NEW YORK - Claiming he was part of a satanic cult of killers, David Berkowitz admits he was present for each of the six Son of Sam slayings but now insists: "I did not pull the trigger at every single one."
Breaking his silence after 16 years in prison, Berkowitz now admits to personally killing only three of the victims shot during a year of bloodshed in the infamous .44-caliber attacks.
But, he adds, "I know that in my case I can't make an excuse - I was at more or less all of them, scouting the areas and reporting back on likely targets."
"I'm so very sorry that it happened. People who didn't deserve to lost their lives," Berkowitz says in an emotional prison interview, which will be broadcast this week on "Inside Edition." The first part will be shown tonight at 6:30 p.m. on KCPQ, Channel 13.
One of his startling claims, contrary to New York Police Department assertions, is that he did not actually act as the trigger man in all of the killings that terrorized New York in the mid-1970s.
Berkowitz's admissions would, under New York law, still make him culpable for murder as an accomplice in the three fatal shootings he says he did not personally carry out.
Berkowitz is serving six consecutive 25-years-to-life sentences at Sullivan (County, N.Y.) Correctional Facility.
Police insist Berkowitz was a lone, demonic shooter. He now claims that he was one of a gang of several people who carried out the slayings.
In the interview, Berkowitz identifies two of the supposed trigger men - brothers Michael and John Carr, one-time neighbors, but now both dead, who he claims drew him into a murderous cult of Devil worshipers.
John Carr (whose father, Sam Carr, owned the dog Berkowitz said commanded him to kill) was shot dead in a girlfriend's North Dakota apartment in 1978. Michael was killed in a car crash on the West Side Highway in New York City less than two years later.
Although police say Berkowitz used the phrase Son of Sam two years before, the convicted killer now says his slow seduction into the arms of Satan began in mid-1975 at a house party in the Bronx. The convicted killer was a lonely 22-year-old bachelor only a year out of the Army. He was working as a security guard, and said he went to the party to make new friends.
There, Berkowitz says, he met Michael Carr, who "seemed to have a lot of knowledge of the occult."
It was a subject, Berkowitz says, "I had always been fascinated by."
Soon, Berkowitz recalls, he was joining his new friends at moonlight meetings in the woods around Split Rock Golf Course and Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.
"To me, it was just like the guys said, `Hey we've got a lot of groovy chicks over here. Meet in the woods. It's a real groovy place and we get high and you can find yourself a nice girl.' We had the Boone's Farm wine and everything and people were smoking reefer . . . People would talk a little bit about the Devil."
He shakes his head in disbelief at his naivete.
"I really didn't think about that. I was just hoping I'd meet a nice girl and hook up something nice."
But when the coven moved to the darkened ruins of a mansion in Yonkers' Untermyer Park, Berkowitz says, he began to realize what he had gotten himself into.
"It was pitch black and the guy who took us there seemed to know where to go, further down these winding paths," Berkowitz remembers. "There, I was introduced to some more people. . . . We would have our chants and our rituals and I did begin to witness some animal sacrifices."
He remembers finding the rituals "a little weird." But, he says, "I was fascinated."
After months of demonic prayer, animal sacrifices and participation in several ritual arsons in Yonkers and the Bronx, Berkowitz was formally initiated into the cult.
Not long afterward, on June 12, 1976, a little more than a month before the first Son of Sam killing, Berkowitz, on a visit to Houston, obtained a .44-caliber Charter Arms Bulldog revolver.
And the reign of terror in New York began.