'Mindhunter': Your Guide to Atlanta Child Murders, BTK Strangler and Son of Sam in Season 2
By Stacy Lambe
Mindhunter, David Fincher’s thriller based on the true-crime book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit, follows the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit as its agents interview and profile serial killers with the hope of applying this knowledge to ongoing cases. Season one explored the mind of incarcerated killers, Ed Kemper, Montie Rissell, Jerry Brudos and Richard Speck, while season two sees them sitting down with even more notorious killers, Charles Manson and Son of Sam, while also trying to solve two ongoing cases at the time -- the Atlanta Child Murders and the BTK Strangler, who was responsible for killing several people going back to 1974.
While the Netflix series lets these killers expound on their heinous acts, Mindhunter doesn’t always go into detail about each of the crimes. For those wanting to delve deeper, ET has put together a brief guide about each of the prominent killers and rounded up some notable films and podcasts to stream in companion with the thriller.
Atlanta Child Murders
What to Know: Between 1979 and 1981, more than 25 young victims -- most of whom were male, African-American and poor -- were killed in Atlanta, Georgia. Wayne Williams, an Atlanta native who was 23 at the time of the final murder, was arrested and later convicted of the two adult murders that were connected with the killing spree. Though he wasn’t tried or convicted for any of the other cases, authorities believed many of the child murders were also connected to him. Holt McCallany, who plays agent Bill Tench, credits Fincher for tackling the case about “young nameless faceless black kids that are abducted and murdered and thrown into the woods.” The whole thing is “relentlessly sad,” he tells ET, adding that it was important for the show to cover.
What to Know: Between 1974 and 1991, Dennis Rader, who worked for ADT Security Services installing home alarms, murdered 10 people in the Wichita, Kansas, area. His primary method of killing his people was by strangulation. Like Son of Sam, he also wrote and left letters detailing his murders and in 2004, after the investigation into his murders went cold, Rader began communicating with the media. For nearly a year, he sent packages to local news stations with written details and evidence from his murders. His communications -- and modern technology -- eventually led to his arrest in February 2005, with the police announcing, “the bottom line: BTK is arrested.”
What to Know: Charles Manson is the notorious cult leader who wanted to perpetuate an apocalyptic race war prophecy known as Helter Skelter. His followers -- a group of mostly young women known as the Manson Family -- executed a string of murders, including the high-profile killing of Sharon Tate, throughout the Los Angeles area during the summer of 1969. As to why America still remains fascinated with the crimes 50 years later, it’s because Manson’s “this ex-con, hippie guru who wants to be a rock star and hangs out with Dennis Wilson from The Beach Boys,” McCallany says, adding: “There's something very glamorous about the Manson Family.”
What to Know: David Berkowitz terrorized New York City for nearly a year from 1976 to 1977, when he killed six people and wounded seven others. He became known as Son of Sam thanks to letters he started leaving at the scene of his crimes, with one reading: “I am a monster. I am the ‘Son of Sam.’ I am a little ‘brat.’” He was eventually arrested on Aug. 10, 1977 and later confessed to all the shootings, first claiming that the devil appeared to him in the form of a dog and convinced him to kill. Berkowitz eventually said that story was a lie and was convicted of murder in the second degree and attempted murder in the second degree.