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Sons Of Sam: The True Story Behind Netflix’s Latest Crime Documentary

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Sons Of Sam: The True Story Behind Netflix’s Latest Crime Documentary

A gripping new true crime documentary - The Sons of Sam: A Decent Into Darkness - has arrived on Netflix today and here at Tyla, we're as excited as you are about the news of another true crime fix.

During the 1970s, New York City was plunged into a state of terror when notorious serial killer, David Berkowitz - who went by the name 'the Son of Sam' - set out on a shooting spree and killed six people. He claimed to be acting on behalf of the Devil.

The Sons of Sam is a four-part true crime documentary which investigates whether or not the notorious murderer really acted alone, and whether any accomplices are still out there now.

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Watch the official Netflix trailer below.

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What is The Sons of Sam about?

Describing the new thrilling docuseries, Netflix says: "The hunt for the 'Son of Sam' captivated the world in the late 1970s, but the story behind one of America's most notorious serial murderers is all but forgotten - until now."

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The four-part docuseries looks back over the case of David Berkowitz, who went on a shooting spree in New York City in 1977 and was later convicted for the murder of six people, among other crimes.

David Berkowitz is the self-proclaimed 'Son of Sam' ' Credit: Crime Museum
David Berkowitz is the self-proclaimed 'Son of Sam' ' Credit: Crime Museum

While Berkowitz remains the only convicted killer in this case, journalist and 'Ultimate Evil' author, Maury Terry, is convinced he didn't act alone. The Netflix series focuses heavily on his own investigations.

"Terry, convinced Berkowitz had not acted alone, would go on to spend decades attempting to prove that the web of darkness behind the murders went deeper than anyone imagined - and his pursuit of that elusive truth would eventually cost him everything," said Netflix.

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Produced by filmmaker Joshua Zeman ('Cropsey,' 'Murder Mountain'), the new series draws upon archived news footage, conversations with the people closest to the investigation, and Terry's own words and case files "to tell a cautionary tale of a man who went down a rabbit hole and never came out."

Who is David Berkowitz and why did they call him 'Son of Sam'?

David Berkowitz is an American serial killer and arsonist who pled guilty to eight shootings in New York City during the 1970s. He became known as the '.44 Caliber Killer' to the media (because of the weapon he used) and the self-proclaimed 'Son of Sam' - hence the Netflix title.

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David Berkowitz claimed he was driven by demons. He called himself the 'Son of Sam' after a demon he believed lived inside the black labrador of his neighbour, Sam Carr. When he committed his crimes, he would write to the local newspapers and sign his letters from 'Son of Sam.'

Letters to New York newspapers signed 'Son of Sam' ' Credit: Netflix
Letters to New York newspapers signed 'Son of Sam' ' Credit: Netflix

In 1999, the film Summer of Sam re-enacted the violent shootings of Berkowitz and depicted the effect of his crimes on a fictional Italian-American community in the Bronx - similar to the community he would have grown up in.

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What was David Berkowitz's childhood like?

Berkowitz was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1953 as David Falco to his single Jewish mother, Elizabeth Broder. As an infant, he was given up for adoption and taken in by a Jewish couple in the Bronx.

As a child, Berkowitz was violent and displayed erratic behaviour, which was triggered by the death of his adoptive mother in 1967. This behaviour got worse when his adoptive father remarried and moved to Florida without him.

Between 1971-74, Berkowitz joined the US Army and became very skilled with a gun. After leaving the service, his crimes began and according to his diary, he committed some 1,500 arson attacks in New York City during the mid-1970s.

The 'Son of Sam' - aka David Berkowitz - was arrested in August 1977 ' Credit: Netflix
The 'Son of Sam' - aka David Berkowitz - was arrested in August 1977 ' Credit: Netflix

The .44 Caliber Killer

In 1977, Berkowitz set out on a shooting spree which terrorised New York City, making international news headlines. Berkwitz's attacks led to the largest manhunt the city had ever seen.

Berkowitz soon became known in the media as the '.44 Caliber Killer' because he used a 44 caliber Bulldog revolver gun to kill his victims in this attack.

The notorious killer was arrested in August 1977 - 11 days after committing his last crime. It was thanks to a parking ticket on his car, which was found near to the scene of one of the shootings, that he was brought in by police.

After pleading guilty to eight separate shooting attacks in New York City - killing six people and injuring another ten - he was given six life sentences in June 1978.

But the question remains: did the 'Son of Sam' act alone?

Is the Son of Sam Law still in effect?

David Berkowitz garnered a huge amount of media attention at the time, which gave him a somewhat celebrity status in the press. It was due to this that New York State brought in a new law which stopped criminals earning money from any media coverage or films made about the crimes.

The Son of Sam Law - also known as a notoriety-for-profit law - was adopted in 2001 and is still in effect today. Similar laws have since been adopted by other US states.

A newspaper cutting about the Son of Sam and whether he acted alone ' Credit: Netflix
A newspaper cutting about the Son of Sam and whether he acted alone ' Credit: Netflix

Where is David Berkowitz now?

David Berkowitz is still alive and is serving six life sentences in state prison.

In the mid-1990s, he amended his statement and said he was part of a Satanic cult which orchestrated the murders.

In 1996, the murder investigations were re-opened, but were inconclusive and suspended indefinitely. Berkowitz remains the only person convicted for the shootings.

Journalist and author, Maury Terry, has spent decades trying to prove that Berkowitz didn't who acted alone, which is what this new Netflix documentary investigates.

The Sons of Sam is available to stream on Netflix now.

Featured Image Credit: Netflix

Topics: True Crime

Laura Sanders
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