Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

David Berkowitz: The Son of Sam


On the evening of Tuesday, March 8, 1977, an attractive young Barnard College honor student named Virginia Voskerichian was walking home from classes in the affluent Forest Hills Gardens area. Virginia was a very talented and hardworking young woman who had fled Bulgaria with her family in the late 1950's.

As she followed Dartmouth Street towards her home, a man approached her from the opposite direction. When they were very close, he pulled out a .44 and aimed it at her. She raised her books to protect herself, but a single shot hit her in the face. Virginia died immediately.

As the killer ran away, he passed a man who had witnessed the whole thing. "Hi, mister," the killer said to the middle-aged man.

A passing patrol car spotted the running man. But, when they heard on their radio that a woman had been shot on Dartmouth Street, they abandoned their plan to stop the suspicious man and immediately raced to the crime scene.

The police felt helpless, unable to find the murderer. As well, these murders were taking a huge toll on the officers who had been working non-stop to track down every possible lead.

Laurence D. Klausner in his book Son of Sam quotes Joe Borrelli on the aftermath of this crime. "If you watch detectives at any homicide, you'll notice that they go about their jobs unemotionally... they didn't want to look at her. They knew it was senseless. She was someone beautiful and she was laying under the sheet, a bullet in her face had destroyed her. It began to grab at them, in the guts, and they just turned away. These were veterans and they couldn't take it."

The next day, the police had a match on the bullet. It had come from the same gun that had killed Donna Lauria. They were looking for a psycho and they knew he was going to kill again. Some random shooting of an attractive young woman. How would they ever prevent it?

The following day, the police commissioner held a press conference to announce to the City of New York that they had linked the various shootings. The commissioner stated that the only description of the murderer was that of "a white male, 25 to 30 years old, six feet tall, medium build, with dark hair."

More emphasis was put on finding this psycho before he killed again. Deputy Inspector Timothy Dowd was given the job of organizing the Operation Omega task force and staffing it with the highly experienced men it needed. Dowd, a native of Ireland, was not a typical cop. The 61-year-old veteran had majored in Latin and English at City College and had studied for a master's degree in business at the Baruch School of City College. Pragmatic and persistent despite political setbacks, he was not easily discouraged.

Captain Borrelli had a new boss. This crime series had become too big to be handled by just a captain.


We're Following
Slender Man stabbing, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Gilberto Valle 'Cannibal Cop'