David Berkowitz, “the Son of Sam,” terrorized New Yorkers during a 13-month long killing spree in 1976-1977 before a parking ticket at his last crime scene led to his capture. Now a born-again Christian, he calls himself “the Son of Hope.”
by Mark Pulham
The year was 1976, and the United States was celebrating its Bicentennial, especially in the month of July. It was also the year of the summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada, and 14-year-old Nadia Comăneci stole the show by becoming the first person in modern Olympic history to achieve a perfect 10.00.
Music was important, and the disco was the place to be. On the week of July 24, the top song on the Billboard Charts was “Kiss And Say Goodbye” by the Manhattans, who had knocked off the previous weeks “Afternoon Delight” from the number one spot.
The Manhattans would stay at number one for the following week, only to be knocked off by Elton John and Kiki Dee singing “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” That same week, Tavares would release “Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel.”
But, by the end of that week, Heaven would be getting an Angel back, and more than one heart was going to be broken.
The First Victims
It was around 1a.m. on Thursday, July 29. It was a warm night, and Jody Valenti had parked her blue Oldsmobile Cutlass on Buhre Avenue in the Pelham Bay area of the Bronx. Her friend, Donna Lauria, lived in an apartment at 2860 Buhre Avenue with her parents. Jody was 19 years old, a student nurse, and Donna, just one year younger, was a medical student.
As Jody and Donna sat in the car, Donna’s parents, Mike and Rose Lauria, were returning home and saw the girls. It was getting late, so Mike told Donna that she should be getting inside. Donna said that she would be up soon. Mike and Rose went upstairs to the apartment, but Mike would be back down in a few minutes to walk the dog.
A few minutes before that a Ford Galaxie had cruised past. The driver of the Galaxie drove a couple of blocks away and parked, then made his way back on foot, keeping to the shadows.
It had been a fun night for the girls. They had spent the evening at the Peachtree Disco in New Rochelle. Now, they chatted together, reliving the night and talking about boys. As they talked, the man circled and came closer to their car, like an animal creeping closer to its prey.
Donna decided it was time to go upstairs and opened the door to get out. As she did, she spotted the man standing at the curb just several feet away from them. He was staring at her. Donna sat back and closed the car door a little, and said, “Who is this guy? What does he want?”
The man was carrying a brown paper bag, and as she watched, he reached in. When his hand came out, he was holding a Charter Arms.44 caliber Bulldog, a snub nosed five-shot revolver.
He dropped to a shooters crouch and aimed the gun using both hands, his elbow resting on his knee to steady his aim. Quickly, he squeezed off five shots, emptying the gun.
The bullets smashed through the windshield.