INSIDE THE HEADLINE

August 11, 2018 at 4:45 am

Award-winning journalist Geraldo Rivera takes us down the gritty streets of New York City in search of a serial killer.

Aired on August 11, 2018.

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>>> WHAT WILL YOU HAVE FOR JULY
29th, HE WONDERED IN ONE OF HIS
SICK AND THREATENING LETTERS TO
THE PRESS AND POLICE.
SAM'S A THIRSTY LAD, AND HE
WON'T LET ME STOP KILLING UNTIL
HE'S HAD HIS FILL OF BLOOD.
>> GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO
"METROFOCUS."
I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.
IN AUGUST, 1977, KILLER DAVID
BERKOWITZ, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS
SON OF SAM, WAS CAPTURED AFTER A
MURDER SPREE THAT CLAIMED THE
LIVES OF FIVE YOUNG WOMEN, ONE
MAN, AND TERRIFIED THOSE
THROUGHOUT THE CITY.
HE FREQUENTED LOVERS LANES, AND
HIS CALLING CARD, A
.44 CALIBER
REVOLVER.
WE'LL HEAR FROM PEOPLE CLOSE TO
THE CASE.
FROM A VICTIM WHO SURVIVED A
BULLET TO THE HEAD, THE POLICE
WHO CAUGHT THE KILLER, AND THE
MEDIA WHAT KEPT US ON THE EDGE
OF OUR SEEATS.
GERALDO RIVERA WAS THE FIRST TO
OBTAIN LETTERS FROM PRISON
PENNED BY THE MURDERER HIMSELF
AND ASKED HIM ABOUT THE IMPACT
THAT THESE KILLINGS HAD ON THE
CITY'S PSYCHE.
>> I THINK YOU FIRST HAVE TO
START WITH WHAT NEW YORK CITY
WAS IN 1977.
IT WAS A DYSTOPIAN KIND OF
GOTHAM CITY.
THERE WAS GRAFFITI EVERYWHERE,
FILTH.
THE HEROIN EPIDEMIC WAS IN FULL
BLOOM.
THE CITY WAS BEING DEPOPULATED.
IT WAS TOTALLY DYSFUNCTIONAL.
THAT WAS THE SUMMER WHEN THE
LIGHT WENT OUT.
A LIGHTNING STRIKE I THINK IT
WAS, TOOK ALL THE LIGHT OUT.
IT WAS -- IF YOU WERE IN A
MIDTOWN FANCY HOTEL, THEY LIT
CANDLES AND IT WAS A PARTY, I
THINK THERE WAS A BIG PREGNANCY
BOOM, YOU KNOW, LOT OF BABIES
BEING BORN NINE MONTHS FROM THAT
BLACKOUT.
BUT I HAPPENED TO BE IN THE
VICINITIES WITH MY FRIEND FROM
CHC
CHEECH MARIN, AND SAID ABC
ASSIGNED ME TO INVESTIGATE THE
LOOTING GOING ON IN MANHATTAN.
WE WENT TO THE SOUTH BRONX.
I DRAGGED CHEECH AND MY CREW UP
THERE.
THERE WERE LOOTERS EVERYWHERE.
THE SOUTH BRONX, BROOKLYN, A LOT
OF THE POORER NEIGHBORHOODS WERE
ABSOLUTELY BEING RAVAGED BY THE
LOOTERS.
YOU KNOW, DAY CAME, THE CITY WAS
WRECKED.
I THINK THAT OUR CONFIDENCE WAS
ALSO DESTROYED.
SO WE WERE VERY MUCH IN THE
MIDDLE OF THE SON OF SAM
KILLINGS, WE WERE VERY MUCH
DEALING WITH A DYSFUNCTIONAL
CITY GOVERNMENT AID BEING THE
MAYOR.
THE COPS HAD -- THEY WERE
ABSOLUTELY OVERWHELMED BY THE
CRIME, THE RAMPANT CRIME.
