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Author Topic: Letters link Son of Sam and victims’ advocate  (Read 1006 times)
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« on: June 27, 2009, 10:42:19 AM »

Letters link Son of Sam and victims’ advocate
By MONICA RHOR Associated Press
June 27, 2009, 9:19AM
HOUSTON — The letters are unfailingly polite, the carefully crafted correspondence of a man with too much time on his hands.
There is no hint of aggression, nothing to suggest that they were penned by the same writer who once terrorized New York City with his missives filled with blood and darkness and death.
In these letters, sent from a prison cell in upstate New York to an office in Houston’s city hall annex, there is an effort to prove contrition for the homicides back then, an eagerness to put distance between the monster he once was and the person he says he has become.
The letters from the notorious serial killer are addressed to Andy Kahan, crime victim advocate for the city of Houston. They reveal an unlikely decade-long alliance that began with a simple form letter.
In Kahan’s office, manila folders bulge with the stories of families ripped apart by murder. Files detail the sorrow of parents mourning slain children, the outrage of unrepentant killers set free.
Kahan says he is driven by the desire to wring some good from even the worst evil.
He’s a tireless crusader against serial killer memorabilia who has a drawer filled with items like a lock of Charles Manson’s hair and a Jeffrey Dahmer doll. So when Kahan wanted to ratchet up his campaign against the sellers of “murderabilia,” he decided to go straight to the killers themselves.
Kahan sent out four-paragraph form letters to 20 serial killers, including Manson and Berkowitz: Did they know that their autographs, drawings, letters and other personal belongings were being sold through online auction sites? Did they approve of the practice? Were they making money from the sales?
Twelve responded to the Oct. 12, 2000, letter. Manson sent Kahan’s letter to a murderabilia dealer who auctioned it off on eBay.
But only Berkowitz seemed to embrace the cause.
“Dear Mr. Kahan,” Berkowitz wrote in his Oct. 26 reply. “I am very bothered and troubled by what these auction sites are doing ... I am willing to help in any way I can.”
Berkowitz included a notarized statement disavowing involvement in any sale of murderabilia — and swearing regret for the murder spree in which he killed six women and shot seven others.
“Most of these letters and other writings were written during a very dark and tormented part of my life, and how I wish with all my heart that those horrific and tragic ‘Son of Sam’ shootings never happened! It was a nightmare for me and for those whose lives were hurt and devastated by my actions.”
So began the unlikely collaboration.
“We’re the ultimate odd couple,” says Kahan.
Kahan and Berkowitz would exchange dozens of letters over the next nine years, and the imprisoned murderer would become a key soldier in Kahan’s battle against murderabilia.
Berkowitz has tipped Kahan off to overtures from dealers and collectors, who often concoct elaborate ruses to obtain potentially valuable signed letters, artwork and intimate items from infamous criminals. Kahan credits Berkowitz with helping him convince the online auction site eBay to prohibit the sale of murderabilia.

“He has been an invaluable asset for me ... Everybody knows the Son of Sam. You can’t get more inside than that,” Kahan said. “It’s the ultimate coup when you have the person who all the Son of Sam laws are named after actually working on your behalf.”
Laws forbidding criminals from profiting from their crimes have been enacted in many states, the namesake original prompted by rumors — false, according to Berkowitz — that he was writing a book about the case.
The two have yet to meet, but in letter after letter, Berkowitz greets Kahan warmly.
“Dear Andy,” he wrote May 2, 2001. “I trust this letter finds you doing well and that progress is being made in your endeavors for justice. I also appreciate the kind things you have said about me, although I feel so unworthy. I have a big debt to pay to society, and it is still a long uphill climb.”
At first, Kahan was surprised by the articulate correspondence from Berkowitz, so unlike the ravings of the Son of Sam.
“But as we progressed, he talked in more depth and detail of murders, and the tragedy that he’s done to these families,” Kahan said. “I’m about as hardball as you can get, so for someone to convince me of remorse takes a lot. But he has thoroughly convinced me.”
In an Aug. 23, 2003, letter, after a dealer auctioned off a note from Berkowitz reading, “I’m the SOS and I killed six people,” Berkowitz tells Kahan he’s ashamed. “This note was written in 1978 when I was in a very bad and tormented mind. I thank God, though, that I have come a long way since then.”
From Sept. 20, 2006: “I hope you have a blessed and prosperous New Year/Rosh Hashana. During this time of the year I enjoy reading and meditating on the psalms.”
Berkowitz wonders about the motivations that propel the murderabilia market, calling one dealer’s requests “sad, troubling and absurd,” and saying of some collectors: “It seems to me they are lonely people who use their Web sites to socialize and meet people online rather than in normal face-to-face settings. I believe they live very unfulfilling lives.”

  " Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."  - Daniel Moynihan
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