A CITY ON EDGE

Legendary PIX-11 reporter Marvin Scott recalls the vibe that permeated every newsroom in New York at the time.

Aired on August 9, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> SAYS, ARE YOU DAVID BERKOWITZ?

HE LOOKED AT ME WITH THAT SMILE OF HIS AND SAYS, LIKE THIS, SAYS, 'NO, I'M THE SON OF SAM.'

JUST AMAZED NME THE WAY HE WAS O CALM ABOUT EVERYTHING KNOWING WHAT HE DID.

THAT WAS DETECTIVE EDDIE ZEIGO, ONE OF THE OFFICERS CREDITED WITH CRACKING THE CASE AGAINST DAVID BERKOWITZ TALKING WITH LEGENDARY NEWSMAN MARVIN SCOTT.

NEW YORK CITY SAT GRIPPED IN FEAR AS ALL AWAITED WORD ON WHERE THE SON OF SAM WOULD FIND HIS NEXT VICTIMS.

THE FEAR PARALYZED THE CITY.

AND THAT FEAR FUELED COLLABORATION.

POLICE AND THE MEDIA WORKED CLOSELY TOGETHER TO CATCH A MADMAN HELLBENT ON MURDER.

JOINING US NOW TO TAKE US BACK INTO THE NEWSROOM TO 40 YEARS AGO AS THE SON OF SAM STORY UNFOLDED IS VETERAN NEW YORK CITY JOURNALIST MARVIN SCOTT, AUTHOR OF 'AS I SAW IT: A REPORTER'S INTREPID JOURNEY.'

WELCOME BACK TO THE SHOW.

THANK YOU, JENNA.

GOOD TO BE HERE.

GOING BACK SO MANY YEARS, I REMEMBER HOW -- YOU USED TWO WORDS, GRIPPING, PARALYZED.

UH-HUH.

THE CITY OF NEW YORK WAS ABSOLUTELY PARALYZED DURING THE ONE-YEAR PERIOD THAT THE SON OF SAM WAS RUNNING RAMPANT THROUGH THE CITY KILLING PEOPLE.

HE KILLED SIX, WOUNDED SEVEN, AND EVERYONE WAS -- IT WAS TERRIFYING.

ALL OF THIS COMING JUST AT THE SAME TIME NEW YORK CITY WAS IN CRISIS BECAUSE CRIME WAS THE HIGHEST RATE IT HAD BEEN.

THE STREETS WERE FILTHY.

THE CITY WAS NEAR BANKRUPTCY.

ALL OF THESE ELEMENTS FED INTO IT ON TOP OF HAVING THIS MADMAN ROAMING THE STREETS AND KIMMING YOUNG PEOPLE.

AND -- AND KILLING YOUNG PEOPLE.

AND EDDIE ZEIGO FINALLY ARRESTED EDDIE BERKOWITZ.

HE WAS A FRIEND AND A NEWS CONTACT AND TALKED ABOUT THE NIGHT HE ENCOUNTERED BERKOWITZ.

HE SAID HE FOUND IT VERY STRANGE THE WAY HE REACTED PARTICULARLY WHEN HE ASKED HIM HIS NAME.

ARE YOU DAVID BERKOWITZ?

UH-HUH --

HIS RESPONSE -- NO.

I'M SON OF SAM.

ZEIGO SAID HE FOUND THAT ODD, HE WAS SO CALM CONSIDERING WHAT HE HAD DONE, KILLING SIX PEOPLE, WOUNDING SEVEN OTHERS.

FAST FORWARD A FEW YEARS.

YOU WERE ABLE TO GET IN CONTACT WITH BERKOWITZ WHEN HE WAS IN PRISON.

ON THE 30th ANNIVERSARY BACK IN 2007, I REACHED OUT HOPEFULLY TO GET AN INTERVIEW WITH HIM.

HE WAS AT THE SULLIVAN CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, UPSTATE NEW YORK.

AND AS NOTED, THE DETECTIVE WAS A FRIEND, AND I ASKED, EDDIE, WOULD YOU COME UP TO THE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY WITH ME IF I GET TO MEET WITH BERKOWITZ?

HE SAID HE WOULD CONSIDER THAT.

FIRST HE WAS AMENABLE TO IT.

I WROTE A COUPLE OF LETTERS TO BERKOWITZ, DIDN'T GET AN INITIAL ANSWER.

THEN I RECEIVED THIS LETTER.

