Table of Contents
- Elmer Wayne Henley Jr.
- William Henry Hance
- William Pierce
- 9 Dennis Rader (BTK)
- 8 David Berkowitz (Son of Sam)
- 7 William “Junior” Pierce
- 6 William Hance
- 5 Elmer Wayne Henley, Jr.
- 4 Charles Manson
- 3 Tex Watson
- 2 Paul Bateson
- 1 Wayne Williams
- Killer 1: David Berkowitz, AKA ‘Son of Sam’
- Their real-life crimes
- How they compare to the show
- Further listening
- Killer 2: The Atlanta Child Murders
- Further reading/listening
- Killer 3: Dennis Rader, AKA ‘BTK’
- Mindhunter’s Season 2 Serial Killers: Who Played Wayne Williams, BTK, and Son of Sam?
- Paul Bateson
- David Berkowitz
- Elmer Wayne Henley, Jr.
- Edmund Kemper
- William “Junior” Pierce
- Dennis Rader
- Tex Watson
- Who is David Berkowitz?
- What were the “Son of Sam” murders?
- Why did Berkowitz commit the murders?
- Where is David Berkowitz today?
- Okay, so who is the Son of Sam again?
- Was he ever caught??
- Okay, but how does his nickname come into play?
- His case even led to “Son of Sam laws.”
- He’s apparently a born-again Christian….
- The Shocking Reason Serial Killer David Berkowitz Targeted Women
- Serial killers who appear in Mindhunter
- Serial killers mentioned but not pictured in Mindhunter
- The Good Guys
- Bill Tench
- Dr. Wendy Carr
- Ted Gunn and Jim Barney
- Brian Tench
- Kevin Bright
- The Serial Killers
- Ed Kemper
- Monte Ralph Rissell
- Jerry Brudos
- Richard Speck
- Darrell Gene Devier
- David Berkowitz
- William Pierce Jr.
- William Henry Hance
- Elmer Wayne Henley
- Charles Manson
- Tex Watson
- Paul Bateson
- Wayne Williams
- The Little Mermaid: How the Remake Cast Stacks Up to the Animated Original
- ‘Mindhunter’ season 2 episode 2 review: David ‘Son of Sam’ Berkowitz is show’s latest serial killer consultant
But Bateson never confessed to those crimes and was never charged for them. They remain unsolved. Bizarrely enough, Bell’s columns were a source for William Friedkin’s 1980 cop thriller “Cruising,” but Bell himself led protests that plagued that film’s production. And in one more strange twist, Bateson had appeared as a radiology tech in Friedkin’s 1973 film “The Exorcist.” Bateson was released from prison in August 2003, and his current location is unknown.
Elmer Wayne Henley Jr.
Also interviewed by Carr and Smith, Henley was only 17 when he shot and killed Dean Corll, 33. In doing so, Henley brought an end to a string of abductions and killings (the largest multiple murder case in United States history at that time) that took the lives of more than two dozen young men in and around Houston. But this was no simple case of self-defense: Henley admitted to having helped procure the victims, and he was convicted of murdering of six, sentenced to a 99-year prison term for each.
While in prison, with the encouragement of an art dealer, Henley began painting, which led to an art show in a Houston gallery in 1977 and another two years later — both over the objections of his victims’ families. Henley’s attempts at parole have been unsuccessful (he is next eligible in 2025), and he continues to serve his sentences in Texas.
William Henry Hance
Hance was a former Marine, and his arrest in April 1978 concluded a confounding string of crimes, threats and fictions. This much, however, was clear: Four women in and around Georgia military bases in the late 1970s had been murdered, and Hance was accused of all four. He was tried and convicted in military court for two of those murders and in civilian court for a third, which sentenced Hance to death. But that civilian conviction and sentence raised questions about the jury’s deliberation and Hance’s mental state. “Why are you executing an innocent man?” Hance asked in a seven-minute statement before he was put to death in the electric chair on April 1, 1994.
One of the lesser-known figures of Season 2, William Pierce, known as Junior, was a deadly misstep for the Georgia parole board, which in 1970 released him from prison (where he was serving time for burglary, theft and arson, among other crimes) over the objections of staff psychiatrists.
He committed his first murder a month later, according to the police, and killed eight more victims before his arrest in 1971 on a theft charge. Now in his late 80s, he is serving a life sentence in a Georgia prison.
Mindhunter has gotten even better in its second season. In addition to getting into the heads of a whole new crop of serial killers – including well-known names like David Berkowitz and Charles Manson, and lesser-known killers like Elmer Wayne Henley and William Pierce Jr. – our lead investigators Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) go into the field to help with the Atlanta Child Murders. We also get a deeper look into the personal lives of Tench and Dr. Wendy Carr (Anna Torv).
While a third season of David Fincher‘s acclaimed series has not yet been ordered by Netflix, in an interview with THR, McCallany said that Fincher has a plan for five seasons of the show. With a plethora of disturbing serial killers, there is no shortage of storylines out there, and as Season 2 showed us, everyone is fascinated by serial killers.
After reading the interview with McCallany, and Collider’s exclusive interview with John Douglas (the FBI profiler whose book, Mind Hunter, is the basis for the series, and whom the character Holden Ford is based on), plus my own frighteningly extensive knowledge of serial killers, I have compiled a list of potential serial killers we might see in Season 3, and some information about their horrific crimes.
The second season of the hit Netflix drama Mindhunter finally premiered, and let’s be honest, viewers probably binged the entire thing in a day. This season takes on new twists and mainly follows one case, the Atlanta child murders, the entire time. However, we still get our fair share of interviews with some pretty well-known serial killers. And as expected of the popular streaming series focused on serial killers and the detectives who find them, things got nightmarish almost immediately.
We know you’re morbidly curious about these real-life monsters and their eventual captures, so we made a list of all of the serial killers featured in this season. Not just that, but we added their statistics, arrest, and sentences. Prepare yourself, it gets pretty disturbing.
9 Dennis Rader (BTK)
From 1974 to 1991, BTK murdered ten people in Kansas but he wasn’t apprehended until 2005. His victims were surprisingly random, including: 2 children and 8 adults aged 21 to 62. He was convicted of 10 first-degree murders and sentenced to consecutive life sentences amounting to 175 years. It’s safe to say he’ll be off the streets for, well, ever. We guess that also means he’ll never be apprehended in Mindhunter.
8 David Berkowitz (Son of Sam)
This is the serial killer who, in Mindhunter, is intensely interviewed by Holden and Bill until he finally admits that the demons (and the talking dog) were all a lie. Berkowitz confessed to killing 6 people and wounded 7, mainly using a .44 caliber revolver.
His nickname comes from his neighbor, Sam, and his dog that apparently told him to kill people. All of his victims were young women, and their deaths occurred between 1976 and 1977. Berkowitz was arrested and sentenced to 25 years in prison for each murder in 1990, and is still in prison today.
7 William “Junior” Pierce
Shortly after, Pierce killed his first victim in 1970 before going on to kill eight more within the next year. Unlike the other serial killers’ motives and preferences, Junior’s victims were pretty random in terms of age, occupation, and even gender. Pierce is still serving time in Georgia after being sentenced to life in prison in 1973.
6 William Hance
You’ll definitely remember this serial killer that Jim and Holden meet in prison because of the simple fact that he’s the only African-American that they interview on Mindhunter. Hance was convicted in 1978 for the murder of a woman in Georgia, and was later said to have been involved with two other murders. All of his victims were women.
It was thought that he was actually behind a fourth killing, but never tried for it. Hance was given the death penalty in 1994, as it was legal to do so in Georgia.
5 Elmer Wayne Henley, Jr.
These killings happened from 1972 to 1973, and it’s said that Corll murdered 28 boys. Henley, however, was only convicted as an accomplice for six of these confirmed killings. He received a life sentence for each victim in 1974, and has his next parole review is set for 2025.
4 Charles Manson
We probably don’t need to tell you much about this particular serial killer. Bill and Holden interview this infamous man, and you’ll remember him as being pretty off his rocker, to say the least. Manson, unlike the others in this list, is a unique case because he didn’t actually kill anyone.
There were 9 murders committed by the Manson Family, but Manson didn’t participate in any of them. However, it was confirmed that he was the mastermind behind these high-profile killings. As punishment, Manson received a life sentence for first-degree murder since the death penalty was revoked in 1972. He served time until he died in prison in 2017.
