He was a nice guy.
And he also killed six people.
The neighbor’s Black Lab, Shmulka, told him to kill them.
In the summer of 1977 he was caught and sent to prison. Now he is 57 and once again a celebrity. He has written a book. He converted to Christianity and now he is the most popular guy around.
He has, it turns out, attracted an array of individuals from outside prison who, though they deplore his murderous past, have become friends, acquaintances and in some instances a kind of ad hoc set of assistants.
This circle of admirers, to a great degree, is made up of evangelical Christians, including a Town and Village Courts judge in upstate New York and a financial adviser in Manhattan, who have been moved by Mr. Berkowitz’s story of becoming a born-again Christian 23 years ago, and many of them have sought to publicize his account of redemption.
But there are others who have been drawn to him for reasons that are not religious, like the director of the mayor’s crime victims office in Houston and Daniel Lefkowitz, a Bronx teenage acquaintance of Mr. Berkowitz’s who interviewed him in 2009 for a talk show he hosts on cable-access TV in northern Westchester County.
Infamous criminals have always had a knack for attracting followings — populated by conspiracy theorists, suitors and others. But experts in the field of prison ministry say Mr. Berkowitz’s work, through his own letter-writing ministry and the exposure he has received as a self-proclaimed redeemed serial killer, stands out as unique.
Mr. Berkowitz, a former postal employee, discussed his relationships in a recent prison interview and later in letters.
“These friendships, relationships, are a precious and priceless gift from God,” he said. “Here I am, a convicted felon, a murderer, a man undeserving of anything that is good and wholesome. Yet, there are people who have found it in their heart to love me and have concern for me.
“Also, these friendships help to connect me with the church, and with society,” Mr. Berkowitz said, adding, “It’s not a one-sided relationship but one of mutual giving.”
Joseph Coffey, the police sergeant who took Mr. Berkowitz’s initial confession, said his statements about his religious convictions were as believable as his amended claim that members of a satanic cult to which he belonged were responsible for some of the shootings.
“It’s a total charade to promote himself,” said Mr. Coffey, who retired from the Police Department in 1985. “I have had people who I sent to prison or put in the witness protection program find religion because it suits them by providing them access to the outside world.”
Alan Jay Binger, a Rockland County lawyer who is a friend of Mr. Berkowitz’s, says he keeps much of Mr. Berkowitz’s personal memorabilia, like bar mitzvah photos, an old typewriter and letters he has received and written. In one letter, to Gov.George Pataki, Mr. Berkowitz said that he did not deserve parole.
And there are certainly those who say they never would have imagined having a relationship with a convicted serial killer.
“It is absolutely the strangest alliance I have developed over my 25-years-plus in criminal justice,” said Andy Kahan, the crime victims assistance director to the mayor of Houston.