AND IN THE MIDST OF IT, YOU HAVE
THIS ASSASSIN OR ASSASSINS GOING
AROUND, YOU KNOW, MURDERING
THESE YOUNG WOMEN AND THEIR CON
SORTS, MURDERING OUR WOUNDING.
AND IT BECAME A STORY OF NEW
YORK TERRORIZED.
I THINK YET THAT THAT WAS THE
LOW POINT IN NEW YORK'S MODERN
HISTORY.
>> YOU ARE A REPORTER WHO DURING
THIS TIME EARLY IN YOUR CAREER,
HOW DID YOU VIEW THIS STORY?
>> WELL, YOU KNOW, FIRST OF ALL,
IT WAS THE FIRST IN THE NEW YORK
EXPERIENCE, THE FIRST TIME THERE
WAS EVER AN INTERACTIVE
MURDERER, SERIAL MURDERER.
HE WOULD BOAST, HE WOULD
INTERACT WITH JIMMY BRESLIN, THE
TERRIFIC REPORTER.
YOU KNOW, OTHERS.
MAINLY BRESLIN, BUT PETE HAMILL,
OTHERS GOT A PIECE OF THAT
ACTION.
YOU KNOW, HE WOULD TAUNT THE
COPS, TAUNT THE VICTIMS.
YOU KNOW, RAMBLE ON ABOUT, YOU
KNOW, THE SON OF SAM.
SO I WAS A YOUNG REPORTER.
I JUST GRADUATED.
I HAD -- I WAS AN EYEWITNESS
NEWSMAN FIRST.
THEN I HAD MY NATIONAL PROGRAM
"GOOD NIGHT AMERICA."
THEN THE CREATOR OF ABC NEWS AND
SPORTS AS WE KNOW IT RECRUITED
ME TO BE A NATIONAL NEWSMAN, AND
THIS WAS REALLY MY FIRST BIG --
MY FIRST BIG NATIONAL STORY.
BARBARA WALTERS WAS THE FIRST --
ANOINTED THE FIRST FEMALE
ANCHOR.
SHE WAS KIND OF CHEERING ME ON.
A FRIEND AFTER MINE FOR ALL
THESE DECADES.
BUT IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO
UNDERSTATE HOW TERRORIZED NEW
YORK WAS.
LOTS OF PEOPLE WERE CANCELING
SOCIAL ENGAGEMENTS, THEY WERE
STAYING HOME.
THEY WERE LIVING IN FEAR.
THEIR CHILDREN WERE NOT ALLOWED
TO WALK TO SCHOOL OR WALK HOME.
THE LOVERS LANES WERE BEING
ABANDONED BY, YOU KNOW, YOUNG
PEOPLE EVEN IN THAT HOT, HUMID,
STICKY, DYSFUNCTIONAL SUMMER.
IT REALLY WAS A CITY UNDER SIEGE
IN EVERY WAY.
AND IT WAS LIKE THE JOKER IN
"BATMAN" TAUNTING EVERYBODY.
>> AS YOU KNOW, DURING THAT TIME
THERE WERE SUGGESTIONS BEING
MADE -- AND OFTENTIMES THE MEDIA
BECOMES THE TARGET OF CRITICISM
-- BUT THERE WERE SUGGESTIONS
THAT MEDIA WAS FANNING THE
FLAMES OF HYSTERIA HERE.
WAS THAT AN ACCURATE CRITICISM
DO YOU THINK?
>> YOU KNOW, THAT'S ALWAYS --
THAT'S ALWAYS THE BEEF, THAT THE
STORY IS, YOU KNOW, REPORTING OF
THE STORY IS LEADING THE STORY.
I DON'T -- I DON'T REALLY PUT
MUCH EMOTIONAL INVESTMENT IN
THAT DEBATE.
THERE WAS NO DOUBT BUT THAT THE
MEDIA WAS OBSESSED WITH THE
STORY, BUT THE REASON WAS THE
AUDIENCE, THE NEWS CONSUMERS
WERE OBSESSED WITH THE STORY.
