This week (July 28-August 3) in crime history; New York serial killer “Son of Sam" claims first victims (July 29, 1976); King Umberto I of Italy was assassinated (July 29, 1900); Jesse Timmendequas was charged with murdering Megan Kanka, the little girl who inspired Megan’s Law (July 30, 1994); Jimmy Hoffa disappeared (July 31, 1975); Mass shooting at the University of Texas (August 1, 1966); Wild Bill Hickok was murdered (August 2, 1876); Sir Roger Casement was executed for his role in the Easter Rising (August 3, 1916).
Highlighted crime of the week -
On July 29, 1976, serial killer "Son of Sam" shoots Donna Lauria and Jody Valenti while the pair is sitting in their car talking in the Bronx. Lauria died from her wounds and Valenti survived and this was the first in a series of shootings by the serial killer, who terrorized New York City over the next year. First nicknamed the ".44 Caliber Killer," the Son of Sam eventually got his name from letters he sent to the police and newspapers that said, "I am a monster. I am the Son of Sam. I love to hunt, prowling the streets looking for fair game."
The second attack came on October 23, 1976, when a couple was shot as they sat in a car in Queens. A month later, two girls were talking on a stoop outside a home when the serial killer approached, asked for directions, and then suddenly pulled a gun out and fired several shots. Joanne Lomino was paralyzed from a bullet that struck her spine, but her friend was not seriously injured. The Son of Sam attacked again in January and March of 1977. In the latter attack, witnesses provided a description of the killer: a white man with black hair. After yet another shooting in the Bronx in April, the publicity hit a fever pitch. Women, particularly those with dark hair, were discouraged from traveling at night in the city. When the Son of Sam missed his intended victims in another murder attempt in June, vigilante groups formed across New York City looking for the killer.
His last two victims were shot on July 31, 1977, in Brooklyn; one died. Then, police following up on a parking ticket that had been given out that night discovered a machine gun in a car belonging to David Berkowitz of Yonkers, New York. When questioned by police, Berkowitz explained that "Sam" was his neighbor Sam Carr, who was an agent of the devil. Sam transmitted his orders through his dog. Years earlier, Berkowitz had shot the dog, complaining that its barking was keeping him from sleeping. After the dog recovered, he claimed that it began speaking to him and demanding that he kill people. Berkowitz plead guilty to the murders and was sentenced to over 300 years in prison. While incarcerated, he later became a born-again Christian.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous books that include the award winning, Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949 (2012, Schiffer Publishing). The book was the WINNER of the 2012 International Book Awards and a FINALIST in the 2012 Indie Excellence Book Awards for True Crime. Visit the author's website for more information: www.michaelthomasbarry.com.
The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: