Notorious Serial Killer Expresses Remorse
By MONICA RHOR, AP
posted: 3 DAYS 21 HOURS AGO
HOUSTON (June 27) - The letters are unfailingly polite, the carefully crafted correspondence of a man with too much time on his hands.
There is no hint of aggression, nothing to suggest that they were penned by the same writer who once terrorized New York City with his missives filled with blood and darkness and death.
In these letters, sent from a prison cell in upstate New York to an office in Houston's city hall annex, there is an effort to prove contrition for the homicides back then, an eagerness to put distance between the monster he once was and the person he says he has become.
"The past is such a painful memory ... It was all a terrible nightmare. I got into something so evil," one letter reads. "I would give my life if I could go back into the past to have prevented this from happening."
And there is the realization that many will never forget the chilling image of a round-faced, wild-haired man with an eerie grin, photographed after his arrest in six stalker killings.
"Everytime I do something that is decent and good, I usually get accused of doing things with bad motives," another letter says. "There is nothing I can do about this because people are biased and prejudiced toward me, and I do understand. After all, there is no way they can know my heart."
He signs off: "I will keep you in my prayers. Sincerely yours, David Berkowitz."
The Son of Sam.
The letters from the notorious serial killer are addressed to Andy Kahan, crime victim advocate for the city of Houston. They reveal an unlikely decade-long alliance that began with a simple form letter.
In Kahan's office, manila folders bulge with the stories of families ripped apart by murder. Files detail the sorrow of parents mourning slain children, the outrage of unrepentant killers set free.
Kahan says he is driven by the desire to wring some good from even the worst evil.
He's a tireless crusader against serial killer memorabilia who has a drawer filled with items like a lock of Charles Manson's hair and a Jeffrey Dahmer doll. So when Kahan (pronounced 'Khan') wanted to ratchet up his campaign against the sellers of "murderabilia," he decided to go straight to the killers themselves.
Kahan sent out four-paragraph form letters to 20 serial killers, including Manson and Berkowitz: Did they know that their autographs, drawings, letters and other personal belongings were being sold through online auction sites? Did they approve of the practice? Were they making money from the sales?
Twelve responded to the Oct. 12, 2000, letter. Manson sent Kahan's letter to a murderabilia dealer who auctioned it off on eBay.
But only Berkowitz seemed to embrace the cause.
"Dear Mr. Kahan," Berkowitz wrote in his Oct. 26 reply. "I am very bothered and troubled by what these auction sites are doing ... I am willing to help in any way I can."
Berkowitz included a notarized statement disavowing involvement in any sale of murderabilia — and swearing regret for the murder spree in which he killed six women and shot seven others.
"Most of these letters and other writings were written during a very dark and tormented part of my life, and how I wish with all my heart that those horrific and tragic 'Son of Sam' shootings never happened! It was a nightmare for me and for those whose lives were hurt and devastated by my actions."
So began the unlikely collaboration.
"We're the ultimate odd couple," says Kahan.
Kahan and Berkowitz would exchange dozens of letters over the next nine years, and the imprisoned murderer would become a key soldier in Kahan's battle against murderabilia.
Berkowitz has tipped Kahan off to overtures from dealers and collectors, who often concoct elaborate ruses to obtain potentially valuable signed letters, artwork and intimate items from infamous criminals. Kahan credits Berkowitz with helping him convince the online auction site eBay to prohibit the sale of murderabilia.
"He has been an invaluable asset for me ... Everybody knows the Son of Sam. You can't get more inside than that," Kahan said. "It's the ultimate coup when you have the person who all the Son of Sam laws are named after actually working on your behalf."
Laws forbidding criminals from profiting from their crimes have been enacted in many states, the namesake original prompted by rumors — false, according to Berkowitz — that he was writing a book about the case.
The two have yet to meet, but in letter after letter, Berkowitz greets Kahan warmly.
"Dear Andy," he wrote May 2, 2001. "I trust this letter finds you doing well and that progress is being made in your endeavors for justice. I also appreciate the kind things you have said about me, although I feel so unworthy. I have a big debt to pay to society, and it is still a long uphill climb."
At first, Kahan was surprised by the articulate correspondence from Berkowitz, so unlike the ravings of the Son of Sam.
"But as we progressed, he talked in more depth and detail of murders, and the tragedy that he's done to these families," Kahan said. "I'm about as hardball as you can get, so for someone to convince me of remorse takes a lot. But he has thoroughly convinced me."