3 Tex Watson
He was convicted in 1971 for 7 counts of first-degree murder but, like Manson, escaped execution because of the death penalty’s repeal in California. Unsurprisingly, Watson is still in jail in San Diego. He has been denied parole 17 times, most recently in 2016.
2 Paul Bateson
Wendy and Gregg interview this guy, but he doesn’t exactly give them any useful information. In real life, Bateson was convicted for only one murder, but he’s thought to be the notorious Bag Murderer – a serial killer in New York who’s believed to be responsible for 6 killings that took place between 1975 and 1977.
While Bateson has never been legally convicted as a serial killer, he was still sentenced to serve a minimum of 20 years in prison. In fact, he was released from prison in 2003. To this day, the Bag Murders remain cold cases. Creepy, right?
1 Wayne Williams
Mindhunter season two primarily focuses on Wayne Williams, as Holden and Bill investigate the Atlanta Child Murders. Between July, 1979 and May, 1981, there were 29 murders in Atlanta. Notably, all of the victims were young black boys.
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About The Author
I am a university student studying Criminology & Psychology at St. Thomas University, with a burning passion for film! I am an avid reader, writer, and film-goer, and I love learning about movies, actors, directors, and sharing my passion and knowledge with others. I am a List Writer for ScreenRant, and love being a part of a film community where we all share the same passions.
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For true crime fans, Mindhunter is basically the Marvel Cinematic Universe for serial killers. Based on the real lives of Special Agents John E. Douglas and Robert K. Kessler, David Fincher’s Netflix series dives into the disturbing world of calmly detached psychopaths and cold-eyed killers. With Mindhunter season 2 seeing the newly created behavioural science team taking on even more of the criminal underworld’s so called “heavy hitters,” it’s important to look at the devastatingly real events that inspired the fiction. Below, we examine how the events of Netflix’s crime thriller compare the what happened in real life.
Plus, once you’ve finished reading, there are all manner of Mindhunter related podcasts to listen to. From entire Manson podcasts to essential Atlanta Murder listening, it’s time to top up your aural reading list, and we’ll point you in the direction of the best to listen to. Oh, and once you are finished with the below, don’t forget to check out our best true crime podcasts. Until then, though, it’s time to go behind bars with the criminals of Mindhunter season 2. If you dare.
Killer 1: David Berkowitz, AKA ‘Son of Sam’
(Image credit: Netflix)
Their real-life crimes
New York City wasn’t particularly well known for its safety back in 1976. Police levels were dangerously low and crime was rampant. This made it a perfect time for David Berkowitz to strike in a series of horrific shootings that terrified the city. The self-titled ‘Son of Sam’ targeted young brunette women sitting in their cars. He killed six and wounded seven more before finally being caught by police in 1977.
It’s important to note that Berkowitz didn’t just shoot and run. Jack the Ripper-style, Berkowitz left notes behind, making him even more infamous as he mocked the NYPD’s ineptitude at catching him. To make things even more headline grabbing, he said he was instructed to kill young women by a demon manifesting in his neighbour Sam’s dog, Harvey.
How they compare to the show
(Image credit: Getty)
Californication’s Oliver Cooper plays Berkowitz in Mindhunter’s recreation of true crime royalty. This Berkowitz delivers on both looks and a terrifying glimpse into the depraved yet oddly rational psyche that stalked New York City. Just like the real Son of Sam, he reveals, after being questioned at length on his demon story, that the whole possessed dog confession was a lie. Which, if anything, makes Berkowitz even scarier.
Given his almost movie-like killing spree, there’s no shortage of in-depth listening available on David Berkowitz. The Last Podcast on the Left, True Crime Garage, and The Serial Killer podcast all have solid offerings to take you back to that infamous, deadly summer of 1976.
Killer 2: The Atlanta Child Murders
(Image credit: Netflix)
Do you know where your children are? It’s an ominous sentence and one that concluded the nightly evening news in Atlanta during the late ’70s as the city was gripped with fear. For two years, starting in 1979, African American children and young adults regularly went missing, only to be found dead weeks later. Police initially failed to connect the dots, but as more and more children went missing – each young, black and working class – the situation became clear: there was a very real predator at work. And, amidst racial tensions in the city, many blamed the Ku Klux Klan.
The FBI, wading into the murky moral waters, began staking out bridges, hoping to find the culprit dumping bodies over the side. Allegedly a splash was heard and talent scout the 22-year-old Wayne Williams, who was on the bridge in his car at the time, was arrested. Williams was eventually charged with the murders of two grown men – not the more than 25 children who had gone missing. Contentious is not the word for this case.
(Image credit: Getty)
Mindhunter season 2 might feature other crimes, but the Atlanta Child Murders are the main event. Ford and Tench are meant to use this case to prove their true value to the FBI. Not easy, given the controversial nature of the real life arrest. Showrunner Fincher treads carefully, telling the story in a way that leaves plenty of questions unanswered. Key evidence against Williams, such as the splash of a body being thrown from the bridge, is never heard by Ford, Tench or Jim. By extension, this means we never hear it either, leaving us to base our moral judgements on the testimony of others.
Played by Christopher Livingston, Wayne Williams cuts a fascinating and potentially tragic figure. Given that Fincher listened to the recent Atlanta Monster podcast to build the story, we are left to make our own decisions regarding his guilt. While police swear that the murders stopped post Williams’ arrest and micro fibre evidence points to only him, there are plenty of arguments to the contrary.
It’s hard to comprehend what the feeling must have been like in Atlanta during such dark times – the closest we’ll ever get comes via the aforementioned Atlanta Monster podcast. Tenderfoot TV’s Payne Lindsey speaks to law enforcement, the victim’s families and, incredibly, Wayne Williams himself in search of what actually happened back in 1979. Expect to listen to this in one giant listening session.
Killer 3: Dennis Rader, AKA ‘BTK’
(Image credit: Netflix)
The violent life of Dennis Rader is horribly disturbing. Despite the fact that criminals shouldn’t get to name themselves, Rader coined himself BTK, short for “bind, torture, kill.” While it would be a joy to mock this angsty and pathetic name, Rader murdered ten people under this acronym between 1974 and 1991. His victims – including entire families – were found bound, and he sent poems and letters crowing about his achievements to media outlets. Incredibly, it wasn’t until 2005 when Rader was finally apprehended. Unable to keep up his 14 year murder silence, he started sending packages, bound dolls, and letters to police suggesting he was back, but was thankfully apprehended before he could kill again. Let’s all praise DNA evidence.
(Image credit: Getty)
Like a serial killer supervillain, Rader manages to effortlessly haunt Mindhunter with his presence. Unnervingly played by Sonny Valicenti – that moustache! – Rader makes his way onto Ford and Tench’s, well, radar, yet he stays effortlessly ahead of the FBI. The BTK scenes scattered throughout the show are a perfect reminder of just how far The Bureau need to go to before they understand all the types of psychopaths actively at work in the real world. Just like his non fiction counterpart, Rader is hiding in plain sight, taking trips to the library to sketch recreations of his crimes, and driving around neighbourhoods for his next victims.
For a perfect dissection and rightful dressing down of his terribly poetry, look no further than The Last Podcast on the Left’s BTK two parter. Episodes 59 and 61 (there’s a live episode in between) are an excellent breakdown of the crimes of Dennis Rader, if you can cope with guiltily laughing about them at the same time. Otherwise you would probably just cry. Forever.
Mindhunter’s Season 2 Serial Killers: Who Played Wayne Williams, BTK, and Son of Sam?
Part of what makes Netflix’s Mindhunter so enthralling is the fact that the series draws so heavily from true events. Not only are the show’s main characters inspired by actual FBI agents, the serial killers they interview are directly modeled on the real criminals. Sometimes, the resemblance between the real-life serial killers and Mindhunter’s TV versions is downright uncanny.
If you’re curious just how closely Mindhunter draws from real events, here’s a breakdown of David Berkowitz (aka Son of Sam), Charles Manson, Wayne Williams, Dennis Rader (aka the BTK Killer), and the other infamous criminals dramatized in Mindhunter Season 2, along with a comparison of how closely the actors resemble their real-world counterparts. 10 Real Serial Killers Featured in Mindhunter: Season 2 11 IMAGES
Credit: Paul Bateson in Warner Bros.’ The Exorcist / Netflix
Played by: Morgan Kelly
Where you’ve seen him: Kelly played Alvis Alkari in Killjoys and Simon Day in Designated Survivor.