THE TAP LLOYDS, THE "POST" --
TABLOIDS, THE "POST," AND THE
"DAILY NEWS," CIRCULATION SHOT
UP BY THE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS.
LOCAL POLICE BECAME ANOTHER
OBSESSION.
PEOPLE FOLLOWING EVERY WRINKLE,
EVERY DEVELOPMENT.
AND WHENEVER THERE WAS ANOTHER,
YET ANOTHER MURDER, I MEAN, IT
IS IMPOSSIBLE TO OVERSTATE HOW
PEOPLE FELT.
IF YOU WERE THE PARENTS OF
TEENAGERS OR IF YOU WERE A KID
YOURSELF, YOUR WHOLE LIFE WAS NO
CIRCUMSCRIBED.
YOU WALKED, YOU KNOW, YOU TRIED
TO WALK FROM STREET LIGHT TO
STREET LIGHT, ALWAYS WITH A
BUDDY SYSTEM.
IT WAS -- THERE WAS NO TRUST AT
ALL OF THE COPS, CERTAINLY NOT
OF THE MAYOR AND THE CITY
GOVERNMENT.
THEY SEEMED UNABLE TO PROTECT
THE CITIZENS.
AND THE MEDIA, YES, THE MEDIA
WAS PLAYING THE STORY OF HUGE
WITH BANNER HEADLINES, BUT MY
GOODNESS, IF EVER THERE WAS A
STORY THAT DESERVED THEM, I
THINK IT WAS THE SON OF SAM.
>> WHY DO YOU THINK -- LAST
QUESTION HERE -- AS I SAID, YOU
COVERED THIS STORY FROM THE
BEGINNING, YOU GOT ACCESS TO
LETTERS PENNED BY DAVID
BERKOWITZ COMING OUT OF THE
PRISONS.
HERE WE ARE ALL THESE YEARS
LATER, WHY DO YOU THINK THERE'S
STILL SUCH A FASCINATION WITH
DAVID BERKOWITZ HIMSELF AND WHAT
HE DID?
>> THAT'S A GREAT QUESTION.
I THINK FIRST OF ALL THE DAY
BEFORE BERKOWITZ WAS CAUGHT WAS
THE LOWEST POINT IN MODERN
HISTORY.
THE DAY HE WAS CAUGHT, THERE WAS
A TREMENDOUS SIGH, A RELEASE.
WE EMBRACED THE COPS AGAIN.
WE FELT CIVILIZATION HAD
PREVAILED.
AND THEN YOU KNOW, A COUPLE
MONTHS LATER, THE YANKEES WON
THE WORLD SERIES, AS I RECALL.
REGGIE JACKSON, MR. OCTOBER,
HITTING FIVE, EIGHT HOME RUNS, I
FORGET HOW MANY, AS THE YANKEES
WON THE 1977 WORLD SERIES.
THE CITY RECOVERED.
ED KOCH BECAME THE MAYOR.
HOW AM I DOING, HOW AM I DOING?
THE CITY HIT ROCK BOTTOM, AND
THEN BOUNCED BACK.
IN TERMS OF THE FASCINATION, WAS
HE A LONE ASSASSIN, WAS HE PART
OF A SATANIC CULT, YOU KNOW,
THERE WERE SO MANY MANY OTHER
WRINKLES THAT HISTORY,
HISTORIANS TOOK OVER.
BUT IT IS SOMETHING -- IT IS
VIVIDLY IMPLANTED IN MY HEART
AND MY SOUL AS A NATIVE-BORN NEW
YORKER, IT IS SOMETHING THAT IS
PART AND PARCEL OF THE VERY
FABRIC OF THE CITY AT THE CENTER
OF THE UNIVERSE ITSELF.
>> IT WAS A FASCINATING TIME FOR
SO MANY REASONS, AND GERALDO,
IT'S ALWAYS GOOD TO TALK TO YOU.
WE APPRECIATE YOU SPENDING TIME
WITH US AND SHARING SOME OF YOUR
RECOLLECTIONS.
YOU BE WELL.
>> OKAY, YOU, TOO, BUDDY.