David Berkowitz, known as “Son of Sam”, tells his story.
“I am sitting in a prison cell. Maximum security prisons have been my home now for almost twenty years (ed. note--now almost thirty-six years). You see, at one time I was a devil worshiper. I was living such an evil and wicked life, that I was actually seeking out demonic entities to communicate with them and in turn receive their powers.
I became in the most literal sense a servant and soldier for Satan. I took innocent lives, and I am so deeply sorry for that. I would do anything to go back in time to change things, but it is too late. I was such a fool. Not only did I destroy the lives of others, but I also threw away my life. Now I am doing more than three hundred years behind bars, serving six consecutive life sentences with no hope of ever being paroled.
“I would be the first one to tell you I deserve this sentence. Even more so, I deserve death! There were many times when I could have died. My life could have ended in 1977 when a platoon of police officers surrounded me with guns drawn. One sudden move, and I would have been blasted into eternity.
“I could have died in 1979 when, while I was confined to the infamous Attica prison, another inmate slit my throat with a razor blade. There were many other times when I dodged death.
“Through it all, I tried as best I could to get adjusted to prison life. It has been hard. Most of the time, I battled feelings of depression and loneliness. I had already been confined for ten years; I began to think I no longer had a reason to live.
“One cold winter’s night I was walking in the prison yard. Another inmate walked up to me, introduced himself, and boldly told me that Jesus Christ loved me and had a plan for my life. I noticed he had a big smile on this face and a little Bible in his hands.
“After he said those words, I laughed and told him there was no way God could love me. I was too evil, and he was wasting his time. Yet this guy had such a friendly and compassionate attitude, that even though I had instantly rejected what he said, I also felt drawn to him. I guess I was hurting deep inside.
“The inmate’s name was Rick, and we quickly became friends. As we walked the yard, he told me he was a Christian. I told him I was a Jew. He said it didn’t matter—we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Rick explained to me that we all need a Savior, there is no such thing as a righteous person, and that God loves everyone.
“Oftentimes, Rick would read portions of his New Testament to me as we walked. Within a few weeks, he gave me a small Gideon New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs. He told me to read the Psalms, that God had a special message just for me.
“I took that little Bible and began to read it. Late at night, when it got quiet, I would pick out a Psalm at random. I was amazed! I had never before read the Bible. The words were so beautiful. I read about King David’s struggles and sufferings as he poured out his heart to God. The Psalms were full of his pain as well as his praise. As I read, it seemed as if God was indeed talking to me.
“One night it happened. It was close to midnight, and I was alone in my cell. I was looking at Psalm 34, and when I came to verse six it said, “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.” It was at that moment that my heart began to burst. The words pierced my soul. Everything seemed to hit me at once; all the guilt I had inside me, the anger, shame, my feelings of being a failure, my loneliness and deep hurts—everything.
“I shut off the light in my cell. Then in the darkness I felt a compelling desire to get down on my knees by my bunk and pour out my heart to God. I was filled with remorse over all the evil I had done. I began to pray, to talk with God as if He were right there in the cell with me. I asked Him to forgive me for everything I had done. I told Him how sorry I was and threw myself at the mercy of Jesus Christ.
“When I finished, I got up off my knees and felt as if a tremendous load was lifted off me. That was the moment I was born again. Although it would still take awhile to understand all that had taken place, it was the turning point in my life. I felt God’s peace. For the first time in my thirty-three years on this earth, I began to experience the breaking of Satan’s chains of oppression and torment.
“Now ten years have gone by. Through God’s grace I am still walking with Jesus every day. I serve God at the prison I am in. I love Jesus Christ; He is not only my Savior. He is also my Lord. He has given me many wonderful Christian friends who have encouraged me and comforted me during times of trial and temptation.
“In 1987 God sent a born-again prisoner with a big smile and a little Bible into my broken-down life. Now the old things have passed away, and all things have become new. The evil “Son of Sam” has even been given a new name—“Son of Hope”.
David has said, "...with God there is always hope. If he can save someone like me, then he can save anybody. What more can I say but, “Thank you, Jesus!”
Editor’s Note: Berkowitz has had seven parole hearings, the most recent in May, 2014. The next parole hearing is scheduled for 2016. He has been denied parole all seven times, many upon his request. He failed to appear for the last hearing. Inside prison, he feels he has purpose and meaning in his life. He has said, “In all honesty, I believe that I deserve to be in prison for the rest of my life. I have, with God’s help, long ago come to terms with my situation and I have accepted my punishment.” Berkowitz continues to be involved in prison ministry and regularly counsels prison inmates. He receives no money from the sale of his memoir, Son of Hope, published in 2006. A portion of any proceeds goes to the New York State Crime Victims Board for distribution to the victims of his crimes. He is currently residing at Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, New York, where he serves as a prison chaplain.