Unlike most of the criminals featured in Mindhunter, Paul Bateson may or may not actually be a serial killer. Bateson was convicted in 1979 for the murder of journalist Addison Verrill. Bateson has also been implicated in several unsolved murders in Manhattan. But while Bateson himself claimed credit for the murders (including at his sentencing hearing), it’s unknown whether he was telling the truth or was simply looking for attention or leverage with the prosecution.
Bateson is also notable for having appeared in 1973’s “The Exorcist,” where he played a radiographer who comforts Linda Blair’s character Reagan during an invasive series of medical tests. He even struck up a friendship with director William Friedkin. Friedkin would later visit Bateson in prison and drew on that relationship when developing 1980’s Cruising.
Bateson was released on parole in 2003 and has since vanished entirely from the public eye. It’s not even clear whether he’s still alive. Friedkin believes Bateson may be living somewhere in upstate New York, but Social Security records suggest Bateson may have passed away in 2012.
Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images and Netflix
Played by: Oliver Cooper
Where you’ve seen him: Cooper played Levon in Californication and Wheeler in Red Oaks.
Better known by the title “Son of Sam,” David Berkowitz is one of the most infamous serial killers in American history. Using a .44 caliber revolver, Berkowitz shot at least 13 people between July 1976 and 1977, killing six. Berkowitz added to his notoriety by sending letters to the police, mocking their massive manhunt and promising to murder again. Berkowitz was ultimately arrested in August 1977 and charged with eight of the shootings.
Following his arrest, Berkowitz claimed to be acting on orders from a demon who took the form of his neighbor’s dog. Despite this, Berkowitz was judged competent to stand trial and sentenced to six consecutive life sentences. He later admitted that his demon story was a hoax (a confession which is depicted in Mindhunter Season 2). He also later claimed to be acting as a member of a Satanic cult. Authorities took these claims seriously enough to open an investigation in 1996, but no conclusive proof was ever uncovered.
Berkowitz’s case inspired a series of “Son of Sam laws,” which are designed to prevent criminals from profiting off their reputations (such as selling their stories to the press).
Since there are no widely-released images of the real Hance, we’ll let you do your own search to compare Corey Allen to the man himself – here’s Allen in Netflix’s Mindhunter
Played by: Corey Allen
Where you’ve seen him: Allen plays Charlie Jackson in Power and appeared as Father Apieh in SyFy’s Happy!
William Henry Hance was a US Army soldier who killed several women in and around Fort Benning in 1978. The links between these killings were made apparent when Hance sent a letter on Army stationary to the local chief of police. Claiming to be written by a group of seven white men calling themselves the “Forces of Evil,” Hance said he was holding a woman named Gail Jackson hostage and would kill her unless his demands were met. At first, the Forces of Evil demanded another killer known as the Stocking Stranger be brought to justice. A subsequent letter shifted to demanding a $10,000 ransom. In truth, Hance had already killed Jackson before sending the first letter.
Hance was apprehended after an FBI profile indicated the letters were written by a single black man serving in the military, not a group of white men. Hance was arrested in September 1977 and admitted to killing three women. He was later connected to the murder of a fourth woman at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana, though he was never charged.
Hance’s conviction and 1994 execution remains a source of controversy. As his depiction in Mindhunter makes clear, Hance’s letters to the police made little sense, and he showed clear signs of mental illness and diminished intellectual capacity. In addition, there have been accusations of racial bias in his sentencing jury, which included only one black juror. Loading
Elmer Wayne Henley, Jr.
Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images and Netflix
Played by: Robert Aramayo
Where you’ve seen him: Squint and you might recognize Aramayo as a young Ned Stark from several episodes of Game of Thrones.
Elmer Wayne Henley provides a unique case study for the agents of the BSU in Season 2, as he’s a criminal drawn into the act of killing by another, veteran serial killer. Henley participated in a gruesome series of killings called the Houston Mass Murders, in which at least 28 boys and young men were abducted and killed between 1970 and 1973. Both Henley and his friend, David Owen Brooks, helped lure victims at the behest of serial killer Dean Corll (also known as The Candyman).
Henley himself finally ended Corll’s killing spree in August 1973, shooting him before Corll could claim two more victims. Henley then called the police and confessed to his role in the Houston Mass Killings. Henley and Brooks were charged with six and four counts of murder, respectively, and both are still serving out life sentences.
Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images and Netflix
Played by: Cameron Britton
Where you’ve seen him: Britton played another large-framed killer named Hazel in Umbrella Academy and Detective Charlie Simmer in HBO’s Barry.
As the first serial killer interviewed by the agents of the BSU, it’s only fitting that Ed Kemper make a return appearance in Mindhunter: Season 2. Kemper is also known as the “Co-Ed Killer,” due to his habit of targeting students at co-ed schools. Kemper is also notable for his tall stature, high IQ and non-threatening demeanor, qualities which helped him carry out his crimes.
Kemper’s first victims were his own grandparents, whom he murdered at age 15. Kemper was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic and sentenced to a psychiatric hospital until age 21. Following his release, Kemper began a killing spree, kidnapping student hitchhikers, killing them and dismembering and violating their bodies. Kemper’s killing spree ended in April 1973, when he murdered his mother and her friend and phoned the police to confess. Kemper actually requested the death penalty at his trial, but instead is serving out eight consecutive life sentences.
Following his arrest, Kemper has participated in numerous interviews, including with FBI profiler John Douglas (the inspiration for Jonathan Groff’s character Holden Ford). He also served as inspiration for the character Buffalo Bill in Thomas Harris’ novel The Silence of the Lambs.
Credit: PA Images/Getty Images and Netflix
Played by: Damon Herriman
Where you’ve seen him: Herriman also played Charles Manson in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and was previously known for playing Dewey Crowe in Justified.
Charles Manson is easily among the most notorious criminals in American history. Following a troubled childhood spent in and out of prison, Manson formed a cult known as the Manson Family. Obsessed with The Beatles and their song “Helter Skelter” (and an aspiring singer/songwriter himself), Manson convinced his followers of a coming race war that would usher in a global apocalypse. Manson’s followers committed nine murders, including the Tate-LaBianca murders. Manson was convicted of several counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder and sentenced to death. However, because California eliminated the death penalty in 1972, Manson spent the rest of his life in California State Prison in Corcoran and died in 2017.
Manson has remained a figure of intense curiosity and scrutiny ever since his arrest, with many speculating as to his true motives. As Mindhunter explores, many psychologists and researchers are in disagreement as to whether Manson truly believed in an apocalyptic race war or if he had other motives for ordering the Tate-LaBianca murders (such as providing cover for his friend Bobby Beausoleil). Manson himself seemed happy to cultivate his reputation through various televised interviews. Loading
William “Junior” Pierce
Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images and Netflix
Played by: Michael Filipowich
Where you’ve seen him: Filipowich played Vasily Andropov on Crackle’s The Oath.
Little is known about the early life of William Pierce, but records show he had a long criminal history even before launching into a deadly killing spree in the early 1970s. Pierce was imprisoned after committed a series of burglaries, but he was paroled despite being deemed a threat to others. Following his release, Pierce went on a rampage across Georgia and the Carolinas that claimed the lives of nine victims, including Margaret Cuttino, the daughter of a South Carolina senator.
Pierce was arrested and sentenced to life in prison in 1971, and has remained behind bars ever since.
Credit: Getty Images and Netflix
Played by: Sonny Valicenti
Where you’ve seen him: Valicenti played a character named FNG on the webseries Platonic.
Sonny Valicenti’s recurring Mindhunter character is an unusual case. Many episodes open with brief vignettes focused on a character credited only as “ADT Technician.” This character is Dennis Rader, a serial killer also known as “BTK” or the “BTK Strangler.” These nicknames came from Rader’s habit of binding, torturing and killing his victims.
Rader killed ten people in the greater Wichita, Kansas between 1974 and 1991. He also worked as a security technician for ADT for much of that time, ironically gaining business from homeowners fearful of the BTK Strangler. Rader sent multiple letters to police bragging about his crimes. However, it was only in 2005, when he resumed sending letters after a long hiatus, that Rader was arrested and convicted.
It remains to be seen what role Rader will play in future seasons of Mindhunter. Given the timeframe of the BTK killings and Rader’s arrest, the series would have to jump forward in time significantly before getting to that point. Even then, Ford’s real-life counterpart, John Douglas, retired from the FBI a full decade before Rader was caught.
Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images and Netflix
Played by: Christopher Backus
Where you’ve seen him: Backus previously played Rick Bayless on Roadies and Woody Woodrow on Bosch.
