David Berkowitz, dubbed the “.44 Caliber Killer” for the gun he used, and later called the “Son of Sam” killer, was arrested at his Yonkers home on August 10, 1977. Berkowitz terrorized New York City over 13 months beginning in July 1976, killing six people and wounding seven others.
Thirteen shootings occurred in the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, with many of the victims targeted as they sat in their cars late at night. Berkowitz left cryptic letters at the crime scenes and wrote to Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin. The killings spread fear among many of the city's residents, especially young women with dark hair, who appeared to be the main target.
A $35 ticket issued to a car parked illegally along the Brooklyn waterfront on July 31, 1977, the night of the last shooting, ultimately led to the arrest of David Berkowitz as the suspected “Son of Sam” killer. Berkowitz later claimed his neighbor's dog ordered him to carry out the murders.
The following excerpts are from an AP story reported on August 11, 1977:
The greatest manhunt in New York City's history was at an end Thursday, with the accused .44 caliber slayer of six consigned to a mental ward. Outside the court a sidewalk crowd cried out for his blood, chanting, "Kill! Kill."
Identified as Son of Sam, he was seized as he reportedly planned a final furious climax to his year-long reign of dark terror, a massacre in which he said officials "would be all summer counting the bodies."
Paunchy, bland-looking David Berkowitz, 24, an army veteran who worked as a $13,000-a-year letter sorter for the post office, was quoted as saying he planned to machine gun an unselected but presumably crowded discotheque in the Hamptons in Suffolk County - the south shore Long Island summer haunt of the wealthy and socially prominent.
Police said Berkowitz, a former New York City auxiliary policeman sensed capture was near and saw the Hamptons bloodbath as a means to "go out in a blaze of glory."
Berkowitz submitted to arrest with a smile Wednesday night outside his apartment house in suburban Yonkers. Police said an unmailed letter to Suffolk County authorities and a map of Long Island resort areas were found in his car, along with the infamous Charter Arms .44 caliber revolver used in 13 shootings during the past year.
A witness in Brooklyn had seen a police officer ticket a nearby car for illegal parking beside a fire hydrant:
At a news conference, Police Commissioner Michael Codd said two persons who volunteered information on Son of Sam enabled police to arrest Berkowitz and close the baffling case. The city had spent an estimated $1 million including overtime for a task force of 300 cops especially assigned to track down the elusive gunman, who stalked his victims down the dark corridors of the night.
One volunteer was a Yonkers tipster who gave police Berkowitz' name. The other was Cecilia Davis, a Brooklyn woman who saw a $35 parking ticket hanging on Berkowitz's car near the scene of blonde, brown-eyed Stacy Moskowitz's slaying last July 31. She was the .44 caliber killer's last victim, slain two days after the anniversary of his initial hit.
Text by Kathleen Elliott