Woman who claimed to be 'Son of Sam' killer's first target is finally recognized after 48 years as she reveals how she miraculously survived five shots

By Stephen M. Lepore for Dailymail.Com

02:31 03 June 2024, updated 02:32 03 June 2024

  • Savino has claimed for nearly 50 years that David Berkowitz shot her five times
  • Only a YouTuber fascinated by Berkowitz finally connected him with Savino
  • She said she had to crawl on her hands and knees through a parking lot to survive

A woman can finally claim she was the first target of notorious “Son of Sam” killer David Berkowitz, and admits that pretending to be dead probably saved her life.

Wendy Savino said she was shot five times by Berkowitz in her car on April 9, 1976. Berkowitz admitted to killing six people. Since then, she has been trying to confirm that she is the first victim.

In the 1970s, it was believed that the man who shot her had been killed not far from his house – contrary to Savino’s belief.

However, a YouTuber requested all the files on the murders and eventually discovered a connection to Berkowitz before contacting a Bronx homicide detective who spoke to Savino in Rockland County this week.

“I'm so glad he's being named as my attacker,” said Savino, who lost her right eye in the shooting.

Wendy Savino said she was shot five times in her car on April 9, 1976, by Berkowitz, who admitted to killing six people and is trying to confirm that she was the first victim.

“For so many years, when someone asked me what happened to me, I would say, 'I was shot by Son of Sam,' and the answer was, 'Oh yeah, sure, that's how it was.' So I'm very happy to be listed as one of his survivors.”

Berkowitz, who has admitted to the six murders and describes himself as a born-again Christian in prison, was confronted about the shooting of Savino.

However, sources told the New York Post they were able to get him to admit in an interview to shooting her and now believe they have enough evidence to link him to the shooting of Savino.

The victim, now 87, is convinced that the shooting was never properly investigated because the Democratic district attorney was a political rival of her husband, who was then chairman of the Republican Party in the Bronx.

“From the day I was shot, I had the sketches that the NYPD had made for me, and I carried them around in my purse every day. I didn't know his name, but I knew exactly what he looked like. I said, 'That's the man who shot me.' And of course, when he was arrested, I knew my sketch was David Berkowitz,” she said.

At times she lived under a pseudonym and moved to the United Kingdom out of fear of the shooter.

“I was terrified. I wouldn't go out in the dark. My children were playing on the cricket pitch during the day and I said, 'If you don't come in at nightfall, I'm not coming out to get you.'”

“I didn't answer the phone. I didn't open the front door. When I got scared while shopping, I would leave my shopping basket in the parking lot after paying. If I ran a red light, I drove through it. I was terribly scared.”

A woman finally claims she was the first victim of the notorious “Son of Sam” killer David Berkowitz and admits that posing as the dead man probably saved her life
In the 1970s, it was believed that the man who shot her was killed not far from his home, contrary to Savino's belief.

She lived with her sister and brother-in-law in the UK while her sons were sent to Florida.

Police now suspect that Savino's survival of the shooting prompted Berkowitz to purchase a more powerful weapon to continue his reign of terror.

She said he was smiling as he approached her to shoot him while she tried in vain to protect herself with her left arm.

“My chest exploded,” she said. “He was standing at my window, to the left of the driver's door. The second bullet went through my arm, hit the dashboard and pierced my right eye.”

“The third bullet went through my shoulder, put a hole in my windpipe and lodged in my spine. At this point my head was on the passenger side. They were bucket seats in a silver 1976 Jaguar.”

She said she had eight pieces of glass in her left eye and a bullet in her right eye and described how she was running out of air.

Savino concluded that their best chance of survival was to pretend he had already done the job.

“I said, 'I can't let him get me before I get out.' So I lay there with my head in the bucket, playing dead, with my eyes closed, but peering out of the one eye I could still see with.”

Police now suspect that Savino's survival of the shooting prompted Berkowitz to purchase a more powerful weapon to continue his reign of terror
Berkowitz shot and killed six people and injured eight others during his year-long rampage

The shooter shot Savino twice more in the back.

“I've got five bullets in my back now. And I say, 'He's going to take my jewelry,' but he didn't try, so I said to myself, 'Of course he wants you dead.' Just lie here and hope he goes away before you pass out.”

She heard him walk away, opened the door, rolled into the parking lot and tried to crawl as far as she could until she hit a wall.

At the time, Savino was outside a restaurant and was trying to get into the kitchen, where she witnessed an almost darkly comic scene.

“All the waiters and everyone else were throwing up their hands and their pots and pans, screaming. So I said, 'You're not going to get anywhere with this, are you?' And I went straight to the dining room.”

“There was quite a reaction when I walked into the dining room and they threw a white tablecloth over my head. I pulled it down and said, 'Please don't do that, I can't breathe.'”

Then she sat on a wooden chair, took off her jewelry and asked a waitress or bartender to give it to her husband.

Eventually, a police officer came through the front door of the restaurant and told her to “stay with me” while Savino went to sleep.

A police photograph shows the front view and profile of convicted New York serial killer David Berkowitz, known as the “Son of Sam.”
Berkowitz owned a 1970 Ford Galaxy, pictured above in the garage of NYPD headquarters in Manhattan on August 11, the day after his arrest

She was taken to the hospital where she was eventually cured and was able to reach the gunner's ketch.

All this time, she says, the police couldn't believe that her attacker was Berkowitz.

“Nobody believed me – even though I showed them the sketch of his face that I had,” she said.

What would she say to him if she were face to face? “You're a filthy bastard.”

In 2017, Berkowitz said he rejected the nickname “Son of Sam,” which he used to make headlines during his killing and shooting spree that left six people dead and seven injured between 1976 and 1977.

“As far as I'm concerned, that wasn't me,” Berkowitz said during the interview with CBS News. “That wasn't me. Even the name, I hate that name, I despise the name.”

The nickname comes from a mocking letter that Berkowitz wrote to the authorities and left at the crime scene. In it, he referred to himself as the “son of Sam,” whose father “Sam” had ordered him to kill.

Berkowitz, now a born-again Christian, said that the “son of Sam” was actually “a demon.”

Above, a mug shot of Berkowitz from March 2003. According to Bustle, he is serving his sentence at the maximum security Shawangunk Correctional Facility in Ulster County, New York.
After his arrest, Berkowitz told authorities that a dog named Sam had ordered him to commit the murders – a story he retracted in a 1979 interview with reporters, according to the New York Times. Above: Berkowitz at his arraignment on August 11, 1977

His murderous rampage through New York came at a particularly tense time for the city's residents, who were already struggling with a financial crisis, bitter heat and a citywide power outage that led to massive looting.

Nicknamed “Son of Sam” and “.44 Caliber Killer,” Berkowitz made daily local and national headlines with his shocking, seemingly random and unstoppable shootings—particularly of couples in parked cars and women with shoulder-length brown hair—that appeared to be linked to the activities of a demonic cult.

The fact that provocative notes with messages for the police were left at crime scenes and letters were sent directly to the local media added even more fuel to the sensational fire.

Berkowitz was eventually caught in one of the largest manhunts in New York City history.

Since the shooting of Savino is now linked to him, he officially killed six people and injured eight others.