Tex Watson was a member of the Manson family, and like Henley, another opportunity for the BSU to profile a killer who acts at the behest of another. Acting under orders from Manson, Watson and his fellow cult members carried out the Tate-LaBianca murders in August 1969. He was arrested the following November and sentenced to death in 1971 (following a several-month stay in Atascadero State Hospital for psychiatric evaluation). Because California eliminated the death penalty, Watson is now living out a life sentence.
As Mindhunter shows, Watson converted to Christianity in prison, even becoming an ordained minister in 1981. He continues to publish material on the website of his church.
Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images and Netflix
Played by: Christopher Livingston
Where you’ve seen him: Livingston previously appeared as Malcolm on Modern Day Black Guy.
Mindhunter: Season 2 draws heavily from a dark time in Atlanta’s history, dramatizing the Atlanta child murders of 1979-1981. That killing spree claimed the lives of at least 28 children, teens and young men. Wayne Williams is believed to be responsible for the majority of those killings. However, he was only ever charged with the murders of two adult victims, leaving many grieving family members without closure even in 2019.
Williams, a freelance photographer and music producer, was apprehended after law enforcement began staking out bridges, hoping to catch the killer in the act of dumping a body. Police found circumstantial evidence, theorizing that Williams was using his position as a music producer to lure in young, vulnerable boys, but were unable to immediately make an arrest. Williams himself courted media attention by holding a press conference outside his home. Eventually, he was charged with two of the murders and sentenced to life in prison. Williams maintains his innocence, but his petitions for a retrial have been rejected.
Mindhunter shows Agent Ford as being integral to the investigation, and as it turns out, this is where his real-life counterpart, John Douglas, first became a well-known public figure. Douglas gave interviews about his profile of the suspect, and following Williams’ arrest, Douglas said he was “looking pretty good for a good percentage of the killings.” Douglas received an official censure from the Director of the FBI for those remarks, as they were felt to be improper and may have swayed public opinion.
To date, no charges have been brought for the remaining murders. However, in March 2019, Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced a reopening of many cold cases, hoping to use modern DNA evidence to finally bring closure for families of the victims.
For more on Mindhunter, check out our review of Season 2 and find out why the series shares a connection with Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Jesse is a mild-mannered writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.
Mindhunter’s second season was so packed with true crime stories that even a figure as infamous as Charles Manson was only awarded a single scene. Another well-known serial murderer briefly featured in the show is David Berkowitz, the killer better known by his self-appointed nickname “Son of Sam.” Berkowitz, played by Oliver Cooper on the show, terrorized New York in the late seventies. Here’s everything you need to know.
Who is David Berkowitz?
At the time of his arrest in 1977, David Berkowitz was a 24-year-old postal worker and Army veteran. Born in Brooklyn in 1953, he had been placed for adoption as a toddler and raised in the Bronx by Nathan and Pearl Berkowitz, who owned a hardware store.
His childhood was troubled—his mother died when he was 14, he was a serial fire starter, those who knew him described him as a bully and Berkowtitz allegedly poisoned his mother’s parakeet. He enlisted after high school, and after three years in the Army returned home to New York and moved into an apartment in Yonkers.
What were the “Son of Sam” murders?
Between 1976 and 1977, Berkowitz murdered six people and injured seven more in shootings across the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn. He targeted young women and young couples, including, most famously, couples parked in cars at night.
On July 29th, 1976, he shot Donna Lauria and Jody Valenti while they sat in a parked car in the Bronx, killing Lauria and injuring Valenti. That October, he shot and wounded Carl Denaro and Rosemary Keenan as they sat parked in Keenan’s car in Queens. He went on to shoot Donna DeMasi and Joanne Lomino, John Diel and Christine Freund, Virginia Voskerichian, Alexander Esau and Valentina Suriani, and Sal Lupo and Judy Placido. His final attack occurred on the 31st of July 1977, when he shot Stacy Moskowitz and Robert Violante in Brooklyn. Freund, Voskerichian, Esau, Suriani, and Moskowitz all died.
New York Daily News columnist received this letter from the killer, who identified himself the “Son of Sam.” New York Daily News ArchiveGetty Images
At first, reporters dubbed the murderer the “.44 Caliber Killer” after the ammunition used in the attacks. But left near Esau and Suriani’s bodies was a rambling, disturbing letter in which the killer identified himself as the “Son of Sam.” The murderer also sent missives to police and to famed columnist Jimmy Breslin.
The attacks terrified New York City. Many of his victims were young women with long dark hair, and the height of panic around the killings allegedly found wig sales skyrocketing. The search for the killer was the largest manhunt in New York history.
Berkowitz was eventually identified after a witness near his final shooting told authorities that she had seen a police officer ticket a car parked illegally near the scene of the attack, which lead detectives to Berkowitz’s vehicle. When confronted by police, Berkowitz confessed and reportedly asked the detective “what took so long” to apprehend him.
Why did Berkowitz commit the murders?
After his arrest, Berkowitz famously claimed to have committed the murders under the instruction of Harvey, a demon-possessed Labrador owned by his neighbor, Sam. Still, the confessed killer declined to plead not-guilty by reason of insanity, and instead pled guilty to the murders.
Berkowitz called a press conference in 1979 to announce that he had fabricated the demonic possession story. After this revelation, Dr. David Abramson, a psychologist who assessed Berkowitz while he was still telling the demon dog story and found that he was sane, wrote an account for The New York Times.
Berkowitz was “devoted to the tale of the demons,” wrote Abramson, “which was itself revealing. People who have hallucinations are usually frightened enough to take no joy in discussing them.”
“After just a single interview, it was clear to me that Berkowitz did not exhibit the symptoms of schizophrenia,” wrote the psychiatrist. “And the clear‐headed cunning with which he had selected the time and place of his killings and eluded for a whole year the greatest police manhunt in recent memory hardly seemed to be typical psychotic behavior.”
A woman in Brooklyn examines a wanted sign featuring a sketch of the wanted killer. At the time, the search for the murderer was the largest manhunt in New York City history. New York Daily News ArchiveGetty Images
Abramson also came to a conclusion about the killings that Agent Ford echoed in Mindhunter:
The signal, the command to kill which he said he received from the demons, I finally concluded, had in fact been his invention. It was a command dictated by strong, repressed sexual urges. He was afraid of women and afraid of being rebuffed by them; he didn’t dare approach them to satisfy his sexual desires. Yet to counteract his conscious and unconscious fears, he still had to show them that he was powerful. His gun was the solution: He could overwhelmingly demonstrate his power without touching them, without being rebuffed.
Where is David Berkowitz today?
More than 40 years after the murders, David Berkowitz is imprisoned at New York’s Shawangunk Correctional Facility.
Berkowitz has always been fond of attention. Just as he courted press with letters to authorities during his crime spree, he has sought publicity during his years behind bars. To pre-empt any attempt on his part to profit from his killings, the New York State Legislature passed what would be called the “Son of Sam Law” to prevent him from profiting from his crimes. The law inspired similar measures in other states.
Years after the crimes, Berkowitz was still revising his story. These days he’s a born-again Christian who credits his murders to an obsession with the occult and determination to serve Satan. He ministers to fellow prisoners, and re-christened himself the “Son of Hope.”
Gabrielle Bruney Gabrielle Bruney is a writer and editor for Esquire, where she focuses on politics and culture.
Mindhunter season 2 is filled with some serious serial killer stories that are as real as they are chilling. If you’re in the middle of the latest season, you’re probably obsessively researching some of the characters who are bringing you nightmares, like David Borowitz (aka the Son of Sam) and his NYC killing spree in the 1970s. Well, we’ve got all the answers to curb your murder mystery cravings.
Okay, so who is the Son of Sam again?
His IRL name is David Berkowitz, and he murdered six people from 1976 to 1977 in New York City. He also left cryptic letters near the bodies of his victims, which led to a media frenzy reporting on the man who called himself the Son of Sam, which we’ll explain in a sec.
Was he ever caught??
After Berkowitz murdered Stacy Moskowitz in Brooklyn in 1977, someone saw him fleeing the scene in a car with a parking ticket on it. Detective James Justus found Berkowitz’s registration, which led to his capture. When they raided his house in Yonkers, he admitted to being the Son of Sam and was immediately arrested, obviously.
New York Daily News Archive
Okay, but how does his nickname come into play?
Before he was known as the Son of Sam, he was actually referred to as the .44-Caliber Killer, after the gun he used in his shootings. Then, in one of the creepy letters he left, he wrote, “I am a monster…I am the Son of Sam.” *chills*
New York Daily News Archive
Police got to the bottom of the Son of Sam name after arresting Berkowitz, who claimed that his neighbor (a man named Sam Carr) ordered him to murder people in the city—and these orders were allegedly delivered through a possessed Labrador retriever.
