Mindhunter, Netflix's drama about FBI agents who interview serial killers to find out what makes them tick, is sending Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) to talk to some very notorious killers in Season 2, including Charles Manson and David Berkowitz, aka the Son of Sam, as well as some lesser-known criminals, like William Pierce, Jr. and William Henry Hance. Mindhunter is known for its attention to historical detail, so how closely does the show stick to the facts of these men and their crimes? Let's find out.
Appearing in the second episode of Season 2, Berkowitz is played by Oliver Cooper. Cooper bears a resemblance to Berkowitz, though he has some prosthetic makeup to complete the transformation that makes him look a little uncanny. He nails Berkowitz's New York accent, though.
Berkowitz terrorized New York City in 1976 and 1977, randomly targeting young women with long, dark hair. His usual M.O. was to walk up to parked cars where a woman and a man sat and open fire with a .44 caliber revolver. He killed six people and wounded seven more.
He gained notoriety for his letters to the press. He wrote taunting letters to legendary newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin and proclaimed himself the "Son of Sam," who killed to provide blood for his father, who Berkowitz claimed after capture was his neighbor's dog that was possessed by an ancient demon and ordered Berkowitz to kill. He later retracted his claims of possession, as dramatized in Mindhunter.
William Pierce, Jr.
In Episode 3, Ford and Agent Jim Barney (Albert Jones) interview two killers in Georgia, William Pierce, Jr. and William Henry Hance.
Junior Pierce is played by Michael Filipowich, who looks a lot like the man who murdered at least nine people in 1970 and 1971. On Mindhunter, Pierce is proud of his intellect but is inarticulate in a way that bores and frustrates Ford; the truth is Pierce had an IQ of about 70.
William Henry Hance
Hance killed three women in Georgia in the 1970s and wrote convoluted letters to the police about "The Forces of Evil" in an attempt to cover up his crimes that actually led to his capture. Corey Allen captures Hance's vacant affect. Hance was executed in 1994 after sentencing hearings that were allegedly "marked by misinformation, misconduct, and racial bias."
In Episode 4, the BSU's other members, Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) and Gregg Smith (Joe Tuttle), team up to do their own serial killer interview while Ford and Tench are busy in Atlanta. They talk to Elmer Henley, who as a teenager helped a killer named Dean Corll murder other teenage boys in Houston in 1972 and 1973. Corll — known as "The Candy Man" — killed over two dozen boys, and Henley was convicted of six murders for his role in procuring victims for Corll. The only person he is known to have personally killed, however, is Corll himself. He's played on Mindhunter by Robert Aramayo, best known as young Ned Stark in Game of Thrones Season 6.
If you're watching Mindhunter, chances are you don't need Charles Manson, arguably the most notorious murderer of the 20th century, explained to you. But you may not know that the actor who plays him, Damon Herriman, also played him in Quentin Tarantino's movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He played the role twice because he does a truly chilling Manson impression. He looks, sounds, and moves just like him.
Paul Bateson, who Wendy and Gregg interview in Episode 6, is an interesting person for Mindhunter to bring up. Bateson confessed to and was convicted of one murder, journalist Addison Verrill, which happened in 1977, but he was suspected of killing six other men in New York City in the '70s, dismembering them and throwing the bags containing the body parts into the Hudson River. The victims have never been identified, and the killer has never been caught. In the show, Bateson (Morgan Kelly) evades the conversation about the murders. There's no way to ever know if he did them (he denied them).
Bateson worked as a radiology technician, which led to him appearing in the movie The Exorcist in the infamous scene where Regan MacNeil gets an angiogram. Director William Friedkin remembered Bateson and went to visit him at Rikers Island, and he claims Bateson confessed to another murder. Bateson, the murders, and the gay SM and leather subculture Bateson and the victims belonged to inspired Friedkin's controversial 1980 movie Cruising. Bateson was released from prison in 2003 and his whereabouts are currently unknown, though he may have died in 2012.
Charles "Tex" Watson was a member of the "Manson family" who was convicted of murder and conspiracy as a result of his participation in the murders of Sharon Tate and four other houseguests, as well as the murder of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, as part of Manson's "Helter Skelter" terror campaign. Watson accompanied Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel onto Tate's property and shot 18-year-old Steve Parent before participating in the gruesome killings of those inside. As depicted in Christopher Backus' performance in Mindhunter, Watson publicly converted to Christianity after his conviction. He was sentenced to death in 1971, but that sentence was invalidated as a result of a California Supreme Court decision. He remains imprisoned in San Diego and has been denied parole over a dozen times.
Wayne Williams was convicted of killing two adult men but is believed to have been responsible for the deaths of nearly two dozen victims in the Atlanta child murder spree that lasted from 1979-81. As previewed in Mindhunter, Williams' association with the deaths of these children became a flashpoint of controversy, even for families of the young victims, because evidence that local members of the Ku Klux Klan may have been involved was hidden by authorities to prevent a potential race war. Later DNA analysis strengthened the case that Williams was involved with at least one child's murder, and another eye-witness account linked Williams to an abduction attempt, but Williams has consistently denied involvement with the child murders. In 2019, Atlanta's new police chief vowed to have evidence in the cases retested with modern DNA technology.
Dennis Rader, who coined himself the BTK Killer (as a nod to his "bind, torture, kill" methodology), also lurked in the background of Mindhunter's first season, but he got a bit more focus in Season 2, as the Behavioral Science Unit attempted to profile the killer who'd been taunting authorities and newspapers with his letters. Rader, who is played by Sonny Valicenti in Mindhunter, killed at least 10 people between 1974 and 1991. He was not apprehended until 2005, after he resurfaced and began sending taunting letters to authorities once again, including a floppy disk that contained a deleted document that could be linked to him.
Mindhunter Season 2 is now on Netflix.