NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Thursday marks the 40th anniversary of the arrest of the serial killer who called himself the “Son of Sam.”
David Berkowitz shot and killed six people and wounded seven others, terrorizing the city in 1976 and 1977.
At the time, Bill Clark was a young detective assigned to the team of 200 investigating the murders.
On July 31, 1977, Clark rushed to Kings County Hospital after Berkowitz’s last two victims had been shot while sitting in a parked car in Brooklyn.
“The father had just seen his son go past him and he was just traumatized, you don’t know if your son is going to live or die,” Clark said.
Berkowitz speaks out about what led him to kill, his life before he turned into a murderer, and life in prison today in “Son of Sam: The Killer Speaks,” a CBS News special broadcast on Friday, Aug. 11, at 10 p.m. on CBS2.
DuBois: “If you had it to do all over again, what would you change?”
Berkowitz: “Those terrible things that happened would never happen. It was just a break from reality. I thought I was doing something to appease the devil. I’m sorry for it. But I really don’t want to talk about it.”
DuBois: “Appease the devil?”
Berkowitz:: “At this time, I was serving him. I feel that he took over my mind and body, and I just surrendered over to those very dark forces. I regret that with all my heart, but that was like 40 years ago.”
Using firsthand accounts from shooting victims, police and reporters, “Son of Sam: The Killer Speaks” relives the fear that paralyzed many New Yorkers as word spread that someone was committing random shootings – all done with a high-power .44 caliber weapon.
The killer hit strangers, often couples in parked cars, and the women usually had long, dark brown hair. The shooter was dubbed the “.44 Caliber Killer” by New York newspapers.
For a while, as the victim count rose, the only substantial clues police had were two letters: one sent to Detective Joe Borelli, the head of the task force looking for the killer and the other to newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin, then at the New York Daily News.
“I should have been dead,” says Robert Violante, who was shot on July 31, 1977 while sitting in a parked car with Stacy Moskowitz, who later died from her injuries.
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: David Berkowitz Recalls Killings In ‘Son of Sam: The Killer Speaks’
As reported at the time, most of the victims were young women with shoulder-length, dark brown hair who were gunned down sitting in parked cars or walked the sidewalks in the Bronx and Queens.
Violante told CBS2’s Maurice DuBois during the CBS News special that his mother warned him about the danger when he was about to go out with a woman – though she did not match the description of most of the victims.
“I’m leaving my house and I’m walking down the steps. And my mom turns to me and she says, ‘Robert, be careful.’ And the next thing I said was — I’ll never forget this – ‘Ma, don’t worry. I’m going out with a blonde tonight.’”
He described the woman he took out, Stacy Moskowitz, as “just a very lively, bubbly, alive full of life, young lady.”
Violante and Moskowitz were both shot in the head as they sat in their car near the ocean in Brooklyn. It was their first date on July 31, 1977.
DuBois: “What do you remember from the shooting itself?”
Violante: “The bullet totally destroyed the left eye and most of my right eye, and you know, full of blood. I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t see Stacy sitting right next to me. I heard some moaning coming from Stacy.”
Moskowitz did not survive. She was pronounced dead at 5:22 p.m. Monday, Aug. 1, 1977.
Doctors said at the time that they did not turn off the life support for Moskowitz. It was just that the horrible damage done by a .44-caliber bullet in the brain was too much
“My daughter is dead, but I would die right here and now to see this man punished,” Stacy Moskowitz’s mother, Neysa Moskowitz, said at the time. “To do this to a young girl and a young boy — he can’t be normal. He’s not normal.”
Police followed up on a parking ticket written near the shooting scene thinking they’d find a witness.
“Nobody ever felt at that point that the shooter got a parking violation,” Clark said.
But 10 days later, police tracked down the 24-year-old postal clerk at his apartment in Yonkers. In Berkowitz’s car was a rifle and a chilling note addressed to the Suffolk County Police Department.
“He said he was going to go shoot up the Oak Beach Inn on Long Island and go out in a blaze of glory,” Clarke said.
DuBois sat down with Berkowitz at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility in Wallkill, New York, where he opened up about what led to him to pull the trigger. Berkowitz is serving 25 years-to-life for each of the six murders.
Berkowitz, a born-again Christian, reveals how he feels about the pain he caused the families of those he killed and his victims and whether or not he takes responsibility for what happened.
DuBois asks Berkowitz, now 64, what he would tell his 23-year-old self if he had the chance to go back and do so. “Ugh, turn around before it’s too late because destruction is coming,” Berkowitz says.