After confessing, Berkowitz was given six consecutive 25-years-to-life terms, which he is still serving.
His case even led to “Son of Sam laws.”
Because people were so obsessed with his murders and the vague letters he left behind, Berkowitz was getting money from outlets to tell his stories. So most states took action, passing laws to prevent criminals from profiting from their wrongdoings.
He’s apparently a born-again Christian….
He goes by Son of Hope now. He repeatedly claims to be sorry for what he’s done but says that he wants to stay in jail. TG for that.
Leah Thomas Leah Thomas is an NYC-based freelance writer with bylines at Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue, Marie Claire, Newsweek, and more.
The Shocking Reason Serial Killer David Berkowitz Targeted Women
- Cite Article Details:
The Shocking Reason Serial Killer David Berkowitz Targeted Women
February 01, 2020
Infamous killer David Berkowitz, also known as Son of Sam, murdered six people in New York City in the 1970s.
Born to a Jewish mother, Berkowitz was adopted by Jewish-American parents when he was only a few days old. His adopted mother, Pearl Berkowitz, died when he was a teenager and her passing deeply affected him. He later searched for his birth mother. Eventually he found her—a woman named Betty Falco—but he didn’t receive the warm welcome he expected.
Soon after his birth mother’s rejection, Berkowitz began his string of murders. Most of his victims were women.
After his arrest Berkowiz said he wasn’t a woman-hater, but later admitted he targeted women so they wouldn’t have children who were unwanted, like he was.
Read more about David Berkowitz at Biography.com.
Netflix’s Mindhunter is loosely based on the non-fiction book Mindhunter by John Douglas, a former FBI agent, and Mark Olshaker, a writer and filmmaker. Douglas helped to pioneer the idea of profiling serious criminals—to think like a predator. He was the first to come up with a psychological profile of the Unabomber. The FBI was wary of these methods at first, but came to adopt them in time. Douglas analyzed the behaviors of, among other serial killers, Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy.
If David Fincher’s Mindhunter feels a bit like Silence of the Lambs, that’s because Douglas was the real-life inspiration for fictional FBI Special Agent Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn in that film), the protagonist in Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter novels. In Fincher’s Mindhunter, Holden Ford, the character based on Douglas, is played by Jonathan Groff. He and his partner, Bill Tench (Holt McCallany), interview and discuss multiple murderers, including the people listed below.
Serial killers who appear in Mindhunter
Edmund Kemper, referred to by the media as The Coed Killer, is played by Cameron Britton in “Mindhunter”. The Santa Cruz Sentinel
Edmund Kemper, aka the Co-Ed Killer
Manhunter: Ed Kemper (Cameron Britton) is Ford and Tench’s first interview. The agents center their investigation around his feelings of humiliation regarding his mother—a tense relationship that becomes a common trait of serial killers. Ford is taken in by Kemper’s genial way of describing his murders, a mistake that creates a truly terrifying moment in the season finale.
Real Life: Kemper was a California native who murdered his grandparents before kidnapping and murdering five college students, one high school student, his mother and his mother’s best friend. He decapitated them after their deaths and engaged in irrumatio, or forced oral penetration, with their severed heads. He also arranged the hands of some his female victims in what the police described as a “macabre jigsaw puzzle.” Kemper’s most recent parole hearing was in 2017, and he waived his right to be considered, as he has done repeatedly since 1985.
Monte Ralph Rissell, as played by Sam Strike in Netflix’s “Mindhunter”. Netflix
Monte Ralph Rissell
Mindhunter: Rissell agrees to let Ford and Tench interview him, though he appears disgusted and agitated by the interrogation process. He also blames his crimes on his mother, insisting that if she had only let him live with his father, he wouldn’t have raped or murdered anyone. Rissell unknowingly helps Ford and Tench develop a profile of sexually violent serial killers when he admits that his first victim enraged him by giving in to his sexual advances; for sociopaths like Rissell, the agents realize, a woman expressing sexual interest could be misconstrued as a threat or a trigger.
Real life: Rissell is one of the lesser known serial killers mentioned in Douglas and Olshaker’s book. He is most commonly remembered as an unusually young rapist, beginning his string of crimes at just 14. He managed to rape 12 women and murder five of them before he was arrested at 19. In 1977, Rissell was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences; he was first up for parole in 1995. In the ’70s, Rissell’s case was instrumental in providing a shared language for describing serial offenders.
Jerry Brudos, the Shoe Fetish Slayer, as portrayed by Happy Anderson in “Mindhunter”. Oregon Live, Netflix
Jerry Brudos, aka the Shoe Fetish Slayer
Mindhunter: The detectives develop their “shoe” strategy while working with Brudos, a technique that allows them to get a confession out of Darrel “Gene” Devier in a later episode. Brudos is striking for never offering an apology for his crimes; he even masturbates in front of the detectives.
Real Life: Brudos made headlines when he was arrested for kidnapping and murdering four young women while wearing women’s clothing himself. Mindhunter briefly debates whether Brudos’s cross-dressing had anything to do with his sociopathy or criminal acts, but headlines at the time branded Brudos a “sicko” and called him “The Fetish Killer,” innocent foot fetishists be damned. Brudos died in prison, of cancer, in 2006.
Richard Speck, played by Jack Erdie on “Mindhunter”. Netflix, Wikimedia Commons
Mindhunter: Ford goes too far in interviewing Speck, trying to use inflammatory, sexist language to get the murderer to open up. When Speck realizes he’s being played, he kills the bird he’s been hand-feeding through the prison bars and files a complaint against Ford. He also shows zero remorse for his crimes, and tells the detectives that he raped and murdered several young women because “it wasn’t their night.”
Real Life: In 1966, Speck beat and totured eight female medical students living on the South side of Chicago, murdering all but one. Corazon Amurao, who had initially opened the apartment door, managed to escape and alert the police, which led to Speck’s arrest. Speck really did have the “Born to Raise Hell” tattoo on his arm, which Corazan used to identify him. On Mindhunter, we notice that Ford is beginning to unravel when he breathlessly asks to see the tattoo, telling his partner Tench that it’s famous.
In 1991, Speck died of a heart attack while in prison.
Darrell Gene Devier, put to death by the state of Georgia, in his 1979 mugshot and as portrayed by Adam Zastrow on “Mindhunter”. Georgia State Corrections, IMDB
Darrel Gene Devier
Mindhunter: Devier plays guinea pig to Ford and Tench’s new interrogation tactics, developed while working with Brudos in prison. Ford again uses sexual language to describe Devier’s victim, trying to get him to confess to killing a 12-year-old, which he eventually does.
Real Life: Devier wasn’t a serial killer, and was arrested in 1979 for kidnapping, raping and bludgeoning a 12-year-old girl to death with a large rock. When Devier was arrested, Georgia wasn’t using the death penalty, but in 1983, the state voted to start up the practice again. Devier was executed by electrocution in 1995.
Dennis Radar, aka “BTK” or the Bind Torture Kill murderer, played by Sonny Valicenti on “Mindhunter”. Netflix
Dennis Raider, aka BTK
Mindhunter: We meet Raider before he’s begun the strange murders that would eventually make him one of the most infamous American serial killers in history. He appears, and is not named outright, in the cold open of every episode, learning how to tie knots, expressing deep rage alone in his apartment, and burning drawings of women who have been tied up. At the end of Mindhunter season 1, Ford and Tench have not yet heard of BTK.
Real Life: Raider was an Air Force veteran, a Cub Scout troop leader, and had his bachelor’s degree in administration of justice, all before he began killing. Raider killed eight women and two men in Kansas, tying them up with plastic bags, rope, belts and nylon stockings. He was arrested after the real-life detectives Douglas developed his theories in criminal psychology. Raider wrote poems to his victims and dressed up in women’s clothing to take self-timer photographs of himself posing as them. He is serving 10 consecutive life sentences in Kansas.
Serial killers mentioned but not pictured in Mindhunter
Charles Manson during an early trial. The Los Angeles Times
Perhaps the most infamous murderer and former cult leader in American history, Manson was charged with first degree murder and coerced his followers, the Manson Family, into killing dozens. In Mindhunter, Manson has already been arrested and is mentioned by the detectives in early episodes.