HE RESPONDED, BUT IT WAS AFTER DETECTIVE ZEIGO SAID HE THOUGHT ABOUT IT, HE DID NOT WISH TO MAKE THE TRIP UP TO THE CORRECTIONAL FACILITY.

AT WHICH POINT BERKOWITZ BACKED AWAY FROM DOING AN INTERVIEW.

HE HAD HOPED TO MEET THE MAN WHO ARRESTED HIM.

HE TALKED ABOUT IT, HE SAID, I VAGUELY RECALL DETECTIVE ZEIGO BECAUSE IT WAS A LONG TIME AGO, AND THE ENTIRE ARREST INCIDENT WAS A TRAUMATIC ORDEAL FOR ME.

NOWADAYS, I BARELY REMEMBER THIS PERIOD OF MY LIFE.

IT'S A BLUR.

I DON'T EVEN REMEMBER IF I GOT TO SPEAK WITH DETECTIVE ZEIGO VERY MUCH.

MOSTLY I RECALL FINDING MYSELF AT THE KING'S COUNTY HOSPITAL PRISON WARD, AND THAT'S ABOUT IT.

IT WAS A BLUR.

IF YOU LOOK BACK AT THE VIDEO IMAGES OF THAT NIGHT OF HIM.

HE WAS -- HE SEEMED STUNNED AND -- IT WAS UNREAL.

BUT THE CITY WAS IN SUCH RELIEF THAT THEY FINALLY HAD CAPTURED THIS MADMAN, AND HE FACED TRIAL AND WAS CONVICTED AND SERVING A LIFE SENTENCE.

THEN I FOUND IT VERY INTERESTING.

AT THE END OF THIS LETTER, DATED AUGUST 11th, 2007, PLEASE WISH MR. ZEIGO WELL FOR ME.

I AM DEEPLY SORRY FOR THE CRIMES I COMMITTED.

I CONTINUALLY PRAY FOR THOSE WHOM I INJURED, AS WELL AS FOR THE FAMILIES OF THOSE WHO LOST A LOVED ONE.

I AM THANKFUL TO HAVE SURVIVED, AND I WISH TO MOVE ON.

GOD BLESS YOU.

WOW.

DAVID BERKOWITZ.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO HIM IN PRISON -- HE ADOPTED RELIGION.

HE BECAME A BORN-AGAIN CHRISTIAN.

AND HE'S -- HE IS QUITE RELIGIOUS.

AND HE IS -- HE'S ACCEPTED HIS FATE, RECOGNIZING WHAT HORROR HE CREATED IN THE LIVES HE TOOK SO MANY YEARS AGO.

I DON'T KNOW IF THAT BRINGS ANY PEACE OR SOLACE TO THE FAMILIES, BUT THAT IS -- I THINK IT'S VERY IMPORTANT THAT --

I DON'T THINK YOU CAN EVER BRING CLOSURE.

WHEN YOU LOSE A LOVED ONE LIKE THAT, THERE'S NO WAY TO BRING CLOSURE.

UH-HUH.

THE MOST DIFFICULT STORIES I WOULD SAY I'VE COVERED OVER MY 50 YEARS HERE ARE THOSE IN WHICH PEOPLE HAVE LOST THEIR LIVES AT THE HANDS OF CRIMINALS.

SO SUDDENLY, THESE YOUNG PEOPLE, SO FULL OF LIFE, AND GONE IN SUCH A WAY BECAUSE ONE MAN, WHATEVER THE PROBLEM WAS, WHETHER IT WAS MENTAL ILLNESS OR WHATEVER, AND WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT -- THIS WAS HAPPENING 40 YEARS AGO, BUT TODAY WE HAVE SIMILAR PROBLEMS.

THERE ARE PEOPLE IN THE STREET, WE HAVE TO FIND A WAY TO RECOGNIZE PEOPLE WHO ARE IN DISTRESS MENTALLY, WHO HAVE THE CAPABILITY OF ACTING LIKE A DAVID BERKOWITZ.

WE HAVE TO FIND THEM EARLY ENOUGH AND TREAT THEM.

AND THAT'S THE BIG CHALLENGE WE FACE TODAY.

ALL RIGHT.

MARVIN SCOTT, AGAIN, I CANNOT THANK YOU ENOUGH.

THAT WAS -- NO, THAT WAS REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT AND IMPRESSIVE.

AND MORE THAN ANYTHING, THE RESPONSIBILITY OF GOOD JOURNALISM.

IMPORTANT.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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