part of a gang of killers. It was Stacy Moskowitz’s murder that first made Maury suspicious:
“The very early reports on the Moskowitz killing had me concerned. David Berkowitz’s features were widely different from the sketches of the killer that had been done by the police artist. I started seeking out witnesses and found Tommy Zaino, who was a key witness to the shooting.”
According to Tommy, he and his girlfriend were parked in front of Stacy Moskowitz and her boyfriend on the night of the murder:
“I was looking in the mirror of the car and I noticed somebody standing in the park. What I saw was that he had long hair and it’s hard to really see the face, but he was thin. He looked like he was in pretty good shape. He walked up to the car as if he was going to get in the car, and then he went into a stance and he shot. And that was it. He turned around and ran. I can’t picture Berkowitz running like that. That’s the thing that confused me after they caught him. In a week, he can’t get that fat. And that’s all I can say. He didn’t look like the type of guy to run and do that.”
In the neighborhood where the last killing took place, Stacy and her boyfriend were parked near the entrance to a city park two blocks away from where Berkowitz’s Ford Galax got the parking ticket. Maury says the events leading up to the shooting began at the entrance to the park at about 1 AM. Witnesses saw a yellow Volkswagen pull up. Two men got out. By 1:30 AM, Tommy Zaino was sitting in his car. He noticed the yellow VW pass by more than once. At 2:05 AM, the parking ticket was put on Berkowitz’s Ford. Cecelia Davis, a woman who lived in the neighborhood, pulled up in a friend’s car near the Ford Galaxy:
“We were triple parked and I was looking back in case a car came up. I saw the guy take the summons off his windshield and keep on looking, watching the cops as they still gave tickets. Then he got in the car and he came behind us. He couldn’t pass because we were blocking the whole street. And he blew the horn at us. I gave him a dirty look. What’s the big rush in the middle of the night?”
Cecelia says the man was definitely David Berkowitz. He drove up Bay 17th Street and turned right on Bath, following the police. Maury Terry believed that these are not the actions of an illusive, armed killer:
“The fact that David Berkowitz pulled up behind Mrs. Davis and her date as he did, with the police car still on the block or just pulling off the block, blaring his horn, he would not be doing something like that if he is the elusive, ingenious Son of Sam carrying that .44 bulldog in his car.”
Fifteen minutes after the parking ticket was issued, Stacy and Robert went for a stroll in the park. They noticed a man standing next to a restroom, watching them. Two blocks away, Cecelia was walking her dog by her apartment. She saw David Berkowitz, the man who had honked earlier, walking straight towards her. Cecilia says that about one minute later she heard the gunshots that killed Stacy Moskowitz and almost blinded Robert Violante. How could Berkowitz have traveled from where Cecelia last saw him, to where Stacy and Robert were shot, in just one minute? It takes at least two and a half minutes to quickly walk the two blocks from Bay 17th Street to the park.
Just 15 seconds after the shooting, witnesses saw a man wearing a light colored wig run from the park, get into a yellow Volkswagen, and speed up 17th Avenue. He was in such a hurry that he ran a red light and almost hit another car.
Maury Terry believes that at least three people, including Berkowitz, were involved in Stacy’s murder. He claims they were members of a satanic cult and were responsible for every one of the “Son of Sam” shootings. According to Maury:
“David Berkowitz was selected to be the fall guy on the Son of Sam killings. He was not a willing fall guy, he wanted it to be another way. But Berkowitz knew that he had been involved in all of the shootings. He has pulled the trigger definitely two times, responsible for three murders. He’s not an innocent man and was on the scene of all the others, as a lookout, a wheel man, whatever.”
Several of the people involved in the Son of Sam case backed up Maury’s account. Witness Tommy Zaino:
“I didn’t think it was David Berkowitz then and I don’t think it’s him now.”
NYPD Det. Henry Cinotti:
“It’s a strong opinion of mine that David Berkowitz was not the sole killer and was aided by other accomplices.”
John Santucci, Dist. Attorney of Queens County:
“I had a statement made to me by someone who allegedly spoke to David Berkowitz, wherein David Berkowitz is supposed to have stated that others were involved.”