David Berkowitz, aka the Son of Sam, photographed by The New York Times in 1977. The New York Times / Barton Silverman
David Berkowitz, aka the Son of Sam
Like Manson, Berkowitz has already been arrested in Mindhunter. Tench and some other detectives make off-hand comments about the fact that Berkowitz blamed his murders on his neighbor’s dog, which he believed was possessed by a demon. When Berkowitz was arrested, criminal profiling hadn’t fully caught up to men like him, who killed habitually, enjoying the violence and thrill of it.
Berkowitz’s crimes, murdering six people at gunpoint and wounding seven others in New York City, earned him infamy; his name appeared on national newspapers for months. In fact, American culture was so irreparably changed by the Son of Sam that New York State passed what’s now known as the “Son of Sam” law, decreeing that no criminal should be able to profit off the fame he recevies from his crimes. In 1987, Berkowitz told the media he had converted to Evangelical Christianity. He was up for parole in 2016, and was told he would likely never get out.
Vaughn Greenwood, aka the Skidrow Slasher
Greenwood is only mentioned in passing on Mindhunter, when Ford and Tench are discussing their upcoming travel plans, to interview convincted serial killers across the nation. Greenwood was convicted in the mid-1970s for slashing the throats of nine homeless people as they slept in alleyways, though he was ultimately suspected of killing 13. Vaughan sprinkled his victims with salt and collected their blood in cups, which he placed near their corpses. He was apprehended with the help of a team of psychiatrists who attempted to profile him, though their research didn’t go as far as the work of Douglas.
Convicted murderer Herbert Mullin in his original mug-shot. Mullin is mentioned once in “Mindhunter”. truTV Crime Library
Ford mentions Mullin during a scene in Mindhunter episode 2, when he’s trying to entice Tench to meet various killers with him for interviews. The real Mullin, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia while imprisoned, killed 13 people, including a 4-year-old and a 9-year-old, in California in the early ’70s. He believed he was preventing earthquakes by sacrificing others’ lives.
Mullin was a rare case in the taxonomy of serial killers. He was beloved by his peers and voted “Most Likely to Succeed” in high school until schizophrenia and related hallucinations overtook him in his senior year of high school.
Posteal Laskey Jr., assumed to be the Cincinnati Strangler, in an early mugshot. Wikimedia Commons
Posteal Laskey Jr., aka the Cincinatti Strangler
Ford and Tench briefly discuss Laskey without mentioning his ethnicity; as a black man, he did not fit the psychiatric profile the agents were developing, which focused on white men. In 1956 and 1966, cab driver Laskey raped and then strangled to death seven elderly women in Cincinnati. He died in prison in 2007.
Gerard John Schafer, a serial killer mentioned briefly in “Mindhunter”. NY Daily News
Gerard John Schaefer
In Mindhunter, Ford mentions Schaefer with a note of near admiration, telling Tench during a discussion of possible criminal profiles that he killed more than 30 women. Schaefer was arrested for the murder of two young women, though he gleefully told the press and the police that he had murdered more than 28 more. In 1995, Schaefer was stabbed to death in his own cell, most likley by his cellmate.
Mindhunter Season 1 is available to stream on Netflix. The crime drama has already been renewed for season 2.
Charles Manson, left, is played by Damon Herriman. Photo: Getty Images and Netflix
If you’re watching Mindhunter, the Netflix drama based on the true story of the man who pioneered the science of profiling serial killers, you’re probably wondering just how much of it is true. The show’s fictional profiler, FBI agent Holden Ford, makes reference to infamous criminals like Charles Manson and David Berkowitz, but what about the other serial killers who appear on the show? Is Wayne Williams a real person? Were the good guys inspired by actual FBI agents? Below, we separate fact from fiction to explain what’s real and what isn’t in Mindhunter.
The Good Guys
Photo: Mindhunters INC./Netflix
The complex leading man of Mindhunter, played perfectly by Jonathan Groff, is based on John E. Douglas, the author of the book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit. Douglas is no stranger to Hollywood: He reportedly served as the main inspiration for Jack Crawford in the novels Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs, as well as Bryan Fuller’s take on Will Graham in the TV show Hannibal. In Mindhunter, Ford walks a similar path as an agent in the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit, traveling the country to interview some of the most notorious criminals in American history. In reality, Douglas redefined murder investigations thanks to information gleaned from interviews with David Berkowitz, John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, Richard Speck, and Edmund Kemper.
Photo: Getty Images/Netflix
The parallels between Holt McCallany’s gruff FBI agent and his real-life counterpart are less direct than those between Ford and Douglas, but they’re still there. Tench was inspired heavily by Robert K. Ressler, a Chicago-born FBI agent who joined the Bureau in 1970. Ressler was also a part of the Behavioral Sciences Unit in the ’70s and is credited with coining the term “serial killer.” Ressler also interviewed serial killers in the ’80s and developed the nation’s first computer database of unsolved crimes, which helped capture those who crossed state lines as they killed. He worked on major serial-killer cases, including the searches for Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy. Ressler died in 2013.
Dr. Wendy Carr
Photo: Patrick Harbron/Netflix
Often the voice of reason and logic on Mindhunter, Anna Torv’s psychologist has a real-life counterpart in Dr. Ann Wolbert Burgess. Again, the real person worked in the FBI’s Behavioral Sciences Unit with agents Douglas and Ressler, and all three people are credited with writing Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives, a breakthrough study of serial killers published in 1988. Burgess pioneered the treatment for trauma and abuse victims, co-founding a counseling program for victims of sexual violence at Boston City Hospital. She still teaches at Boston College.
Ted Gunn and Jim Barney
From left: Michael Cerveris as Ted Gunn. Photo: NetflixAlbert Jones as Jim Barney. Photo: Netflix From left: Michael Cerveris as Ted Gunn. Photo: NetflixAlbert Jones as Jim Barney. Photo: Netflix
In season two, Mindhunter’s most prominent new characters are these allies of Ford, Tench, and Carr, but they aren’t directly based on real people. Yes, the FBI started taking the Behavioral Sciences Unit more seriously in the ’80s, and so it makes sense that the dismissive Shepard is replaced with the supportive Ted Gunn (played by Anna Torv’s Fringe co-star Michael Cerveris), but Gunn doesn’t have a direct counterpart in actual history. Ditto Barney (played by Albert Jones), who tried to join the unit last season and probably would have been a better choice than Gregg; he’s an amalgam of FBI agents who worked the Atlanta Child Murders case.
He’s not a “good” guy, but Bill Tench’s kid isn’t a serial killer … yet. You’re probably wondering if Tench’s real-life counterpart, Robert Ressler, actually had a kid with like Brian (played by Zachary Scott Ross). Thankfully, this story line appears to be total fiction, although Ressler’s actual son, Aaron, may have some questions for the Mindhunter writers.
Photo: YouTube and Netflix
In the second episode of season two, after Tench is asked to investigate the BTK Killer case in Wichita, he meets with a young man named Kevin Bright. Bright’s story is tragically true, and the man who shot him and killed his sister Kathryn wouldn’t be caught until 2005. In 1974, Dennis Rader attacked the Brights as the young man describes in the show: Rader forced Kevin to tie up Kathryn, but when he fought back the serial killer shot him twice, and Kevin was forced to play dead while his sister was murdered. It’s one of the show’s most riveting and heartbreaking scenes, reminding us of the trauma inflicted by the killers profiled by Ford, Tench, and Carr.
The Serial Killers
Photo: Getty Images/Netflix
The ADT man from Wichita is Mindhunter’s most elusive character. He has yet to interact with any other major characters, but he’s instantly familiar to people who have read about serial killers in America: Dennis Rader, the BTK killer. Rader gave himself the name “BTK” in one of his many letters to the media, which stands for “bind, torture, kill,” his preferred method of execution. Rader wasn’t caught for his murders until 2005, so although Tench begins investigating the case in season two, he’ll likely be a part of the show for some time.
Photo: Getty Images/Netflix
The scene-stealer from season one has a much smaller role in season two, but Ford and Tench’s trip to chat with Charles Manson does offer them the chance to catch up with this “co-ed killer.” Mindhunter’s version of Kemper, played by Cameron Britton, is very similar to what we know about the real-life man, including direct quotes from actual interviews conducted with Kemper in prison. Kemper killed his grandparents as a teenager but was later released from a mental hospital at age 21. From May 1972 to April 1973, he went on to kidnap, murder, and defile eight more people before he finally turned himself in to the police.
