David to him. Although well-intentioned on the

Richard Berkowitz, also known as The Son of Sam, is an American serial killer
who terrorized New York City in the mid-1970’s with a murder spree that claimed
the lives of six people, and injured eight. 
Arrested in 1977, he is now known as one of the most notorious serial
killers New York City has ever seen.

Berkowitz’s parents, Elizabeth
Broder and Tony Falco, were impoverished Jewish couple living in New York City.  Tony unfortunately left Elizabeth and their
daughter Roslyn, several years into their marriage for another woman, and
Elizabeth began having an affair with Joseph Klineman.  Klineman was a married man with three
children, so when Elizabeth told him she was pregnant, he threatened to leave
her unless she put the child up for adoption. 
Berkowitz was born Richard David Falco on June 1, 1953.  When he was 3 days old, he was adopted by
Pearl and Nathan Berkowitz, and renamed David Richard Berkowitz.  Pearl and Nathan doted on their only child,
and tried to create a nice life for him, despite making a modest income through
a hardware store in the Bronx.

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When he was very young, his parents
told him at the advice of the social services worker, that Berkowitz’s
biological mother had died giving birth to him. 
Although well-intentioned on the part of his parents, Berkowitz later
harbored a great amount of guilt and anger on the subject.  RESEARCH ON ADOPTION.  Unfortunately, Berkowitz’s mother died of
breast cancer when he was fourteen, which resulted in a bout of depression, as
well as frustrations associated with his new step-mother. RESEARCH ON MATERNAL

In an attempt to gain some distance
from his disrupted family life, Berkowitz joined the United States Army, where
he served in South Korea as an expert marksman. 
Following four years of service and an honorable discharge in 1974,
Berkowitz attempted to locate his birth mother. 
Upon locating her, the two met after nearly 21 years of separation in
May of 1975.  Their meeting did not meet
Berkowitz’s high expectations, and he left feeling disappointed and upset.  His mother had told him that he was a product
of an affair, and was essentially put up for adoption because he was unwanted
by his father, and was essentially an accident. 
So, at a time when he should have been replacing those feelings of guilt
for supposedly being the reason for his mother’s death, those feelings were
replaced with anger.  This event could
have caused a great internal crisis for Berkowitz, as he could have been
feeling dejected by his birth father, abandoned by his birth mother, mourning
over the loss of his adopted mother, and replaced in his adopted father’s eyes
by his new wife.  Overall, Berkowitz
could have been experiencing a lack of a sense of place, and a loss of his
skewed sense of identity.  Berkowitz
attempted to maintain a relationship with his birth mother, as well as his
half-sister Roslyn, but he eventually found it to be overwhelming and cut off

            On Christmas Eve in 1975, about
seven months after first meeting his mother, Berkowitz attempted to kill two
women, Michelle Forman and another who was never identified, by stabbing them
with a hunting knife; although wounded, both women survived.  Realizing that the weapon he chose was
ineffective at achieving the goal of murder, he switched to using a .44 caliber
Bulldog revolver.  Berkowitz moved from
his house in New Rochelle to an apartment in Yonkers, next door to his
neighbor, Sam Carr.  The following year,
on July 29, 1976, Berkowitz shot Donna Lauria and Jody Valenti in their car
parked in the Bronx.  Lauria was killed
instantly, and Valenti survived a bullet wound in her thigh.  Valenti recalled that she did not know the
shooter, but gave the police a description. 
Later that year, on October 23, 1976, Berkowitz shot Carl Denaro and
Rosemary Keenan as they sat in their parked car in Flushing, Queens.  Although Denaro was shot in the head, he
survived and now has a metal plate in his skull.  Keenan escaped with only superficial
injuries.  The bullet inside Denaro’s
head was too damaged to analyze and successfully link to a specific weapon.  That, plus the different jurisdictions in
which the first two shootings occurred, resulted in the police failing to
connect the two incidents.

            The following month on November 27,
1976, Donna DeMasi and Joanne Lomino were shot in Bellerose, Queens on their
front porch.  DeMasi was only wounded,
and Lomino was shot in the back which eventually rendered her paralyzed from
the waist down.  Two months later on
January 30, 1977, Christine Freund and John Diel were shot in their car in
Queens.  Although Diel survived, Freund
died later in the hospital.  It was in
this case that the police began to see a pattern emerging, and a possible link
to other cases.

