David Berkowitz, who became known as the “Son of Sam” serial killer, convicted for murdering six people and wounding seven others with a .44 caliber Bulldog revolver between 1976-1977, spoke to CBS News on the 40th anniversary of his arrest, giving his first major TV interview in a decade.
Forty years ago, Berkowitz was the focus of one of the biggest manhunts in the history of New York City. As bodies piled up, he sent the police mocking letters, talking about future crimes he would commit. It was in one of these letters to NYPD Captain Joseph Borrelli, left beside two victims, that he first called himself “Son of Sam.”
Berkowitz spoke of hunting and killing people, and referred to himself as “Son of Sam,” a “little brat,” and a “monster.”
“I am the ‘Monster’—’Beelzebub’—the ‘Chubby Behemouth.’ I love to hunt. Prowling the streets looking for fair game—tasty meat.”
Forty years have passed, and Berkowitz is now a far cry from the wild eyed killer who terrorized New York. He’s in his sixties now, and spends his time with prison ministry. In 1987 Berkowitz converted to Christianity.
Berkowitz told CBS that the prison chapel is a refuge from the storms of life.
“If you know anything about prison, there’s a lot of storms. It’s not exactly a happy place. In prison men are walking around carrying a lot of pain. I know I have a lot of pain inside me over, you know, things that happened; and this is a place where you can come and pour your heart out to God,” Berkowitz said.
Due to the passing of time, many of Berkowitz’s fellow prisoners aren’t even familiar with his case. “I’m just another face in the crowd,” he said. “No special attention, no special anything. That’s the way I want it to be.”
When Berkowitz was a child he wrestled with self-destructive behavior after learning he was adopted. He struggled with depression, and an obsession with death because he thought he deserved to die. Though he had many normal hopes and dreams, such as to get his own apartment, get married and raise a family, he also felt isolated after leaving the army.
“I didn’t really have much of a social life … I started to get into a lot of satanic stuff,” Berkowitz said. “So I really was opening myself up to some very dark forces.”
CBS’s Maurice DuBois asked Berkowitz, “What would you tell 23-year-old David Berkowitz today?”
“Turn around before it’s too late,” Berkowitz said, “because destruction is coming.”
Berkowitz despises the “Son of Sam” name and says that it wasn’t him, but he takes responsibility for the murders he committed.
“The Lord did a lot of work in my life,” he said. “That’s why I try so hard in my messages to give a cautionary tale to young people about not getting involved in Satanism or the occult, or those kinds of things, because I feel that they too could maybe take a bad path.”
Berkowitz does not receive royalties or profit from sales of his works. He writes essays on repentance for Christian websites, but his official site is maintained by a church group since he is not allowed access to the internet. Berkowitz spends his time in prison counseling inmates, and says he does not see any hope for parole.
READ MORE: Son of Sam | The Killer Speaks