Sons of Sam Maury Terry Photo: Netflix
Netflix dropped its four-part limited series “Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness” on Wednesday, and it’s chock-full of new and disturbing details in the Son of Sam serial killer case.
Produced by reporter Joshua Zeman, “Sons of Sam” centers on investigative journalist Maury Terry and his decades-long search for what he believed to be the truth behind the murders of six people in New York City during the summer of 1977. Namely, Terry believed that convicted murderer David Berkowitz didn’t act alone in the slayings and was part of a satanic cult that ordered him to kill his victims.
Each episode of “Sons of Sam” tracks Terry’s journey through more than two decades of research into the Son of Sam case — an investigation that took him from New York to South Dakota and eventually (as all cult stories seem to do) to Charles Manson territory in Southern California.
Here are some of the most odd, intense and shocking details from “Sons of Sam,” which is streaming now on Netflix. (Warning: There are some descriptions of graphic violence.)
Police refused to interview the real “sons of Sam”
Producer Zeman said this was one of the details that really amazed him when looking into the case. The killer famously taunted police and reporters in New York with letters calling himself the “Son of Sam” and other devil-inspired monikers, which inspired the nickname for the case. But Terry had uncovered that Berkowitz, who was arrested for the killings, lived directly next door to two brothers named John and Michael Carr, who were the real-life sons of Sam Carr.
What’s more, one of Berkowitz’s notes used several other names, thought at the time to be nicknames for the killer, though Terry thought they were monikers for other accomplices. The list included the “Wicked King Wicker” and “John Wheaties, rapist and suffocater of young girls.” Both of these could reference the Carr brothers — they lived on Wicker St. in Yonkers, near Berkowitz, and John Carr was nicknamed “Wheaties” after his sister, Wheat Carr.
Both brothers also remarkably resembled early police sketches of the killers. But despite these clues, police never followed up with the Carr family. The brothers both died under mysterious “accidental” circumstances years after the killings, which increased Terry’s suspicions that they were involved with the crimes and were killed for knowing too much.
“My mouth just literally dropped to the floor… when I heard that [the police] didn’t interview John or Michael Carr. It’s insane. How could you not?” Zeman told TheWrap.
In interviews with Terry long after the case was closed and both Carr brothers were dead, Berkowitz said the Carrs were accomplices in his crimes and implied they were responsible for some of the murders. Berkowitz told Terry he only committed three of the six shootings, though he was present for all of them.
The discovery of “Devil’s Cave” in Yonkers
Terry discovered an abandoned pump house in Untermeyer Park in Yonkers, N.Y., that was nicknamed Devil’s Cave, where he believed Berkowitz first became indoctrinated into the cult. There were reports from neighbors that groups of people with hoods and torches would gather in the woods near the structure, and multiple people, including Berkowitz, said cult initiations happened there where members would sacrifice dogs and drink their blood.
While investigating Devil’s Cave, Terry discovered that it was mere steps from Berkowitz’s single-room apartment. He also found satanic symbols covering the walls of the cave and German Shepherd carcasses in the nearby woods.
To Terry, this was proof of satanic cult activity going on near Berkowitz, and further fueled his theory that the cult — which he determined was called The Children — were involved in the killings.
Cult connections to Charles Manson, Robert de Grimston and Scientology
Occult research often winds into endless loops and chasms of connections, which haunted Terry the longer he worked on the Son of Sam case. The connections he found that are unveiled in Netflix’s series are wide-reaching, to say the least.
The cult Terry determined was operating in Yonkers, called The Children, had ties to Scientology and the West Coast. The Children was an offshoot of a cult called the Process Church of the Final Judgement, a group formed in Britain during 1966. Leaders Robert de Grimston and Mary Ann MacLean defected from a British division of L. Ron Hubbard’s Church of Scientology and brought their satanic teachings to the U.S. in the early 1970s. The group eventually splintered into smaller factions, each with different names but a similar core belief — that their satanic and murderous practices could bring about the end of the world.
Terry reasoned that’s how The Children ended up in Yonkers and in Berkowitz’s backyard. He also discovered proof that de Grimston and Charles Manson attended a party together in California in the late 1960s, and theorized that meeting de Grimston influenced Manson’s apocalyptic visions of a race war that he used to incite his followers into murdering five people in the summer of 1969.
Moskowitz murder caught on tape?
One of Berkowitz’s most talked-about killings was the murder of 20-year-old Stacy Moskowitz, who was shot in the head while sitting in the car with her boyfriend, Robert Violante, who was blinded by the attack but survived. Moskowitz was the Son of Sam’s sixth and final murder victim.
Terry’s investigation led him to several sources who claimed Moskowitz was killed for a snuff film because The Children wanted to record her execution and sell it “to the highest bidder.”
The film never materialized, but Terry uncovered anecdotal evidence through a prison informant known only as Vinny that there were people in a van stationed near the lover’s lane where Moskowitz was killed, ready to film the murder. The informant claimed that a photographer named Ron Sisman — who was later murdered with a student, Elizabeth Platzman — filmed the murders. The informant linked Sisman to Hollywood producer and millionaire Roy Radin, who did have a penchant for throwing cocaine-fueled orgies and was linked to a rape. But it was never proven that Radin (identified as RR) had anything to do with the cult or the killings.
The later episodes of “Sons of Sam” rely heavily on old footage from interviews between Berkowitz and Terry, especially clips where Berkowitz claims he didn’t act alone.
In the series, Berkowitz tells Terry he wasn’t the person who pulled the trigger at all six murders, though he admits to being at all the crime scenes. Besides linking the Carr brothers to the crimes, though, Berkowitz refused to tell Terry anything else about who was involved, which led Terry to further assume there were cult members still alive and willing to hurt anyone who told the truth. Berkowitz also told Terry that when he joined The Children, he had to give them pictures of his family members, whom the cult promised to kill if he ever snitched.
“Sons of Sam” director Zeman said he knows the names of the potential suspects, but didn’t disclose them in the show. “There’s a preponderance of evidence to suggest that Berkowitz didn’t act alone,” Zeman said. “I have been told the names of those individuals, some of whom are still alive. I think there’s obviously enough doubt to suggest that it’s worth looking into reopening the case.”
“Sons of Sam” is now streaming on Netflix. Check out the trailer below.
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