Netflix’s The Sons of Sam glosses over the 1974 death of Arliss Perry, so what’s the significance? Here’s how it supports a David Berkowitz theory.
The Sons of Sam glosses over David Berkowitz’s connection to the 1974 death of Arliss Perry, so what’s the significance? Directed by Joshua Zeman, the 2021 Netflix docuseries investigates the infamous “Son of Sam” murders and suggests that multiple people were responsible for the crimes. Sons of Sam reveals Berkowitz’s possible involvement in a North Dakota cold case, but viewers may be confused about the connection to Perry’s death in California, and how it relates to a popular conspiracy theory.
Overall, The Sons of Sam documents the investigative efforts of journalist Maury Terry. When Berkowitz was arrested in August 1977 for several murders, the general public widely believed that the 24-year-old acted alone out of pure evil. However, Terry quickly realized that Berkowitz didn’t match eyewitness sketches, and ultimately reached the conclusion that the suspect’s neighbors, John and Michael Carr, were somehow involved. Not only were they the actual sons of a man named Sam, but they were also linked to devil worship activity in Untermyer Park near Berkowitz’s home. However, the brothers were never fully investigated because John Carr died in 1978 from a gunshot wound in Minot, North Dakota, and Michael Carr died in a 1979 car accident. Terry published his investigative conclusions in the 1988 book The Ultimate Evil, and Berkowitz claimed in 1993 that the Carr brothers and other unidentified people were indeed involved in the Son of Sam murders.
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The Perry murder is significant because certain details support Terry’s conspiracy theories about the Son of Sam murders. In 1974, the North Dakota native was murdered inside a church at Stanford University in California. The Netflix show links Berkowitz to the crime because he’d sent a bizarre package to a North Dakota investigator containing the book The Anatomy of Witchcraft and a written note that read “Arliss Perry, hunted, stalked and slain. followed to California.” From there, The Sons of Sam implies that Berkowitz was part of a cult known as “The Children” that linked to another group called “The Process,” which was rumored to be associated with serial killer Charles Manson. In short, Terry’s investigation led him to believe that Berkowitz’s cult tracked down and murdered Perry because she had information about John Carr’s death in her native North Dakota.
In 2018, the Perry murder was officially solved, something that Netflix’s serial killer TV show briefly addresses in the fourth and final episode. Investigators linked a DNA sample from the crime scene to Stephen Blake Crawford, the security guard who “found” Perry’s body. However, Crawford killed himself when police arrived at his home with an arrest warrant, as revealed through body cam footage in the Netflix docuseries. The Sons of Sam ends with the revelation that Terry’s book The Ultimate Evil was found in Crawford’s home, with the implication being that he may indeed have been part of a cult and that he murdered Perry as part of a “satanic” ritual.
Based on the evidence presented in The Sons of Sam, it’s certainly plausible that Berkowitz didn’t act alone. However, the Netflix documentary also suggests that Terry’s obsession with the case seriously affected his judgment when analyzing conspiracy theories. Berkowitz has backtracked on numerous statements about the Son of Sam murders over the years, and some leading authorities on the case believe that he used a cult narrative to manipulate the media. As for the Perry murder, Crawford may have actually been connected to The Children or The Process, but it’s also possible that he merely owned The Ultimate Evil because he’d been linked to the Son of Sam murders and had a morbid interest in the association. What matters most, it seems, is that Crawford was identified as Perry’s killer through DNA, allowing for the victim’s surviving family members to have a sense of closure.
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