On July 29, 1976, shortly after 1 a.m., Donna Lauria and her friend Jody Valenti were sitting in a double-parked, two-door, blue Oldsmobile Cutlass, in Pelham Bay, Bronx, chatting about their evening at the disco and discussing their summer plans.
They had been talking for about 15 minutes when, out of nowhere, a man in a striped shirt approached the car and fired four shots through the right window.
18-year-old Lauria, who trained to be a New York City medic, was shot once in the back and killed instantly. 19-year-old Valenti was shot in the left thigh but survived.
The surviving victim provided the police with a description of the killer: a white male in his thirties with curly hair, someone she had never seen before in her life.
Little did the police and Valenti expect, this marked the start of the reign of terror of one of the most notorious serial killers in history - David Berkowitz.
Between 1975 and 1977, Berkowitz killed 6 people and injured 11, including two young women he claimed to have stabbed prior to his “Son of Sam” attacks.
Less than two months after the first incident, on the evening of October 23, 1976, a young couple was shot in a secluded residential area in Flushing, Queens.
18-year-old Rosemary Keenan sustained only cuts from the broken glass, while her 20-year-old partner, Carl Denaro, was shot five times. Doctors had to use a metal plate to replace a part of Denaro's skull that had been shattered by the bullets.
Fortunately, both victims survived the shooting.
Once again, police were baffled as there seemed to be no tangible motive for the shooting.
A month later, the Son of Sam struck again.
On November 27, 1976, two female high school students, Donna DeMasi and Joanne Lomino, were sitting on the porch of Lomino's home in Floral Park, Queens, after a night out in Manhattan, when a young man dressed in military uniform approached them and asked for directions.
In a high-pitched voice, the man said, 'Can you tell me how to get…' but then quickly pulled out a revolver.
“He came up and asked questions; he pulled out a gun and shot,” DeMasi recalled.
“I never saw him before. He wasn’t with anyone else.”
The bullet struck DeMasi’s neck and grazed her spinal cord. The 16-year-old spent a month in the hospital and had to re-learn how to use her left side. Lomino was hit in the back and hospitalized in serious condition. The 18-year-old was ultimately rendered paralyzed.
Over two months later, Berkowitz was once again in Queens. And he was on a prowl.
On January 30, 1977, the “Son of Sam” shot a couple parked near Forest Hills railway station.
30-year-old John Diel sustained minor superficial injuries, while his fiancée, 26-year-old Christine Freund, was shot twice and died several hours later at the hospital.
For the first time, police publicly admitted that the four shootings might be connected.
NYPD Sergeant Richard Conlon said that all victims had been struck with .44 caliber bullets, and the shootings seemed to target young women with long dark hair.
Composite sketches were released based on the recollections of victims from the first and third shootings.
Following the publicity, the Son of Sam remained dormant for over a month before he committed his first isolated attack.
On March 8, 1977, Berkowitz confronted 19-year-old Virginia Voskerichian as she was walking home from school. In a desperate move to defend herself, Voskerichian tried to use her textbooks as a makeshift shield but succumbed to a single shot to the head.
After the fifth shooting, the media frenzy reached its peak. Tabloid newspapers, such as the New York Post and the Daily News, published graphic accounts of the attacks. Son of Sam's crimes even made headlines in foreign newspapers, including the Vatican's L'Osservatore Romano, the Hebrew newspaper Maariv, and the Soviet Izvestia.
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