Warning…some of the material below is of a graphic nature.
David Berkowitz (the Son of Sam), Jeffrey Dahmer, Karla Faye Tucker, Ted Bundy, Susan Atkins (a member of the Manson family) & Charles “Tex” Watson (another member of the Manson family). These are some of the worst serial killers in recent American history. Most people would say that you have nothing in common with them. The acts they committed were horrible. They deprived people of their lives in a most gruesome way. They deprived other family and friends of a loved one. They deserved what they got.
David Berkowitz (the Son of Sam)…in 1976 and 1977, he killed 6 people and wounded seven others as he randomly shot people in New York city. He left one person a paraplegic and another one blind. He killed women with long brown hair. Women cut, bleached or tied back their hair so they wouldn’t look like his victims. He was caught in 1977 and sentenced in 1978 to 300 years in prison.
Jeffrey Dahmer…from 1978 to 1991, he killed 17 young men in Wisconsin and Ohio. He lured young men into his apartment under false premises. His crimes included rape, dismemberment, cannibalism, necrophilia and of course, murder. He kept many of their body parts in his freezer. In 1992, he was sentenced to 15 life sentences. In 1994, he was beat to death by another inmate.
Karla Faye Tucker…in 1983, she broke int a friend’s apartment with her then-boyfriend, to rob him. In the break-in, she killed her friend and his girlfriend with a pickaxe. On drugs since the age of 8, she claimed that she had an orgasm each of the 20 times she axed her friend. She was sentenced to death in 1984 and finally executed in 1998.\
Ted Bundy…He grew up in a wonderful home with a loving family. When he was 13 years old, he discovered pornography in a dump near his home. In time, he became more and more addicted to them, especially in the more violent images. While he takes full responsibility for his actions, the pornography did provide an atmosphere for addiction and, later, living out that addiction. A former law student, alcohol use reduced his inhibitions and pornography further eroded them. Between 1974 and 1978, he admitted to raping, bludgeoning, strangling, engaging in necrophilia and then murdering 36 women and girls across the USA, and maybe more. He was electrocuted in 1989 in Florida.
Susan Atkins…in 1969, the then 21 year old, participated in seven brutal murders in Los Angeles over two days with other Charles Manson family members. They became known as the Tate-LaBianca murders. Atkins held down a very pregnant Sharon Tate (the wife of director Roman Polanski) as she stabbed her 16 times even though Sharon begged her to spare her baby. Four other houseguests were killed also, including Abigail Folger (of Folger’s coffee). The next night, they killed grocery store owners, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, an elderly couple. Atkins was also convicted in an earlier killing of the music teacher, Gary Hinman. She was convicted in 1969 and was sentenced in 1971 to spent the rest of her life in prison. She died of brain cancer in 2009.
Charles “Tex” Watson…another Charles Manson family member who lead the family members in the same murders as Susan Atkins. He was an “A” student in his Copeville, Texas high school, a youth group leader and an honor role student. He went to college and got into partying and alcohol. He went to visit a friend in Los Angeles and got into the hippy, drug culture. His life changed when he picked up a hitchhiker, Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys. He eventually moved into Dennis’ mansion and began mingling with rock musicians, actors, Hollywood producers, children of stars and Charles Manson and his “family of love”. Dennis Wilson began to pull away from some of these people when reports of child sexual abuse surfaced. Eventually, Watson moved in with the Manson family at Spahn Ranch. When Manson gave them orders to go and kill 7 people, they went. Watson shot 18 year old Steven Parent 4 times and shot Frykowski twice, killing both. They scrawled “Pig” on the front door in their victims blood before leaving. The following night, they killed the LaBianca’s. In 1971, he was convicted and given the death penalty. When California abolished the death penalty in 1972, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
But there is one thing that I do have in common with these brutal murderers. They, like I, have accepted the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
All I have to go on is their word and the life they have lived since they have been behind bars. While some of them have since died, most are still alive and in prison. Here’s what some of them have said and done:
David Berkowitz (the Son of Sam)…Ten years into his sentence, a fellow inmate urged him, a Jew, to read the Psalms. David resonated with the anguish and depression that King David experienced. One night, in 1987, while he was reading Psalm 34:6, which says “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles”, the Holy Spirit descended on him and he said, “I got down on my bunk, like a little kid in the dark.” He recalls, “I said, ‘Jesus, God, I don’t know who you are, I don’t know if You have any interest in me. I don’t know if You hate me or what, but I just want you to know how sorry I am for the things that I’ve done wrong, how I hurt people, how I hurt my family’. I just cried and cried.” He said, “When I got up it felt as if a very heavy but invisible chain that had been around me for so many years was broken”. He then started going to chapel. He’s now 66 and is a Messianic Jew (a Jewish person who believes in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah). Steve Nash, a Wesleyan pastor in New Jersey, has visited Berkowitz for the last 25 years. He says other inmates call him “pastor”. He works for the Prison Chaplain, cleaning the room before worship services. He releases videos thru an independent website, talking about his testimony. He counsels young people thru letters and also counsels other inmates. He goes to his parole hearings only to apologize and take responsibility. He won’t ask anyone to advocate on his behalf at parole hearings. But he does look forward to the rest of his life, not behind. He says that “The Lord has taken all my sins and thrown them into the depths of the sea, never to be remembered anymore, so why should I go fishing them up again. You can ask for forgiveness and do as much as you can to try to have reconciliation. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. But the Lord wants us going forward with thankful hearts, you know. I feel I have a thankful heart because God has had mercy on me. My situation could be a lot worse.”
