The Redemption of Son of Sam

by Frank Sambrick

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In the early morning of August 11, 1977, in a Brooklyn police station interrogation room, David Berkowitz calmly confessed to his captors that he was the one they had all been looking for. One of the largest and most chronicled manhunts in the history of New York City was finally over. At the time of his arrest just one day earlier, Berkowitz’s first words were, “Well, you got me. How come it took you such a long time?

Nearly 37 years later, on March 17, 2014, a letter arrived at the Raleigh offices of CLI. It began, “Dear Brethren in Christ, Warm greetings to you in the name of our wonderful Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. My name is David…” By the time he was finally stopped, thirteen innocent victims would be shot. Seven of those would lose their lives to the man who would become known as The Son of Sam. His year-long reign of terror left the city of New York in a state of panic. On June 12, 1978, Berkowitz, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to 25 years to life for his crimes.

In 1987, 10 years into his sentence, a stranger approached Berkowitz in the prison yard. He said, “David, Jesus Christ loves you. He wants to forgive you and he sent me to this prison to tell you this.” The stranger handed Berkowitz a New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs. At first, Berkowitz refused to believe that Jesus would want to save a man like him. But one day, as Berkowitz was reading his Bible, he came across Psalm 34, and as he read verse six, “This poor man cried and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles,” David knelt on the hard, prison floor and began to weep. At that moment, the Son of Sam died. The Son of Hope was born.

Now, grasping the power to reach lost souls that his life in Christ has given him, David Berkowitz spends his days spreading hope to the imprisoned. In a recent statement to CLI, he said, “God is using my infamous past as a platform to display His power to transform even the worst of sinners, and to show forth His great mercy and salvation is available to everyone (Romans 10:13).”

Trying to make sense of David’s story is like trying to understand the mind of God. The very idea that God would choose to open the eyes of a man like David Berkowitz almost defies human understanding. And yet, maybe David Berkowitz is more like us than we are willing to admit. Even the apostle Paul was a cruel persecutor of Christians before God met him on the road to Damascus.

In cities and towns across America, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers mourn for loved ones sitting behind prison walls. For them, the redemption of David Berkowitz means that there is still hope for their own sons and daughters behind bars—the hope that they will one day find freedom in the salvation of Christ. In his letter to CLI, Berkowitz said, “The reason I am writing is to thank you for all the literature you have provided my church with over the years. We no longer have a Bible-believing Christian pastor at the prison so CLI’s quarterly delivery of Christ-honoring materials has been a big help.” God used the 34th Psalm and the kindness of a stranger to turn a serial killer into a Disciple of Christ.   

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You can send make a donation of cash or gently used Bibles, Christain books, and other resources to join Christian Library International in providing Christian literature to inmates. You never know how God can use your generosity to transform someone’s from a story of darkness to a story of redemption. You can learn more about donating your gently used materials here or make a more immediate impact by making a cash donation.