Best Crime Of The Century:12 of 25

December 3, 2008

son_of_samTHE SON OF SAM, 1977

New York seemed to be going to hell in the summer of 1977. Already in perpetual fiscal crisis the city was plunged into a 25-hour blackout on July 13 that saw massive looting and arson. And the Son of Sam killer was still out there after more than a year, waiting to kill again, sending his perverse missives to the police and to New York Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin. The killer had called himself the Son of Sam in his letters, which spoke of Papa Sam as a drinker of blood and master of Satanic mayhem. And on July 31, the Son of Sam struck again, shooting a young woman, who was killed, and her male companion, who would be blinded. But it would be the last attack. A witness on the night of that shooting saw a man in the neighborhood remove a parking ticket from a Ford Galaxie. The police tracked their records and found 24-year-old David Berkowitz, a dweeby, pudgy employee of the U.S. Postal Service. Trained as a sharpshooter with the M16 rifle in the U.S. Army, he had used a .44 pistol in all the shootings, killing six and wounding seven. Who was Sam? Sam, said Berkowitz, was a cantankerous former neighbor. But Berkowitz said he was the devil and that he transmitted his orders through the infernal and incessant barkings of his dog, Harvey.

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