Jeffrey Dahmer…Curt Booth, an Oklahoma believer, saw an interview with Dahmer. He felt lead by God to send him a bible study course. Weeks later, Dahmer had completed the course and sent the answers back, indicating that he had accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. Curt got in touch with a Christian chaplain that lived closer to where Dahmer was incarcerated. Roy Ratcliff, a local pastor, set up weekly bible study meetings with Dahmer. He baptized Dahmer in May, 1994. Another believer, David Hartman, wrote to congratulate Dahmer on his baptism. Dahmer sent David $5 worth of stamps asking him to send 25 copies of the bible correspondence course so he could pass them out to other inmates. Dahmer said his religious education taught him that the “lie of evolution” was the root of evil since it denies the presence of an all-powerful, all-seeing God. In an interview with MSNBC reporter Stone Phillips he posed the question: “If a person doesn’t think there is a God to be accountable to, then—then what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges?” On November 28, 1994, a fellow inmate beat Dahmer to death.
Karla Faye Tucker…in 1984, a former druggie, Karen Gill of the Family Life Training Center, spoke at Karla’s prison. After hearing her incredible testimony, Karla walked forward to receive Jesus Christ as her Savior. Up until her execution in 1998, she worker with fellow prisoners leading them to Jesus and discipling them in their newfound faith. She apologized to the families of those people that she had killed.
Ted Bundy… A new Florida state attorney, John Tanner, had met with Bundy about 50 times during his incarceration and lead him to the Lord. Ted Bundy’s last dinner included a communion with Tanner and his wife. Bundy was remorseful for what he did. In the last few months of his life, he was working with the police to remember all the murders and where he had buried the bodies. While remorseful, he doesn’t expect the victims families and friends to forgive him. He says that kind of forgiveness only comes from God. His only interview was with Dr. James Dobson, an evangelical Christian author and psychologist.
In 1974, she had a vision of Jesus in her cell and became a born-again Christian. She went on to write the book “Child of Satan, Child of God” about her salvation testimony. She then devoted herself to bible studies and chapel services. She prayed with other inmates and even some guards. She started an online newsletter that spoke of God’s forgiveness, love and hope. By all accounts, she became a model prisoner, ministering to many people. Even the family members of the people she killed said so and praised her efforts behind bars. She passed away in 2009 of brain cancer.
Charles “Tex” Watson…
In 1975, Christ became real to him in prison. A lady in the visiting room, clergy from the outside and other inmates who were believers, shared Christ with him. They told of a God who had forgiven all of his sins, no matter how grievous they were. A God who loved Charles so much that He died for him and could fill him with love, peace, assurance and give his life meaning. Immediately, Charles began sharing this Good News with other prisoners. He dove into bible study. In 1978, he co-authored the book “Will You Die for Me?”. In 1980, he began Abounding Love Ministries. In 1981, he became an ordained minister. In 1997, a website was started for him called Abiding Love. He also wrote another book, called “Manson’s Right Hand Man Speaks Out”. In 2009, he completed a B.S. degree in Business Management.
He spends his time ministering to other prisoners and contributing to his website. By all accounts, he is a model prisoner. Thru his books and website, he is ministering to thousands of people worldwide.
He feels great remorse for all the pain and suffering he has caused the families and friends of the people he killed. He hates what he did. He hates having to be the person that committed crimes that were so hideous. The LaBianca’s daughter has forgiven him and supports his ministry.
Can you accept these former killers as brothers and sisters in the Lord? As believers, we don’t have a choice. Jesus said that if we don’t forgive them, He won’t forgive us (Matthew 6:14-15). Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” Isaiah 59:1 says that the Lord’s arm is not too short to save anyone. No one is beyond His reach.
Remember, forgiveness is not an emotion. It’s an act of your will. We can forgive someone even if we don’t “feel” like it. I rejoice that these former killers have repented and received Jesus as their Savior. His Spirit will give new life to any one who asks Him to.
Is there someone in your life that you cannot forgive? Or that you don’t think would ever accept Christ? Maybe you shouldn’t live your life by your “feelings”? If God lays that person on your heart, forgive them and pray for them. Eventually, your feelings will follow your will to forgive them.
World Magazine, 2/15/20, Volume 35, Number 3
Because of Christ,