            A few months later on March 8, 1977,
Virginia Voskerichian was shot walking home from school, a block away from
where Christine Freund was killed. 
Virginia attempted to shield herself wither books, but the bullet passed
through them and struck her in the head, which killed her instantly.  Two days later, the NYPD announced that the
same .44 caliber Bulldog revolver had fired the shots that killed Lauria and Voskerichian,
and that they suspected that the same gun had been used in other
shootings.  By this point, the shootings
were all over the news and papers, and fear was spreading throughout the city.

            One month later, on April 17, 1977,
Berkowitz shot Alexander Esau and Valentina Suriani in their parked car in the
Bronx, only a few blocks away from where Lauria and Calenti were shot.  Sadly, Suriani died in the car, and Esau died
in the hospital.  In this instance,
Berkowitz let a letter addressed to NYPD Captain Joseph Borrelli.  In this letter, written in uppercase letters,
Berkowitz named himself the “Son of Sam” for the first time.  In summary, the letter addressed the police’s
inability to catch him, further taunts toward the police and their efforts, as
well as his motivation from someone called Sam to kill all the victims, and
many more in the future.  Numerous
psychologists and journalist speculated that numerous serial killers leave
notes to the police at the scenes of their crimes, and retain some
gratification in the knowledge that they “outsmarted” them or eluded their
grasp.  Following the analysis of this
note, psychiatrists released a psychological profile of the suspect in which he
was described as neurotic, and possible a paranoid schizophrenic, as well as
suffering from demonic possession.

A month later on May 30, 1977, Jimmy
Breslin, a writer for the Daily News,
received a similar handwritten note.  In
the note, the author mentioned Lauria, Captain Borrelli, and showed his support
for the officers working the case by “wishing them luck.”  The Daily
News then published an article urging the killer to surrender to the

Again, a month later, on June 26,
1977, Berkowitz shot Sal Lupo and Judy Placido as they sat in their parked car
in Queens.  Both people were injured, but
not killed.  Then, on July 31, 1977, two
days after the one-year anniversary of the first shooting, Stacy Moskowitz and
Robert Violante were shot in their parked car in Bath Beach.  Moskowitz sadly died later in the hospital,
and Violante lost vision in one eye, and partial vision in the other.  This crime produced the most witnesses, one
of which recalled a patrol officer ticketing cars near the scene.  Berkowitz’s yellow Ford Galaxie was one of
the cars in the area that was ticketed, and he was investigated as a
suspect.  During their investigation, the
police noticed that Sam Carr was Berkowitz’s neighbor.  In fact, Carr had several complaints listed
against Berkowitz for harassment, and suspicion of killing his dog, Harvey.  When Berkowitz initially moved to Yonkers, it
was in an attempt to get away from the overly noisy dogs near his previous
house in New Rochelle.  Much to his
misfortune, Sam Carr’s dog was much the same as those he tried to escape from,
and Berkowitz had sent numerous letters to Carr asking him to do something
about his dog, or he would take action.

            On August 10, 1977, the police
located Berkowitz’s car outside his apartment in Yonkers, with incriminating
evidence inside.  This evidence included
things like a rifle, a bag full of ammunition, maps of the crime scenes, and a
letter addressed to someone on the task force assigned to the case.  The police decided to wait for Berkowitz to
exit his apartment, since they did not have a warrant to do so.  Berkowitz eventually exited the apartment,
and got into his car, placed a brown paper bag with the .44 caliber Bulldog on
the passenger’s seat, and the NYPD detectives promptly surrounded the car.  According to reports, Berkowitz supposedly
said, “Well, you’ve got me,” to which the detective asked, “Who have I got?”
Berkowitz replied, “The Son of Sam.” 
Detective John Falotico was credited with his arrest.