After season two, you may be wondering if Ed Kemper really was held at the same penal institution as one of history’s most infamous criminals. In fact, both Kemper and Charles Manson were at the California Medical Facility in the ’70s, although Manson would move a few times before his death in 2017. Kemper is still incarcerated at the California Medical Facility, and his next parole hearing in scheduled for 2024.
Monte Ralph Rissell
When Ford and Tench speak to the fictional version of Rissell in season one, they discover that not every serial killer is as open and forthcoming as Edmund Kemper. Rissell, played by Sam Strike in the show, is nowhere near a household name, but his crimes were undeniably horrific. He stands out for how early he started his rampage, reportedly committing his first rape at the age of 14. Like Kemper, Rissell was sent to an mental institution, and he’s known for convincing his counselors that he was getting better even as he surreptitiously committed crimes while on short leave. By the time he was arrested at age 19, he had killed five people and raped at least a dozen. He is currently incarcerated for five life sentences.
The man branded by the press as the “lust killer” and “shoe-fetish slayer” appears in season one. What Ford and Tench learn from Brudos is essential to how to profile criminals, and some of his confessions appear to be pulled from reality. He really was the younger son to a mother who wanted him to be a daughter, and his fetish for women’s shoes started at a very young age. Brudos, played by Happy Anderson, was sent to a mental hospital after his first crime, abducting a woman when he was only 17. He appeared to settle down in the years following his release, getting married and having two children, but then he went on a murder spree beginning in 1968. Dressed in women’s clothing, Brudos killed at least four young women in Oregon, mutilating and keeping parts of their bodies as trophies. He died in prison in 2006.
Photo: Getty Images/Netflix
They don’t get much more loathsome than the infamous Richard Speck, captured by Jack Erdie on Mindhunter in all his abrasive, disgusting glory. However, Speck’s crimes are different from most others on this show. On July 13, 1966, Richard Speck tortured, raped, and murdered eight nurses from the South Chicago Community Hospital. He had previously committed violent acts, but it was the horror of the singular event that made headlines around the world, especially because one woman escaped to describe the nightmare. In Mindhunter, Speck is an aggressive monster, and it’s when Ford sinks to his level that he puts his career in jeopardy — even sparking an internal FBI investigation at the start of season two. Speck died of a heart attack in 1991.
Darrell Gene Devier
Mindhunter’s first-season finale hinges on the case of Darrell Gene Devier and how Holden Ford and Bill Tench solve it using methods gleaned from their conversations with serial killers. The fictional version of Devier, played by Adam Zastrow, is almost directly lifted from history: Devier was a tree-trimmer working in a rural Georgia neighborhood where 12-year-old Mary Frances Stoner was raped and killed. Douglas writes about the case in his book, making it clear that it was his first chance to stage an interrogation. The fake folder of papers that makes it look like the cops had a lot on Devier, the gross implication that the victim was asking for it to weaken the suspect’s defenses, and the bloody rock placed in front of him: All of these tactics were actually used in Douglas’s interrogation of Devier, and they ultimately led to his confession. Even the drama of the passed polygraph test comes from the real story.
Photo: Getty Images and Netflix
In the summer of 1976, New York was seized with terror by a serial killer calling himself the Son of Sam, who would walk up to couples parked in cars and open fire. After his capture in 1977, Berkowitz would tell authorities that he murdered people because demons speaking through a Labrador retriever told him to do it, though in his interview with Ford and Tench in season two, Mindhunter calls that claim into question. Berkowitz, played in the show by Oliver Cooper, did actually retract his more exaggerated claims at a press conference in 1979, and Ford’s real-life counterpart, John E. Douglas, claimed to have seen through his Son of Sam persona immediately. Another detail the show pulled from the history books: Douglas and Ressler did indeed call on Berkowitz to help profile the BTK Killer, who had sent similar letters to authorities and referenced the Son of Sam.
William Pierce Jr.
Photo: Getty Images and Netflix
In the third episode of season two, this man with a supposedly “impressive” vocabulary appears as an early suspect in the Atlanta Child Murders, before Holt realizes that he doesn’t fit the criminal profile. The actual William Pierce Jr. is still sitting behind bars, convicted of murder and accused of nine killings in the span of a single year; his most notorious crime was the rape and murder of Margaret “Peg” Cuttino, the 13-year-old daughter of a South Carolina state senator. Pierce (played in the show by Michael Filipowich) was not mentioned in Douglas’s Mindhunter book, suggesting that the show is diverging ever so slightly from reality for dramatic effect. And to show how Mallomars can make someone talk.
William Henry Hance
Photo: Daily Mail Online/Wikipedia and Netflix
On one of their earliest trips to Atlanta, Ford and Tench sit down for a chat with William Henry Hance (played by Corey Allen), who was convicted of murdering three women in Georgia in and around military bases in 1977 and 1978. Unlike many of the serial killers on Mindhunter, Hance is no longer alive, having been executed by electric chair in 1994. The bizarre details of Hance’s capture as recounted on Mindhunter are true: In an attempt to throw off the authorities, he really did write a note about the “Forces of Evil” kidnapping someone, thereby alerting them to the crime. Ressler actually helped solve this case, seeing through the Forces of Evil nonsense and profiling the killer as a single man who was probably in the military. In fact, Hance was a former Marine.
Elmer Wayne Henley
Photo: and Netflix
Gregg and Wendy are forced to conduct an interview on their own in the fourth episode of season two, sitting across from Elmer Wayne Henley Jr. (played by Robert Aramayo). The actual Henley was convicted of six life terms for his role in the Houston Mass Murders of the early ’70s, and for the shooting death of Dean Corll, the serial killer for whom Henley had procured victims. The older Corll groomed Henley when he was only a teenager, turning him into a participant in his crime spree, even if the show’s version of the killer denies full culpability. The story he tells about the final night of their murder spree is true: When Henley brought home a girl instead of a boy, an enraged Corll tried to kill Henley, but the younger man got the upper hand, shooting Corll until he “hit the ground.”
Photo: Getty Images and Netflix
In a bizarre bit of pop-culture synergy, actor Damon Herriman plays cult leader Charles Manson in two of the summer’s biggest releases: Not just Mindhunter season two but also Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. What’s perhaps most interesting about Manson’s presence in the fifth episode of Mindhunter is how Ford reacts to him. The FBI agent is essentially starstruck, going so far as to give Manson his sunglasses, which might seem unrealistic until you consider Douglas’s own fascination with the man, as recounted in his book: “He had been forced to live by his wits his entire life and so had become extremely adept at sizing up the people he met and quickly determining what they could do for him. He would have been excellent in my unit assessing an individual’s psychological strengths and weaknesses and strategizing how to get a killer we were hunting.”
Douglas also details in his Mindhunter book how distinctly different Manson was from Kemper, and how Manson sat on the top of his chair to try and gain an advantage during interviews. Both details are re-created on the show. Douglas reportedly interviewed Manson more than once, so we could end up seeing him again in a future season.
Photo: Getty Images and Netflix
After the heated exchange with Manson, Ford speaks to one of his most notorious disciples, Tex Watson, to determine how much of what he just heard was true. The answer? Almost none of it.
In 1971, Watson was convicted of seven counts of murder for his role in the Manson Family killings, including the death of Sharon Tate. He was sentenced to death for his crimes, but all death sentences in California were invalidated in 1972, and he remains behind bars at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego. In an especially horrifying detail taken from reality, Tex (played by Christopher Backus) tells Ford how Tate begged to be taken somewhere so she could have her baby before being killed — something that several of the actual Manson Family killers have claimed.
Photo: Warner Bros. and Netflix
In the sixth episode of season two, Wendy and Gregg do the interviewing and it doesn’t go well. Paul Bateson (played by Morgan Kelly), the man convicted of killing film journalist Addison Verrill, basically toys with them as they try to pin him down for his suspected role in the “bag murders.” In fact, authorities tried and failed to tie Bateson to a series of murders in Greenwich Village from 1975 to 1977. Bateson was freed on parole in 2003 after 24 years in prison, though his current whereabouts are unknown.
Though these details don’t come up in the show itself, here are three stunning pieces of trivia about Bateson, all related to director William Friedkin. First, Bateson can be spotted in The Exorcist playing a radiological technician. Second, his story inspired Friedkin’s take on the novel Cruising, which became an awful film with Al Pacino in 1980. Finally, Friedkin claimed on a podcast in 2012 that Bateson told him he was the serial killer, though that claim has never been confirmed.
