Here's the Truth Behind the "Son of Sam" and His Brutal Killings

Jamie Lerner - Author

May 4 2021, Updated 10:29 p.m. ET

David Berkowitz was the "Son of Sam"
Source: Netflix

One of New York City’s most infamous serial killers is getting his own true crime docuseries on Netflix, The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness. The docuseries explores the crimes and conspiracies revolving around David Berkowitz, also known as the “Son of Sam.” 

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Although his crimes seemed to be six somewhat straightforward killings, investigators have still struggled to pinpoint a motive, so there’s speculation that they could have been driven by a cult. While that could have been the inspiration for Berkowitz’s nickname as the “Son of Sam,” we want to know what it really means.

Police looking at "Son of Sam" drawing
Source: Netflix
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Killer David Berkowitz called himself the “Son of Sam.”

David Berkowitz’s alias as the “Son of Sam” was actually self-imposed. While many serial killers, such as the Night Stalker and the Zodiac Killer, were gifted their nicknames from the media, David Berkowitz took it upon himself to create the alias as the “Son of Sam.”

Basically, after Berkowitz’s killing of Alexander Esau and Valentina Suriani in April 1977, police discovered a letter at the scene of the crime. The letter was written mostly in block capital letters with several misspellings and grammatical errors. Before discovering the letter, Berkowitz had actually been dubbed the ".44 Caliber Killer,” because that’s how he killed, but the “Son of Sam” was much more poetic. The media ran with it.

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The 'Son of Sam' letter
Source: Netflix

David Berkowitz first called himself the “Son of Sam” in a letter, if it was Berkowitz who wrote the letter.

The letter began, “I am deeply hurt by your calling me a wemon [sic] hater. I am not. But I am a monster. I am the ‘Son of Sam.’ I am a little ‘brat.’ When father Sam gets drunk he gets mean. He beats his family. Sometimes he ties me up to the back of the house. Other times he locks me in the garage. Sam loves to drink blood. ‘Go out and kill’ commands father Sam.”

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The letter goes on to describe some very disturbing imagery of abuse, as the author of the letter also calls himself “Beelzebub,” the “Monster,” and the “Chubby Behemouth [sic].” A later letter sent to Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin looked very different but seemed to have intimate knowledge of the attacks. It was signed, “Son of Sam.”

When Berkowitz was caught, he famously referred to himself as “Sam.” Allegedly, the officer asked him to identify himself. Berkowitz said, “I’m Sam.” The officer responded, “You’re Sam? Sam, who?” to which Berkowitz replied, “Sam. David Berkowitz.”

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'No One Is Safe' From Son of Sam Headline
Source: Netflix

The “Son of Sam” could be referring to Berkowitz’s neighbor, Sam Carr.

In an early confession from David Berkowitz, he claimed that he was acting on orders from his neighbor’s demonic dog who wanted the blood of pretty young girls. His neighbor was Sam Carr. Berkowitz even admitted that the “Sam” he referred to was Sam Carr and that his dog, Harvey, was possessed by an ancient demon.

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However, many people actually believe that David Berkowitz did not work alone in his murderous streak. Sam Carr had two actual sons of his own, John and Michael Carr. 

In 1993, Berkowitz named both of Sam’s actual sons as accomplices or perpetrators themselves, although he maintained his involvement and his guilt. He also divulged details of cult involvement in the killings and that there were several other members of the cult behind the “Son of Sam” moniker.

The "Son of Sam" signature
Source: Netflix

The piece of evidence that began the cult conspiracies, however, came to light during Berkowitz’s questioning. He reportedly told the officers, “There are other Sons out there, God help the world.” Even when he took full responsibility as the “Son of Sam,” he still claimed that he was working with others. We may never know if the “Son of Sam” was actually just a member of a larger “family.”

Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness premieres on Netflix on May 5.

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