Behavior: Son of Sam Is Not Sleeping

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One detective assigned to the case had an inspiration when a man named Casablanca was arrested after brandishing a .44 in a holdup. Said the detective: "The first thing I thought of was Son of Sam—you know, the movie Casablanca and 'Play It Again, Sam.' But we checked thoroughly, and it wasn't him." On the Sam-Son theory, police searched the New York metropolitan area for people named Samson with criminal or psychiatric records and delved into the Bible's Book of Samuel to hunt for possible clues.

With a proper flair for publicity, the killer referred to himself enigmatically in the Breslin letter as "The Duke of Death," "The Wicked King Wicker," "The Twenty-Two Disciples of Hell" and "John Wheaties, Rapist and Suffocator of Young Girls." Police have done what they can with these terms, even reading the script of a movie made in Scotland, King Wicker, although the film has not yet been released to theaters in the U.S.

Most psychiatrists portray Son of Sam as a loner acting out murderous impulses implanted during his childhood. "He must have been terribly provoked by a woman," says Manhattan Psychiatrist Hyman Spotnitz. Because the killings were all at close range, Spotnitz concludes: "He wants the women he kills to see him. He's exhibiting himself."

Police Psychologist Harvey Schlossberg believes that the killer is a loser who has met or carefully observed his victims before shooting them. Says he: "Killing is almost a mating or ritual courting kind of behavior." One bit of psychological advice from the experts has helped change the direction of the investigation: psychopaths often lead quiet, well-behaved lives before they lose control. "In the beginning," Inspector Timothy Dowd told TIME, "I saw a weird guy prowling. Now I have a picture of a regular guy. He could be clean-cut, wear a tie, have a respectable job. We're into the area now where he could be anybody."

As the intensive search went on, Dowd issued a widely publicized appeal to the killer: "Please get in touch with me. You're not solving your problems. We'll give you all the help we can. We know that you are suffering pain and anguish and we understand that you are not in control of yourself."

In desperation, police plunged into a gargantuan task: trying to track down all of the 28,000 existing models of the .44 revolver used in the shootings. The fear is that the murderer will soon strike again, perhaps on the anniversary of his first shooting, July 29. Indeed, in his letter to Breslin, the .44 Caliber Killer had sounded an ominous warning: "Don't think that because you haven't heard from [me] for a while that I went to sleep. No, rather, I am still here. Like a spirit roaming the night ... I will see you at the next job. Or, should I say you will see my handiwork at the next job?"

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