David Berkowitz aka the son of Sam, as he is more widely known, was a post office worker and serial killer. He terrorized New York City in the 1970s.
The Son Of Sam (David Berkowitz) Was An Adopted Child
David Berkowitz aka the son of Sam was born Richard David Falco. His mother, Betty Broder, became pregnant by her second husband, and he asked her to abort. The young woman in her twenties gave birth on June 1, 1953, in New York. But she did not want to take care of the little one.
The mother gave him up for adoption to Nathan and Pearl Berkowitz. This Jewish couple could not have offspring who decided to give him the surname Berkowitz and raise him.
Happiness was short-lived in the new home because Pearl died of cancer when David was 14. After she died in 1969, father and son moved to the area of the Bronx.
Despite being a shy boy, sometimes a victim of bullying by his classmates, David Berkowitz aka the son of Sam defended himself tooth and nail. In addition, his appearance helped with confrontation.
David was big and strong and always preferred to play with children younger than him, mainly baseball. Added to this was his early misogyny. He came to create the so-called "Women Haters Club," as a class friend explained years later.
In fact, the teenager was self-conscious and suspicious of women. He did not know how to behave, he remained silent, and the only personal relationship he had was with his neighbor Iris Gerhardt. He fell in love platonically with her.
He wasn't a good student either. The few friends he had left him empty when they started smoking joints, something David Berkowitz aka the son of Sam, never did for fear of his parents. He justified himself once arrested.
"My parents were constantly worried about my strange behavior. They knew that I lived in an imaginary world and they could not do anything against the demons that tormented me and controlled my mind."
The Childhood Of David Berkowitz Aka The Son Of Sam: An Outcast
David Berkowitz aka the son of Sam did not fit anywhere, not even in his own family after his adoptive father remarried. This was the trigger for the young man to become a Baptist and enlist in the army. He was assigned to Korea for three years. By the time he returned home in 1974, his relationship with Nathan was unbearable.
The father did not take well that his son had converted to baptism and that, above all, he fervently criticized Judaism. The monumental fights were settled with some massive attacks of anger on the part of the boy.
He stood in front of the mirror and pounded his head hard with his fists. When the situation became untenable, David decided to move into his apartment.
Alone and with an absolute feeling of abandonment, the young man decided to search for his biological parents. He dug into the registry, found his original last name, and looked it up in a phone book.
Thanks to this investigation, he located the address of his mother and older sister. He wrote them a postcard, and days later, the reunion took place.
His sister Roslyn, 37, married with children, was happy to meet David Berkowitz, even sheltering him in her house for several days. However, time passed, and the young man distanced himself from his new family.
It was early 1976, and by then, his health was suffering. He suffered from constant headaches, which the sister was very concerned about.
The First Attacks Of David Berkowitz Aka The Son Of Sam
In April, David Berkowitz aka the son of Sam decided to move again to Pine Street in Yonkers. Three months later, he committed his first murder.
But before that, he had already tried to stab two women in late 1975. The screams of his victims caused him to flee quickly. After these failures, David Berkowitz aka the son of Sam decided to buy a gun.
It was a particular revolver: a Bulldog caliber 44, and it cost him $130. With this weapon, he carried out eight attacks and killed six people.
On July 29, 1976, Berkowitz committed the first deadly assault. Two girls, Donna Lauria, 18, and Jody Valente, 19, were saying goodbye in the street. An individual approached them and pulled out his gun from a brown paper bag. Without saying a word, David Berkowitz aka the son of Sam aimed them and began to shoot them.
A few feet away, Donna's father was watching it all. He had just put the dog down when the shots started. After seeing how the stranger fled, he approached the young women and took them to the hospital. His daughter died on the way.
When the police arrived at the crime scene, they considered the possibility that the Mafia was behind it. After all, he was in the North Bronx, an area dominated by Italian families and settling scores. On this occasion, the investigators believed that they were the wrong victim.
But, would a professional have fired up to five times with such poor aim and with a 44-caliber revolver? The first hypothesis began to lose steam.
In addition, the description made by the sole survivor provided them with details of the assailant. Jody explained that she had never seen this white man, with long curly black hair and no beard, and in his thirties.
David Berkowitz Aka The Son Of Sam Strikes Again
Three months later, David Berkowitz aka the son of Sam resumed killing. It was October 23 when Rosemary Keenan and Carl Denaro, 18 and 20 years old, sat in their car in a remote area of Queens. They suffered a violent assault.
David Berkowitz aka the son of Sam drew his revolver and fired five shots through the window, but the gun's recoil spoiled his aim. Only one of the bullets grazed Carl's head without going through it. Rosemary didn't get a scratch.
