CRIME: The Man Hunt For Son of Sam Goes On

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The city's anger was most personally expressed by Stacy's anguished but controlled mother, Neysa Moskowitz, who said: "An animal like this has to be caught. I hope he suffers for the rest of his life." More directly to the killer, she pleaded: "I hope you get caught, but if you don't, just stop it. If you don't get caught, just stop it." Mayor Abraham Beanie ordered the rehiring of 136 laid-off policemen. In all, 75 detectives and 225 uniformed cops worked full time on the case, while another 700 officers volunteered to spend their off-duty hours helping. But while top officers professed optimism, some lower-ranking detectives saw the huge manpower effort as window dressing. They consider the chances of seizing Son of Sam as minimal, unless, however subconsciously, he wants to be caught, is overtaken before he can flee a shooting site or some citizen provides a revealing tip.

Whether properly alarmed, lured by reward money ($31,000 and climbing) or pursuing twisted ends of their own, New Yorkers overwhelmed special police telephone lines. The main task-force center near Shea Stadium sometimes logged more than 100 calls an hour; the telephone company counted some 1,000 other hourly callers who found the lines busy. Fanned by frenzied tabloid coverage in Rupert Murdoch's New York Post, including a cliched open letter to Son of Sam and a sensational—and false—report that the Mafia had joined the hunt because the killings were hurting mob-controlled dating bars and discos,* an air of suspicion spread through the city.

"It's incredible," reported a police official. "Women are naming their husbands, their ex-boy friends. People are calling in about their co-workers." Police were given no fewer than 5,000 names to check out by an astonishing number of residents who thought they knew sexually inadequate young men capable of turning their frustration into murder. Dozens of men phoned to tell police they were the hunted Son of Sam, sometimes asking to be picked up at a specific address. With sirens screaming, squad cars raced to the sites, where no one waited.

Lacking manpower to follow up all leads, harassed police put instinctive priorities on them. They sought information on more than 1,500 men, placing the most likely suspects under surveillance. TIME Correspondent John Tompkins reports that at the time of the latest shooting, detectives were tailing twelve top suspects. Remarkably, seven or eight were present or former cops; one was a former FBI agent. The killer showed he was familiar with police work in his note to Breslin; he also fires his .44 in the police-approved two-handed, legs-apart crouch. "We're dealing with someone with training, a policeman, a former MP, an FBI agent," insists one veteran detective. Ironically, as the killings continue, the clearing of suspects gets easier. Anyone being followed in one place at the time of a shooting elsewhere or who can prove that he was not at any of the murder scenes at the fatal hour can be scratched from police lists—as were the top twelve last week. A large number of ex-cops, laid off in New York's budget cutbacks or fired from the force, were checked out early in the case.

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