"Like a spirit roaming the night." Thirsty, hungry, seldom stopping to rest: Anxious to please Sam. I love my work."
Son of Sam in a letter to N.Y. Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin.
Word portraits of pathological murderers stalking the streets of Metropolis and leaving behind taunting "catch-me-if-you-can" messages to law enforcement authorities have always fascinated the public, whether in fiction or real life.
In 1888, London's notorious Jack the Ripper, who went in big for boastful letters, teased Scotland Yard and captured the public imagination with the penned promise, "I am down on whores and shant quit ripping them til I do get buckled."
Eighty-one years later, San Francisco's Zodiac Killer improved on the theme with a bizarre series of coded letters to police that claimed responsibility for 17 murders in Northern California. He was never caught.
In between New York's "Mad Bomber," George Metesky, terrorized the city in the 1950's with 37 explosions and showered the police with notes bragging of his deeds.
Compulsive boasters have run the gamut. Chicago's crazed 1940 killer, William Heirens, scrawled notes in lipstick saying. "For heavens sake, catch me before I kill more." A still-unidentified psychopath called "3-X" during a wave of 1930s lover's lane murders in New York, circled his victims' foreheads in lipstick.
More recently, followers of cult murderer Charles Manson succumbed to the subliminal pride of authorship by penning in their victims' blood the phrase "Helter-Skelter" that tangentially helped police crack the case.
A common denominator in most of these cases is the public perception - often shared by the police - that as compelling as the killer's need to extinguish lives was his tormented desire to be caught.
Now New York's crazed woman-killer, " Son of Sam," has joined the ranks of magniloquent mass murderers by claiming his sixth victim in 13 separate shootings with same .44 Billdog revolver and with the same braggadocio that characterized Jack the Ripper.
The boasting was contained in a June letter to columnist Breslin and in a rambling and occasionally incoherent note left at a murder site on April 17.
In his letter to Breslin, Son of Sam seemed to mock the police, saying "Please inform all the detectives working on the case that I wish them the best of luck. Keep 'em digging, drive on, think positive, get off your butts, knock on coffins, et.
Upon my capture I promise to buy all the guys working on the case a new pair of shoes if I can get up the money."
But, contrary to conventional wisdom and the first impressions of New York City police, Son to Sam's letters do not necessarily reflect a hidden and tormented desire to be apprehended, according to a leading criminal psychiatrist.
Daniel Schwartz, director of forensic psychiatry at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn and an associate professor of psychiatry at the Downstate Medical Center in New York, believes that Son of Sam - as the killer calls himself in his notes - in his mind associates the authorities with his father.
"A person who is taunting the police like this really is trying to say to the authorities - who stand for his father - 'Look, I'm really a man. You never thought much of me, but I've eluded you for a year, and you've gotten nowhere,'" Schwartz said in a telephone interview.
"As a citizen, I'd really like to believe he wants to be caught, but as a psychiatrist I can't subscribe to that theory," Schwartz added.
Schwartz said his view is seemingly supported by a break in Son of Sam's pattern.
Sunday's shooting occured in Brooklyn, far from the Queens and Bronx sites close to the ends of the Whitestone Bridge where the other 12 shootings occured over the past year.
Police have saturated the Whitestone neighborhoods with a highly publicized dragnet, Schwartz noted, so if Son of Sam wanted to caught he would have struck in the area again.
Moreover, Schwartz found few parallels between Son of Sam and "Mad Bomber" Metesky, whose fame he has eclipsed.
Schwartz, who knew and examined Metesky, recalled that the Bomber usually gave warnings and that, although several persons were injured in the blasts, no one was killed. Metesky, wholfelt cheated by Consolidated Edison Co., was adjudged harmless in 1973 and released after 17 years in prison.
"He left more and more clues. If you recall, he was happy to be caught. He was beaming." Schwartz said, Son of Sam "is sitting on a volano of hatred, trying to prove that he's more of a man than perhaps his father gave him credit for."
From the beginning, however, criminal psyciatrists have agreed that Son of Sam also harbors deeply troubled hatred toward the courtship process. Apart from two incidents, his victims have been young couples sitting automobiles late at night in darkened streets.
Emanuel Hammer, a widely respected dorensic psychologist and former director of the psycological section of the New York criminal courts, theorizes that Son of Sam suffered tremendously at the hands of a woman, and that the rejection possibly involved another man in a parked car.
In any case, Hammer believes, the rejection hit upon an old wound of maternal rejection, and the killings temporarily ameliorating both traumas.
A similar perspective has been offered by the New York Police Department's chief of psychological services, Harvey Schlossberg, who likened Son of Sam's murders to an orgasm. "Guys like this don't kill spontaneously. There's sort of a ritual, it's almost like a choreography. It's part of the pleasure they take in building up to the fantasy."
Meanwhile, the police, with 300 inspectors and officers working full time on the case, conceded yesterday that they have "nothing fresh in their search for Son of Sam since 20-year-old Stacy Moskowitz was fatally wounded and her date, Robert Violante, lost an eye Sunday in the most recent attack.
Deputy Chief Francis McLoughlin said that police at least were able to eliminate 12 suspects who were under surveillance on Sunday. Now, said MeLoughlin, "the ball is in his court."