The third shooting also occurred in the Queens neighborhood. It was midnight on November 27, 1976. Two teenagers Joanne Lomino, 18, and her classmate Donna DeMasi, 16, were chatting on the stairs of Joanne's house. Suddenly, a stranger approached and asked: "Can you tell me how to get to...?".
Without finishing the sentence, Berkowitz drew his pistol again and fired it.
Different Descriptions Of David Berkowitz Aka The Son Of Sam
One of the shots went through Donna's neck and pierced Joanne's spine, leaving her in a wheelchair for life.
Across the street, a neighbor saw a man flee the crime scene. It was then that the police linked this attack to the first. They still did not suspect the second. Yet, the physical descriptions of the shooter didn't add up. These young women assured that the stranger was blond with long hair, while Jody made it clear that his attacker had curly black hair.
Two months later, the Son of Sam (David Berkowitz) acted again against John Diel, 30, and Christine Freund, 26. One of the bullets hit the young woman in the head, dying shortly after.
They saw a match when the ballistics section compared these shells to previous shootings. They all came from a .44 caliber Bulldog revolver. But the physical description of the suspect still didn't add up.
On March 8, 1977, a new attack took place. A student, Virginia Voskerichian, was returning home, and David Berkowitz aka the son of Sam pointed the gun at her head. The young woman could not avoid the impacts. The bullets penetrated Virginia's face, and she died instantly.
Although the bullets found also came from the same caliber, the witnesses detailed the criminal as a young male of about 18 years old, six feet tall, and in a balaclava.
After five assaults and three murders, the New York police created a particular group to hunt down the murderer. They called it the Omega Group, and its mission was to capture the so-called "44-caliber murderer."
To report on the new police operation, the New York police commissioner summoned the media. On March 10, dozens of journalists wanted to know who the public enemy was. The physical description of the Son of Sam - white, male, dark-haired, average build, 25-32 years old, 1,80m tall - appeared in all the newspapers the following day.
David Berkowitz Aka The Son Of Sam's Letters
The nearly three hundred clues that the investigators came to collect and the new operation they launched did not prevent the Son of Sam from attacking again. On the morning of April 16, 1977, the couple Valentina Suriani, 18, and Alexander Esau, 20, died in another shooting.
When one of the agents arrived on stage, he noticed a white envelope lying in the middle of the street. It was a letter addressed to the captain of the case, Joe Borelli. It was the first time David Berkowitz aka the son of Sam contacted the police.
In the letter, the Son of Sam felt "deeply hurt for calling me a woman-hater. I'm not. But I am a monster. I am the 'Son of Sam.' […] Sam loves to drink blood. 'Go out and kill,' Father Sam orders me."
David Berkowitz aka the son of Sam claimed he was "programmed to kill" and urged the police to stop him. "Shoot me first, shoot to kill or else get out of my way, or you will die!" he wrote in a long letter calling himself "Beelzebub" and saying he enjoyed hunting and roaming the streets looking for beautiful, fresh meat.
But at the same time, he maintained, "I don't want to kill anyone else. I don't want to, but it is necessary, 'you will honor your father'".
The Omega Group thought he was crazy, and they did not want to give it more importance. But the letter fell into the hands of journalist Jimmy Breslin who published a few paragraphs in the Daily News. That is why the Son of Sam contacted Breslin sometime later.
Throughout the cryptic and nonsensical and contradictory writing, David Berkowitz aka the son of Sam stated the following:
"Sam is thirsty as a kid. He won't let me stop killing until he gets bloody. Listen to me Jim, do you remember what happened on July 29? He can forget about me whenever he wants because I'm not looking for publicity. However, he must not forget Donna Lauria and he cannot let people forget her. She was a very sweet girl."
And he added a series of names that would supposedly help in the police investigation: "Duke of Death. Evil King. The twenty-two Disciples of Hell. And finally, John Wheaties, rapist and suffocation murderer of young girls." Who was Son of Sam referring to? Was there more than one assailant?
The Son of Sam, a term that became popular after sending the two letters, returned to action on June 25. The young Judy Placido and Salvatore Lupo received five shots, and although three of them managed to hit them, their lives were saved.
David Berkowitz aka the son of Sam committed the last murder on the night of July 31. He already warned in a third letter sent to the police. Berkowitz followed the same modus operandi: he fired several shots at occupants parked in a lonely spot. There Stacy Moskowitz and Bobby Violante were unleashing passion when David began shooting at them.
She died instantly, and he went blind. Thanks to the testimony of witnesses parked relatively close, the police had a new physical description.
The Key Witness
Cacilia Davis, a 49-year-old widow, was essential in hunting down the Son of Sam. The woman explained to the investigators how that when she got home, she noticed a yellow car parked next to a water pump. Initially, she didn't give it much importance and went up and down again to get the dog out.
