The chilling true story behind new Netflix true crime series The Sons of Sam

The four-part series is about serial killer David Berkowitz and is available now


In the summer of 1976, a serial killer was on the loose in New York. Over a year after his first crime, David Berkowitz would be found to be the man behind the killings. But this wasn’t the end of the case, and new true crime series The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness on Netflix looks deeper into the full story.

The evidence in the case didn’t all add up and Berkowitz then admitted he wasn’t alone in committing his crimes. However, nobody else has ever been charged in the case, and theories are still around about the potential murder “cult” which Berkowitz was behind.

Here’s everything you need to know about the true story behind The Sons of Sam documentary on Netflix.

CW: This article contains details of murders. 

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via Netflix

What is the full true story that The Sons of Sam documentary is based on?

David Richard Berkowitz is one of the most notorious serial killers in American history and the hunt for him captivated the world in the late 1970s. Berkowitz pleaded guilty to eight separate shooting attacks that began in New York City during the summer of 1976.

The perpetrator was found to be 24-year-old David Berkowitz. He became known as the Son of Sam through letters he had left at crime scenes, and police and the media also called him the .44 Caliber Killer – because of the gun he used. Berkowitz had grown up in New York City and previously served in the army, before his spree which ended in him killing six people and wounding seven others.

His first crime is said to have taken place on Christmas Eve, 1975, when he stabbed two women – one a 15-year-old girl. Both survived. The first shooting attributed to the killer took place in July 1976 when he shot at two young women in their car, killing one of them instantly. In October of that year, Berkowitz shot another couple in a car, the pair were both injured.

In November, he shot two high school students, and in January 1976 he shot a man and his fiancee. On March 8th, a Columbia University student was shot and killed, and then in April two more victims were shot and killed. This was when Berkowitz got confident, and left his first taunting letter to police – at the crime scene. He went on to shoot four more people.

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via Netflix

His became the biggest police manhunt in the history of New York City, and while he was on the run he left letters that mocked and taunted the police and promised further crimes. Witness statements were inconsistent, some saying the person behind the incidents was blonde, others claiming he had dark hair. The only thing that linked the crimes together was the gun used.

On the night of August 10th 1977, Berkowitz was arrested over eight shooting incidents. He was found after a witness to his last shooting tipped off police. According to reports at the time, Berkowitz said with a smile on his face: “Well, you got me”. He confessed to all of crimes, and initially said he had been obeying the orders of a demon manifested in the form of a dog belonging to his neighbour, Sam. He later said this story was all a lie.

During the mid-1990s, he amended his confession and said he was instead part of a Satanic cult. A new investigation was started, but nobody else has ever been charged in relation to the murders.

David Berkowitz is now serving six life sentences. The Netflix documentary will look back and the case, and the claims he did not act alone. The series will use archival news footage, conversations with the people closest to the investigation, and journalist and Ultimate Evil author Maury 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. So, are the true Sons of Sam still out there?

The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness is available on Netflix now. For all the latest Netflix news, drops, quizzes and memes like The Holy Church of Netflix on Facebook. 

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Where is David Berkowitz now? The killer from The Sons of Sam on Netflix

• In full: The letters sent from The Sons of Sam killer, as seen in the Netflix series

• The Sons of Sam: What happened to the journalist Maury Terry?