Based on the works of journalist Maury Terry, Netflix’s The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness looks beyond David Berkowitz for the shooting murders that unfolded from 1976 to 1977 in New York City. Per the title, Terry’s theory was that there wasn’t just one Son of Sam, but multiple. Ultimately, Terry believed that the so-called Sons of Sam could be traced back to a cult called The Children, which was connected to the likes of Scientology and Charles Manson’s Family. But how did that connection come about? Here’s what you need to know.
While looking into Berkowitz, Terry connected him to John and Michael Carr, brothers who were literally sons to a man named Sam. The journalist strongly believed that these brothers were involved in the Sons of Sam killings and looked further into their past connections. He found that the siblings had been linked to the Church of Scientology in their past. A deep dive into Scientology revealed an off-branch of a group called The Process Church of the Final Judgment. Studying to be auditors for Scientology, Robert and Mary Ann de Grimston met at the L. Ron Hubbard Institute For Scientology in London during the ’60s. After their experience with Scientology, the duo wanted something more extreme, so they started The Process, which initially dealt with psychotherapy technology.
The de Grimstons went to Mexico when a devastating hurricane struck in 1966. They became convinced that they were to bring good and evil together, becoming devoted to bringing on the end of the world to pave a new way of life. Setting up camp everywhere (including the United States), the Process Church started partaking in dark rituals that involved wearing black capes and sacrificing German shepherds. They even became connected with cult leader Charles Manson when they spread out to California, and some believe that Manson learned everything he knew from The Process. In The Family, author Ed Sanders initially suggested that Manson belonged to a Process chapter, though he later retracted this claim when the Church sued him.
The Process Church went underground in 1974 and started splintering into smaller groups. Just north of New York City, a cult called the Children cropped up. The Process Church has since denied any connection to the Son of Sam case. However, Terry theorized that Berkowitz possibly played a similar role for the Children as Manson did for the Family. Both groups had bizarrely familial names and also integrated occult practices into their rituals. In a letter to Terry, Berkowitz also admitted that he was part of a bigger group carrying out the Son of Sam murders. While many have leveraged skepticism against Terry over the years, his comprehensive body of evidence, despite being marked by many rabbit holes, may convince you that Berkowitz wasn’t the sole perpetrator of the terror that unleashed in the ’70s.