In an Aug. 23, 2003, letter, after a dealer auctioned off a note from Berkowitz reading, "I'm the SOS and I killed six people," Berkowitz tells Kahan he's ashamed. "This note was written in 1978 when I was in a very bad and tormented mind. I thank God, though, that I have come a long way since then."
From Sept. 20, 2006: "I hope you have a blessed and prosperous New Year/Rosh Hashana. During this time of the year I enjoy reading and meditating on the psalms."
Berkowitz wonders about the motivations that propel the murderabilia market, calling one dealer's requests "sad, troubling and absurd," and saying of some collectors: "It seems to me they are lonely people who use their Web sites to socialize and meet people online rather than in normal face-to-face settings. I believe they live very unfulfilling lives."
Three decades ago, this is how Berkowitz ended one of his letters:
"Police: Let me haunt you with these words: I'll be back! I'll be back! I'll be interrpreted as - bang, bang, bang, bang, bang - ugh!! Yours in murder Mr. Monster."
In the searing summer of 1977, the Son of Sam was at the height of a murderous 13-month rampage through the streets of New York. Dubbed the ".44-Caliber Killer" by the press, the chubby postal worker would kill six women and wound seven others before being captured on Aug. 10.
He prowled lovers' lanes, targeting couples and young women with long dark hair. The murders jolted the city, as normally bustling streets emptied from fear.
The notes Berkowitz left by his victims' bloodied bodies or mailed to Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin were the spewings of a mind gone haywire.
"I feel like an outsider. I am on a different wavelength than everybody else -- programmed to kill. However, to stop me you must kill me," he warned in a letter to police. "I am the 'Monster' -- 'Beelzebub' -- the chubby behemoth. I love to hunt. Prowling the streets looking for fair game."
In May 1977, the killer wrote to Breslin:
"Hello from the gutters of NYC, which are filled with dog manure, vomit, stale wine, urine, and blood. Hello from the sewers of NYC ... Hello from the cracks in the sidewalks of NYC..."
It was signed: "In their blood and from the gutter -- 'Sam's Creation' .44 Caliber."
In the end, the killer was tracked down by a parking ticket, spotted on a car near the scene of his last murder.
Berkowitz confessed to all six murders and several shootings, claiming he was possessed by demons and ordered to kill by a black Labrador retriever belonging to his neighbor, Sam Carr.
He was sentenced to six life sentences, a maximum of 365 years in prison.
In the photos of his arrest and trial, Berkowitz wears a Mona Lisa grin, branding the image in the public consciousness.
Today, Prisoner 78-A-1976 lives in a 7-by-10 foot cell in a maximum security prison in the Catskill Mountains of New York, the Sullivan Correctional Facility.
Here, 1,700 miles from Kahan's Houston office, Berkowitz, now a born-again Christian, just turned 56. His trademark snarl of dark hair has thinned and gone to gray. He wears wire-rimmed glasses, and still carries a few extra pounds.
With no access to computers, limited telephone calls and few visitors, Berkowitz depends on his typewriter for communication with the outside world. He receives about 20 letters a week. Most are from Christian pen pals, a few are from murderabilia seekers.
Berkowitz once wrote to then-New York Gov. George Pataki, refuting a report that he wanted parole: "Frankly, I can give you no good reason why I should even be considered for parole. I can, however, give you many reasons why I should not be. The loss of six lives and the wounding of even more are reasons enough for the latter."
That letter adds: "In all honesty, I believe that I deserve to be in prison for the rest of my life."
He says the regular correspondence with Kahan has offered him a way to atone for the past.
"I did horrible things that I regret with all my heart and I want to do the right thing. This is a way for me of making amends to society," Berkowitz said in a recent prison interview.
Berkowitz talks of the Son of Sam murders with a strange detachment. For instance, he describes his last victim, Stacy Moskowitz, as the young woman "who lost her life in 1977" and died "in that series of crimes."
Berkowitz knows that many people on the outside will be skeptical, suspicious of his motives. But he says his conversion is sincere. He takes no psychiatric medication.
More than anything, it seems, he wants to clear up a misconception about the Son of Sam Law. Contrary to rumors at the time, Berkowitz insists he never planned a book, and never wanted to profit from his crimes.
"I'm always accused of something, but this time I'm actually innocent," he says with a smile — still that same smile.http://news.aol.com/article/son-of-sam-letters/545505?icid=main%7Cmain%7Cdl1%7Clink7%7Chttp%3A%2F%2Fnews.aol.com%2Farticle%2Fson-of-sam-letters%2F545505