Maury says that cryptic references in one of the Son of Sam letters support his theory. One phrase that raised his suspicions was: “John Wheaties … Rapist and Suffocator of Young Girls”. Another was “Wicked King Wicker.” Maury views them as clues that help identify an accomplice of David Berkowitz.
Berkowitz lived in a seventh floor apartment in Yonkers. Down the hill was a street named “Wicker.” Could this be the “King Wicker” mentioned in the Breslin letter? According to Maury Terry, Wicker Street was near the home of another character mentioned in the letter — John “Wheaties”:
“I learned that the ‘John Wheaties, rapist and suffocator,’ alias of the killer in the Breslin letter, was not really an alias at all, but it was the name of a real person. That person was John Carr, who was the real-life son of Sam Carr. John Carr’s nickname was Wheaties. And I learned this within a day of the arrest.”
Maury Terry believes that there is a resemblance between two composite drawings of the .44 caliber killer and John Carr. Maury tracked down Carr to North Dakota, where he worked as a mechanic at a local Air Force base. He lived there during the mid-70’s, but often visited New York during the time of the “Son of Sam” attacks. Ex-Lieutenant Terry Gardner, of the Ward County, North Dakota Sheriff’s Department, said he was aware of Carr:
“From my experience, he was a mixed-up drug addict. He was hanging around with the group of people that were on the other side of the law all the time. John Carr, many, many months before Berkowitz was ever arrested, had talked about his friend Berky to his friends out in Minot, North Dakota. John Carr was a friend of, a confidant of, and an associate of David Berkowitz.”
Just six months after Berkowitz was arrested, John Carr was found dead in his girlfriend’s apartment. Officer Gardner interviewed her:
“During my first interview with his live-in girlfriend at the time, she told me that he must have just taken his own life. The next day, same person, new interview, whole new story; ‘John Carr had to have been murdered. He was wanted by the police in New York for the Son of Sam killings. He was afraid for his life and I fully believe that John Carr was murdered.’”
Maury Terry said John Carr was involved in satanic rituals:
“Through interviews with Carr’s friends and police officials in North Dakota, the picture emerged that John Carr was heavily involved in satanic cult activity, both in Minot, North Dakota, and in Westchester County, New York, where he spent part of his time. It involved blood drinking, urine drinking, the ritualistic sacrifice of animals, specifically German Shepherds.”
The Satanic symbol found on the Breslin letter was also found written on Carr’s phone book. One of Carr’s acquaintances was man named Phil Falcon. According to Maury Terry, Falcon claimed he accidentally walked in on Carr and a friend performing a satanic ritual:
“Phil Falcon told us that he walked into his own house one night in North Dakota and found John Carr and another friend of Carr’s part of the circle, in the act of ritualistically sacrificing an animal right in Falcon’s house. And Phil Falcon also told us that John Carr belonged to a very, very violent satanic cult.”
Prison sources who knew Berkowitz told Maury Terry that Berkowitz had been introduced to the cult by John Carr’s brother, Michael, in the 70’s. According to Maury Terry:
“Michael Carr ended up inviting Berkowitz to attend what he called ‘a floating coven party’. And Berkowitz came in and attended the party and symbolically, not literally, but symbolically, the .44 was put into his hand that night. That’s how he got into the cult scene.”
More than two years after Berkowitz was arrested, Michael Carr was killed in a car accident on a New York highway. He died just eighteen months after his brother.
Berkowitz admitted during two different court depositions that he knew both John and Michael Carr and that they were part of a satanic cult. And, he said the brothers were killed to keep them from talking. Maury Terry believes that the deaths of the Carr brothers may have been organized by the “22 disciples of Hell” mentioned in the Breslin letter. Maury also says this satanic group performed their rituals in a local park that was just one mile from Berkowitz’s apartment:
“I got a call from a young boy in Yonkers, a 15-year old high school sophomore, wanted to know if I knew that there was a satanic cult that was meeting in Untermyer Park in Yonkers and killing dogs. And so I met him down there, he showed me where the cult was meeting. We saw all the satanic graffiti. Saw the remains of probably two or three German Shepherds. It was a very significant development in the case.”
Was a satanic group responsible for the Son of Sam attacks? Berkowitz himself seems to support the theory. He ended one of his letters to the media by stating;
“There are other Sons out there — God help the world.”