Photo: Getty Images and Netflix
Wayne Williams, played by Christopher Livingston, is the last serial killer interviewed in Mindhunter season two and perhaps the most significant. There are many elements of the Williams interview that contrast with others seen on the show, but the biggest may be that Williams never confessed to the Atlanta child murders — unlike so many of the killers who practically boast when they speak to Ford and Tench. The real Williams was convicted of killing two adult men in 1981, and police have since tied him to the murders of several children in Atlanta during that same time period, though he was never charged in those cases and still maintains his innocence. For many Atlanta residents, including relatives of some murdered children, the case remains unsolved, although it’s worth noting that the killings did stop after Williams’s arrest. There is a great deal of footage out there of Williams, and Livingston’s impersonation of the man is startlingly accurate.
The second season of the series, which revolves around the FBI’s special unit devoted to profiling serial killers, picks up where season one left off, with Holden reeling after his unnerving last meeting with Kemper, and Tench’s family life up in the air.
“I’m being pulled in two directions simultaneously,” McCallany said of his character. Tench is trying to keep his relationship with his wife and son on track, but he’s also being pulled into grotesque new cases, including the hunts for the BTK killer and the Atlanta child murderer—which factor heavily in the second season—and a visit to Berkowitz. In real life—as you may have guessed—McCallany was deeply familiar with all three of the cases.
“I was in New York on summer vacation when David Berkowitz had the whole city gripped in the palm of his hand,” he said. “I was in high school when the Atlanta child murders were going on.”
The actor, who previously starred in two past Fincher projects (Alien³ and Fight Club; he’s the one who kicks off the Robert Paulson chant, has learned that no matter what, his career always finds its way back to dark material. “I think I did one comedy in a 35-year career,” he quipped. “I’ve always been fascinated by the criminals in our society.”
But behind the scenes, Mindhunter isn’t all doom and gloom. Working with Groff—who once showed up to a wrap party dressed in Mary Tyler Moore drag—simply won’t allow for it, McCallany said. “He’s got such a positive energy that he literally brightens my day every time he walks in the room.”
It’s the kind of buoyant energy a performer probably needs on a Fincher set. The director is famous for making his actors do dozens upon dozens of takes; in season one, said McCallany, the record was 64 takes for one scene. In season two, they came close to beating the record with about 60 takes for a barbecue scene in episode one that features Tench flipping burgers and talking about his job with his neighbors.
It may seem daunting, but McCallany is accustomed to it after having worked with Fincher so many times. “You become kind of disappointed when you start shooting with a guy that has more of a run-and-gun type of a shooting style,” he said.
Something he’s slightly less fond of? Tench’s G.I. Joe–style flattop hairdo, which was Fincher’s idea. McCallany loved it at first…until he realized it wasn’t as low maintenance as it looked. “The moment it gets a tiny bit too long, it has to be trimmed,” he said with a laugh. “My hair designer on the show, a lovely woman named Paula Ashby, whom I truly love and adore, spent many, many, many, many hours making sure that Bill’s hair was statuesque.”
Still, it’s not quite as intense as what some of the show’s supporting actors have to go through. The men who play Berkowitz and Manson, for example, had to sit for hours in a makeup chair and wear prosthetics to get into character. McCallany tipped his hat to them, praising their eerie portrayals. “You have guys who just give these tremendously powerful performances,” he said, noting that they faced added pressure of playing highly recognizable men. “It’s like being Elvis Presley—everybody knows what he looks like. When you walk on, you’re either Elvis or you’re not.”
Mindhunter season two is available to stream on Friday.
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‘Mindhunter’ season 2 episode 2 review: David ‘Son of Sam’ Berkowitz is show’s latest serial killer consultant
The stand-out actor who made headlines in Mindhunter season 1 turned out not to be one of the leads but relative unknown Cameron Britton, who hypnotised audiences with his version of “Co-ed Killer” Ed Kemper. Kemper may well pop up in the show again, but the writers clearly knew it would come across as lazy or fan service to rely on the character too much in season 2.
A new serial killer arrived on the scene in episode 2 of the show’s new batch, however: David Berkowitz aka Son of Sam. Mindhunter’s Berkowitz (still from the show and real-world mugshot below) appears to have been made to look like the man himself through prosthetics, though Netflix has, at time of writing, yet to reveal the actor in the role.
David Berkowitz aka Son of Sam in ‘Mindhunter’ season 2 episode 2.
His scene was pivotal in the episode, and saw Holden Ford draw the confession from Berkowitz that his crimes weren’t inspired by demons and that this was simply a motive he invented in order to draw press. This was the case with the real Berkowitz, who pleaded guilty to shooting eight people with a .44 caliber Bulldog revolver in New York City during the summer of 1976, and revealed the demonic possession hoax at a press conference three years later.
The mugshot of the real David Berkowitz, aka Son of Sam.
The twist was a smart way of showing that Holden is apparently back on top of his game, Ford calling bullshit on the very lucid Berkowitz’s tales of a neighbour’s dog being possessed by Satan. The scene was wisely shot too, Berkowitz’s close-ups always coming from Holden’s side of the table, highlighting the strange rapport the agent seems to strike up with killers and how they’re often drawn to him.
These prison interviews are always enjoyable set-pieces in Mindhunter, though their psychological profiling link back to the cases being investigated can sometimes feel a little contrived. On this occasion, it was the BTK Killer who Holden and Ford were concurrently tracking, an apparent Son of Sam copycat with a contradictory M.O. It seems that each episode we’re going to get a little vignette from the BTK Killer’s life, serving to explain (as much as explanation is possible) his psychosexual motives.
Bill Tench in ‘Mindhunter’ season 2 episode 2.
Memorable though Berkowitz’s interrogation/casual chat was, it was Bill Tench’s trip to Wichita, Kansas that was the most compelling element of episode 2 (that and his shiny new trench coat, hereby christened the ‘Tench Trench’). Bill’s interview with Kevin, a survivor of the BTK Killer, was beautifully shot and lit, dusk falling under the bridge as the two men conversed without looking at each other. This scene so easily could have been orientated around the victim, and yet we never really saw his face, Bill always being the one in focus, which somehow made Kevin’s recounting of the killer’s attack all the more uncomfortable.
A cliffhanger of sorts came at the end of this episode, a local detective informing Bill’s wife there had been a dead body found in a property she was selling. Whenever a squirrely man in a button-up coat comes on the screen in Mindhunter the feeling is always “that’s the killer!”, and boy are there a lot of squirrely men in button-up coats in this show. It remains to be seen whether this apparent homicide is a coincidence or tied up in Bill’s work, but there was plenty of intrigue in this episode, and the show wasted little time in getting straight back into its groove after the opening episode reset the playing field.
Oh, and thank God Holden seems to be back on form. Given his confidence and resilience in season 1, it would have made zero sense if every serial killer interview post-Kemper turned him into a quivering wreck.
Netflix hit series Mindhunter got a lot of things right during its second season, but it especially nailed its casting of the many serial killers that Holden Ford and his team interview.
In the show’s second season, FBI agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) continue to pioneer serial killer research by interviewing the 20th century’s grisliest murderers, including Charles Manson, the returning Ed Kemper and BTK Killer Dennis Rader.
But as well as hiring the best of the best talent – seriously, Manson actor Damon Herriman is an old hat at playing his role now – Mindhunter star Holt McCallany has explained that the reason the serial killers look so true to life is that the actors spent hours in prosthetic make-up to ensure an eerily life-like appearance.
Related: Why you recognise this Mindhunter serial killer from Game of Thrones
“You know we were very fortunate in that we just got tremendous performances from the actors this season,” Holt told Rotten Tomatoes TV.
“We did last season also, but this season we hired the prosthetic make-up team that did Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill, so both the actor who plays Charles Manson and the actor who plays David Berkowitz, they do a six-hour prosthetic make-up before they show up on set, so when they walk through the door, they look exactly like the character.
“And then we also benefitted from having super-talented guys in the part. I think those scenes are going to among the most memorable of the entire season.”
Related: What to expect from Mindhunter season 3 – serial killers, plot and questions we need answering
Meanwhile, Jonathan Groff recently opened up about the “intense” season 2 moment that stuck with him the most during filming, reflecting on the impact of the Atlanta Child Murders scenes.
“This season you’re really getting to see the victim’s side of the story in a way you didn’t, necessarily, in the first season. So that was really intense,” he said.
“In the first season, everyone would always ask us, ‘Is it hard to go to sleep at night? Do you get demons…?’ I never had anything like that, but I definitely do remember on the day with the mothers, when they were crying – these amazing actresses – that was the day that stuck with me the most.”
Mindhunter season 2 is available to stream on Netflix now.
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