The papers called him the ".44 Caliber Killer." In taunting notes to police and a journalist, he called himself "Mr. Monster," the "Son of Sam."
When the police finally got him, 40 years ago Thursday, the man behind the killings was unmasked as a schlubby civil servant with a boyish face and a dopey smile named David Berkowitz.
Our sister station PIX11 produced a digital documentary reflecting on the scary period in New York, which you can watch above. The following is a part of their story written in first person:
The girls from Queens and the Bronx with long, brunette hair wore it pinned back in a bun — or tied in a ponytail — for much of 1977. In March that year, Mayor Abe Beame and NYPD brass revealed the same .44 caliber handgun was being used to target young people, many of them attacked as they sat in cars.
Three young women were already dead. Six people had survived after the initial five shootings that had taken place between July 1976 and early March 1977.
As a 17-year-old living in Floral Park, Queens, I was one of those girls who often wore my hair in a bun.
The shootings hit close to home.
Read PIX11's full report here.
When a witness reported a strange man on the street near the final shooting, police checked traffic tickets that had been issued in the area and traced them to Berkowitz's car and Yonkers home. He was arrested Aug. 10, 1977.
The police department believes Berkowitz acted alone in the six killings. He told police the "Sam" from his "Son of Sam" nickname was a neighbor who had a dog through which Berkowitz claimed he got the demonic orders to kill.
Berkowitz, now 64, remains in an upstate New York prison, a born-again Christian, and has a website called "Son of Hope."
"I see that people will never understand where I come from, no matter how much I try to explain it," he told CBS News in an interview from prison airing Friday. "They wouldn't understand what it was like to walk in darkness."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.