            Following his arrest, Berkowitz was
interrogated for only thirty minutes, during which time he confessed to all of
the shootings, credited his neighbor’s dog for inspiring him to kill, as the
dog was possessed by a demon instructing Berkowitz to kill.  Due to this confession, Berkowitz was
examined by three different psychologists, and found competent to stand trial,
and subsequently plead guilty to the shootings. 
Berkowitz caused quite a scene at the sentencing hearing, when he got
into a screaming match with Stacy Moskowitz’s mother, and attempted to jump out
of the window in the courtroom.  The
judge sentenced Berkowitz to 25-years-to-life for each murder, served
consecutively at Attica Correctional Facility on June 12, 1978.  While in Attica, he was a victim of a brutal
knife attack, which left him with a large gash in his neck form the front to
back, which required upwards of fifty stiches to close.  Then, Berkowitz was moved to Sullivan
Correctional Facility, and then again to Shawangunk Correctional Facility where
he still is today. 

            This entire case is interesting for
numerous reasons.  Firstly, it is
notoriously remembered in the minds of New Yorkers, who recall widespread panic
covering the city at night.  Most women
even took it upon themselves to change their haircut and color, or even by a
wig, so as to increase the chances of being targeted by the Son of Sam.  In hindsight, it is easy to see that
Berkowitz did have a pattern of victims he targeted.  They all, apart from Virginia Voskerichian,
were attacked in pairs, and more often than not, involved a woman with long,
dark hair.  Additionally, the attacks
also often involved couples seated in a parked car at night, which could have
been Berkowitz’s way to approach them without being seen.  While in prison, Berkowitz told a fellow
inmate that he attacked women kissing in cars in order to prevent other
illegitimate children from being born to suffer the way he did. 

            Surprisingly, a year later,
Berkowitz announced that his confessions of being possessed by a demon were a
lie, and that he had committed these crimes of his own accord.  Then, to add more confusion to the pot,
Berkowitz later claimed that he had carried out only three of the murders of
the Son of Sam, and that the other killings were done by other members of a
satanic cult, that he had joined prior to his arrest.  Specifically, he named two cult members, John
and Michael Carr, who were sons of his neighbor, Sam Carr, but both sons had
recently died.  Years later, the case was
reopened due to speculation that Berkowitz had not acted alone in all of the
shootings, but the case remains suspended and unclosed to this day.

            Numerous factors influenced the grim
outcome of David Berkowitz, which might not have as great of an effect as they
did in combination with each other.  To
begin, Berkowitz was adopted.  Numerous
studies have shown that there really aren’t visible differences in the
development of children who are adopted versus those who are not (ARTICLE), so
this alone was not the only driving force behind his actions.  What made his adoption so influential in his
life is the fact that he was put up for adoption as a result of being an
accidental pregnancy of his mother and her lover, Joseph Klineman.  From the beginning, Berkowitz could have felt
that he was unwanted by both of his birth parents.  This should have balanced out with his
adoptive parents filling the void his life, but unfortunately his adoptive
mother passed away when he was only fourteen. 
As discussed earlier, maternal death can have _____ (ARTICLE).  He could have been left feeling abandoned by
both his mothers, which could have influenced is perception of women in
general, and impacted his motivation for killing.  To go further, there was really no mention of
any romantic relationships in Berkowitz’s life, which could have been a result
of his warped view of women from childhood, and also exacerbated his anger in
that he was not able to be successful in any form of relationship with any
woman.  Essentially, it is quite possible
that Berkowitz was feeling invisible and insignificant to the world and his
family, which could have prompted him to act in ways that would force people to
focus on him.  For example, following his
arrest, the police found diary entries noting the time and place of hundreds of
fires he started throughout New York City prior to his first murder.  FIRE STARTING ARTICLE.

            It is important to note that while
he has been in prison, Berkowitz has converted to Christianity, and has
expressed wishes to be called the Son of Hope, rather than the Son of Sam.  He has also not been involved in any violent
incidents, aside from the knife attack on him in Attica, and has been described
as a model prisoner.  He even helps to
counsel troubled inmates through the prison ministry, and has continued his
education and graduated with honors from Sullivan Community College.  After his arrest, the New York State
legislature enacted “Son of Sam laws” which prohibit any criminal from financially
benefitting from the publicity of their crimes, as numerous books and
biographies about David Berkowitz were written in response to his arrest.  Berkowitz has written his memoirs while in
prison, as well as a book titled Son of Hope:
The Prison Journals of David Berkowitz in 2006, for which he does not receive
profit from.


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