WABC, Aug. 12, 2002
(New York-WABC, August 12, 2002) — The “Son of Sam” is locked away, convicted of a horrific murder spree. But is the case really closed? Some say no. David Berkowitz was arrested almost 25 years ago to the day, but now, surviving victims and family members weigh in on the possibility of a conspiracy. The Investigator’s Sarah Wallace has the story.
You might be surprised at the position those with a personal stake in this case take. The idea of a “Son of Sam” conspiracy isn’t just some wild, Oliver Stone-type idea. Sources tell us that just a few years ago, New York City detectives wanted to reopen the case, but got nowhere. Even today, questions remain about the most sensational crime spree in local history.
Mike Lauria, Victim’s Father: “There is not a day goes by that I don’t think of my daughter.”
For Mike Lauria, the pain is as fresh today as it was 26 years ago, the day Donna Lauria, just 18 years old, died in an explosion of bullets outside the family’s Bronx home.
Lauria: “I didn’t get out the door when the shot rang out.”
No one knew it at the time, but the Son of Sam shootings had begun. By the unforgettable next Summer, New York would literally be paralyzed with fear and the night streets would be empty. Police unleashed the largest manhunt in city history to try and stop the killer. Finally On August 10th, 1977 residents got the news they was waiting to hear.
Abe Beame, Former NYC Mayor (August 1977): “Police have captured a man whom they believe to be the Son of Sam.”
David Berkowitz, a then 24 year-old Yonkers postal worker, readily confessed to a year-long rampage of eight shooting attacks in Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn. The attacks left a toll of six young people dead and seven others wounded. Berkowitz pleaded guilty, never going to trial, and was sentenced to life.
But in a stunning reversal in 1997, Berkowitz told Eyewitness News producer Maury Terry that he had other partners in crime, saying it was a murder conspiracy. Berkowitz said the conspiracy began with satanic meetings at Untermeyer Park in Yonkers.
David Berkowitz, Convicted Killer (1997): “I mean, this was not just something they were doing for any type of, necessarily, pleasure, but that it was just part of an agenda. A very deep, covert and hidden agenda. You know, they were about making war, and they were about bringing some chaos into the world.”
And what better way to create chaos, Berkowitz told us, then to slay the symbol of America’s future: Bright young people in middle-class neighborhoods throughout the city. Berkowitz readily admits he pulled the trigger in two of the attacks, including the murder of Donna Lauria.
In fact, Berkowitz says there were at least five other killers altogether, and they included women. His claim is supported by multiple composite sketches of suspects, most looking nothing like Berkowitz, and descriptions of several cars at several scenes.
Carl Denaro survived a gunshot wound to the head in the Son of Sam shootings. He also believes there were others.
Carl Denaro, Victim: “I firmly believe that the police brass, and certainly the detective working on it knew, knew then, and obviously still know now that other people were involved. I think it was kind of convenient, for them to, you know, one guy, one gun, one shooter, he’s caught, it is all over.”
And it was all over, until a few years ago, when sources tell us that New York City detectives tried to reopen the case based on new information. Those same sources say that top police brass ordered the investigation shut down and wouldn’t even let detectives pull the original case files.
We spoke with This federal investigator who was an insider to the decision.
Federal Investigator: “The reason goes all the way to the top of the department: You do not want to embarrass this department. I believe from what we saw, that there was a lot of botches in the case: Ballistics… they messed up… searches and seizures… at the time of Berkowitz’ arrest and prior to his arrest.”
Police officials maintain there were no solid leads to pursue. Retired Chief of Detectives Joseph Borrelli says that’s because there aren’t any. He led the ‘Son of Sam’ investigation.
Joseph Borrelli, Retired Chief Of Detectives: “The best proof I have that he acted alone: Has there been a homicide of a similar nature since?”
Borrelli maintains the evidence against Berkowitz as a lone killer was, and is, overwhelming.
Borrelli: “If this was a cult, why didn’t, after he was arrested, why couldn’t they get another individual under the same circumstances, and have that person go out and do the killing. Because there never was a cult, and there wasn’t anybody doing it, except him.”
But those with a personal stake in the ‘Son of Sam’ case would like to see a new investigation.