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New York is known for its crime, but two men in particular shook the very foundation of civilization, and showed New York what it was to be truly criminal.  What was behind madman David Berkowitz, and child predator Albert Fish?

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David Berkowitz was born on June 1st, 1953, and was adopted by Nathan and Pearl Berkowitz.  David was devastated when, at age 14, his mother died.  David had been closer to his mother than he was to anyone else in his life, and losing her nearly broke him.  David was not ready for his father to get remarried when he wed a woman with a daughter of her own.

David joined the army, specializing as a sharp-shooter, and we returned home in '74, he denounced his Judaism, pulling away from his family.

 

On July 29, 1976 the first attack came from the man the press dubbed the ".44 Caliber Killer".  The pattern quickly began to emerge: the victim(s) were approached at night, and without a word, the killer fired.  A .44 caliber slug was removed from each scene.

Panic began to spread throughout New York when women began to believe that their hair color was a factor in becoming a target.  The victims had all had long, dark hair.  Women all around the killer's hunting ground began to dye their hair blonde and cut it short.  Beauty Supply stores could not keep blonde wigs in stock.

Just when New York was truly gripped by fear, the killer came forward to speak for himself.  A letter was found at a crime scene.

Police quickly destroyed any physical evidence by passing the letter from hand to hand.  In the letter, the killer identified himself as the son of Sam, and stated that "I feet like an outsider.  I am on a different wave length then everybody else--programmed to kill."

The media quickly picked up the new nickname, and killer became the "Son of Sam."

After a murder in Brooklyn on July 31, 1997, Berkowitz took a parking ticket off of his windshield and threw it into a gutter.  A witness could match him to the composite sketch made by surviving victims, and the ticket could trace the car back to Berkowitz.

Police found Berkowitz's apartment and arrested him.  Along with the now well-known .44 caliber revolver, authorities found other firearms in his scarcely furnished dwelling.  On the wall, police were startled to find the following message scrawled near a hole in the wall:

 

Hi. My Name Is MR WiLLiAMs ANd I Live iN this hoLe.  I have seveRaL childreN who IM TURNiNg Into KilleRs..WAIT TiL they gRow up.

 

Berkowitz himself was equally eccentric.  When the initial interview took place, he was cooperative, almost enthusiastic, and the interview only took half an hour to complete. 

The ex-auxiliary policeman, current postal worker, told authorities that he was being controlled by demons.  In particular, he believed that his 7,000-year-old neighbor, Sam Carr, and Carr's 5,000-year-old dog were causing him to commit murder.  When questioned, Carr reported receiving a threatening letter, and having his dog, a black Labrador, shot.  The dog survived, and Berkowitz took that as evidence that the dog was, in fact, a devil.

The defense knew that Berkowitz would never get a fair trial in New York, but efforts to have the trial moved failed.

In the end, Berkowitz plead guilty and was sentenced for 6 murders (he also wounded 8, one of whom is now blind) to 365 years in prison.

Berkowitz was assumed to be a paranoid schizophrenic, sending fear through the country, heightening the stigma of mental illness.  It is now believed, however, that Berkowitz has never had a schizophrenic episode, and has never been treated for the illness. 

David Berkowitz is now a Messianic Jew, following the teachings of Christ, and became eligible for parole for the first time in 2002.

 

After Berkowitz's trial,  New York passed the "Son of Sam Statute" that would allow victims to sue for profits from books, movies, etc. made about their attacker, or family member's killer.  The statute was later over-turned.

 

New Yorks Daily News set a record for paper sales during the hunt for the Son of Sam.

 

Thanks to site visitor Bella for some of the information contained in this article!

 

Link of interest: (Berkowitz talks about "muderabilia") http://abcnews.go.com/sections/2020/2020/2020_011107_murderabilia.html

 

Albert Fish was born May 19th, 1870, as Hamilton Fish.  When he was 5, his father passed away, and Fish was sent to live in an orphanage.

At age 15, Fish became a painters apprentice, and eventually married in 1898.  Three years after the familys sixth child was born, Fish's wife left him and the children.  Although he was married three times after, he never actually divorced his first wife.

With six children in his care, Fish became one of the most twisted killers America has ever seen.   

Though he claimed to have taken over 100 victims in 23 states, Fish is best known for the murder of Grace Budd in New York, where he was finally apprehended.

Albert Fish became known as the "Cannibal Killer" and the "Grey Man", notorious for kidnapping young children, torturing them in an effort to tenderize their flesh, and eating them.  He was also an alleged necrophiliac.

After Grace Budd was taken from her home by Fish under the falsehood that he was taking her to his nieces birthday party, the family received a graphic letter from the killer telling them exactly what had become of their daughter.  The family was devastated to hear the details of the young girl's brutal murder, and of the way she was turned into a stew and consumed.  What wasn't eaten was heartlessly tossed away.

When Fish was linked by physical description to several other abductions, an intense hunt began for the murderer.

When the suspect was caught, police, as well as the public, were shocked at the pathology of the man they had found.  During his life time, Fish had expressed every kind of abnormal sexual fetish that had a name at the time--and some that didn't.

When he told doctors of his practice of inserting needles into his groin, they were originally skeptical.  However, when X-rays were taken, 29 needles had in fact been buried in his flesh.  Doctors were unsure if it was a fetish, or a practice or religious atonement. 

While in prison, his children, then ages 21-35, refused to visit him.

Caught in 1934, Fish's trial began in March 12th, 1935.  Though his confessed body count was much higher, he was charged with 12 murders.  Though members of the jury later confessed that they believed him to be insane, they found him sane and guilty, fearing that if he were to be sent back to an institution (for he been hospitalized and released as sane prior to being apprehended) he might end up back on the streets.

Fish stated that many of his victims had been African American children because he believed the police would pay less attention.  Sadly, he was right.  Serious attention only came when white children began to disappear.

The graphic nature of the elderly man's crimes were such that when his letters depicting the murders were read in court to the jury, women were removed from the courtroom.

Fish was sentenced to death for his crimes, and served the remainder of his life at Sing Sing prison in New York.  He was put to death in the electric chair on January 6th, 1936.  His children would not claim his body, and he is now in the prison cemetery. The needles in his groin were reported to have short-circuited the chair, and a second wave of electricity had to be sent through his body before he died.

 

Not one to be remorseful, Fish was once quoted as saying "What I did must have been right, or an angel would have stopped me, just as an angel stopped Abraham in the Bible [from sacrificing his son]"

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