She noticed two more cars parked near the yellow Ford Galaxie during the walk. They were Bobby and Tommy's vehicles, and the driver of the Ford – a young man with black hair – was visibly angry when he saw a ticket on his windshield.
The individual was the Son of Sam, who glared at the window. She was afraid and quickly returned to her apartment. Three days later, the woman dared to tell what she saw.
With the physical description of the car and its driver, the police began to compare the data with the evidence they already had from previous cases. The investigators had several coincidences: several neighbors gave the exact physical details of the attacker. They also recognized the model and color of the vehicle at the scene of the crime.
Indeed, an agent issued a ticket to license plate 561-XLB. The car was registered to David Berkowitz aka the son of Sam.
When they arrived at the suspect's community ten days later, investigators interviewed his neighbors. Some did not have good memories of the young man whom they classified as troublesome.
When they began to pull the thread, they discovered that the thirty-year-old was obsessed with satanic cults and that he had been denounced several times for bad behavior and for sending threatening letters. The neighbors gave the agents some of the anonymous letters he sent them, and they immediately recognized the handwriting. It was traced to the Son of Sam.
On August 10, 1977, detectives Ed Zigo and John Falotico looked for Berkowitz. Before he arrived, they searched the yellow Ford Galaxie. They found a rifle inside, as well as a letter, addressed to the head of the Omega Group, Inspector Timothy Dowd.
As soon as David Berkowitz aka the son of Sam appeared and got into the car, the officers pointed their guns at him. "Do not breathe! Police!" they yelled at him. The killer smiled as he was pulled out of the car and placed against the hood. "Who are you?" Falotico asked.
"You know it. You know who you have," Berkowitz replied. "Tell me who I have!" urged the inspector. He smiled once more and replied, "I'm 'The Son of Sam'."
After his arrest, David Berkowitz aka the son of Sam was taken to the police station, where he confessed to all the crimes and admitted being the author of the letters. He blamed his neighbor's dog for ordering him to commit the crimes and for hearing demonic voices telling him to kill. The interrogation lasted half an hour.
Although the police had finally hunted down the confessed murderer, for the journalist Maury Terry, there were data and evidence that did not add up. Among them was the description that the witnesses of the different assaults gave. It was as if they were different men.
Son of Sam killed some of his victims but not all of them, or so Terry believed. Until he made a new connection.
One of the neighbor's sons, who reported David for shooting his dog, was actually nicknamed 'Wheaties,' a name that appeared in the letter Breslin received. "John Wheaties, rapist and suffocation murderer of young girls…" the letter read.
During the investigation, Terry also discovered that John and David not only knew each other but also attended satanic rituals in a park. When he tried to interview him, he discovered he was dead. He had shot himself in the mouth, and it was all an apparent suicide. Given the journalistic inquiries, the Queens prosecutor wanted to include more evidence in this regard.
The Son of Sam was also a friend of Michael Carr, brother of John, with whom he had relations within the satanic cult to which they belonged, The Twenty-Two Disciples of Hell. But when they tried to find Michael, he had already died in a traffic accident.
Shortly after Michael's death, Berkowitz sent a letter to a California preacher explaining that he belonged to a "secret sect" mixed with "satanic practices" and whose pretensions were bloodthirsty. "Those people will stop at nothing, including murder."
This time David Berkowitz aka the son of Sam really seemed sane, or at least his words made more sense.
Life Imprisonment For David Berkowitz, Aka The Son Of Sam
With the evidence in hand, everything pointed to the fact that Berkowitz was only responsible for three murders. The rest were committed by members of the aforementioned sect.
But when the time came for the trial, the jury members were clear that the Son of Sam was the only possible author of the six homicides.
During the hearing held in May 1978, the psychiatrists prepared a report on the mental health of the Son of Sam. The result: they were faced with a paranoid schizophrenic. But the experts of the accusation refuted the study, alleging that he was fully aware of his acts. That was how the jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to 365 years in prison.
On July 10, 1979, an inmate attacked David Berkowitz aka the son of Sam, and plunged a razor blade from his throat to the back of his neck. He was lucky because he would have died if the cut had been deeper. He needed 56 stitches.
Berkowitz began to profit financially by telling his story to the media.
The so-called "Son of Sam Law" was enacted, which prevents serial killers from earning money by speaking about their crimes.
His life came to television thanks to the series Mindhunter, which shows how the Son of Sam scared the New York population with his demons. They were genuinely terrified of meeting him.
Today, David Berkowitz aka the son of Sam presents himself as a "very spiritual person," to such an extent that he refers to himself as the "Son of Hope."