David Berkowitz, commonly known as the Son of Sam and the.44 Caliber Murderer was a serial killer who committed eight shootings starting on July 29, 1976, in New York City. He was born Richard David Falco on June 1, 1953, and later changed his name.
Berkowitz was an American military member and grew up in New York City. But by July 1977, he had killed six people and injured seven others with a .44 Special caliber Bulldog revolver, terrifying New Yorkers and gaining international renown.
While leaving notes that made fun of the police and threatened other crimes, which were widely reported by the press, Berkowitz managed to avoid the largest police manhunt in the city’s history.
On August 10, 1977, Berkowitz was taken into custody and later charged with eight shootings. When he first confessed to them all, he said he had been following the commands of a demon who had taken the guise of his neighbor, Sam’s, dog.
He was given six consecutive life terms in state prison with the chance of release after 25 years after being determined to be mentally fit to stand trial and plead guilty to second-degree murder.
Later, he acknowledged that the tale of the dog and the devil was a fabrication. As a result of additional police inquiries, Berkowitz was also connected to numerous unsolved arson cases in the city.
Berkowitz was given celebrity status due to the case’s extensive media coverage, which many observers noticed that he appeared to relish it. In response, the New York State Legislature passed new legislation, also referred to as “Son of Sam laws,” that were intended to prevent criminals from monetarily benefiting from the attention their crimes generated.
Despite numerous judicial challenges, the statutes have survived in New York State, and comparable laws have been passed in a number of other states.
In the middle of the 1990s, Berkowitz—who was then claiming to be an evangelical Christian who had been converted—amended his confession to say that he had been a part of a violent Satanic cult that had planned the murders as ritual killing.
In 1996, a fresh inquiry into the killings was launched, but it was put on hold indefinitely after yielding no results.
Early Years of the Son of Sam
On June 1, 1953, in Brooklyn, New York, David Berkowitz was born as Richard David Falco. His biological mother, Elizabeth “Betty” Broder, abandoned the boy shortly after his birth.
Three years prior, Broder began dating Joseph Klineman, a married man who would later become Richard’s biological father. Although she didn’t explain why she gave Richard away, several authors have speculated that Klineman threatened to leave her if she kept the child and used his name.
Broder, who worked as a waitress, was from a poor Jewish family and had grown up in poverty. She had married Tony Falco, an Italian American, in 1936 before she met Klineman. Falco left her for another woman less than four years into their marriage.
The Bronx couple Pearl and Nathan Berkowitz took in the infant Richard. The middle-aged, childless Jewish American couple worked as hardware store salespeople and were of moderate means. They raised young David Richard Berkowitz as their sole kid, reversing the sequence of the boy’s first and middle names and giving him their own surname.
According to the journalist John Vincent Sanders, Berkowitz’s upbringing was “quite disturbed.” Despite being intelligent and above average, he quickly lost interest in school and became fascinated with petty theft and setting fires.
Berkowitz was described as demanding, spoiled, and bullied by neighbors and family members. Due to his disobedience, his adoptive parents sought the advice of at least one psychotherapist. However, his misdeeds never led to a court intervention or a severe mention in his academic records.
When Berkowitz was fourteen years old, his adoptive mother died of breast cancer. Later in life, his relationship with his adoptive parents became tense, partly because he didn’t like his adoptive father’s second wife.
Berkowitz resided with his father in a four-and-a-half-room apartment at 170 Dreiser Loop in Co-op City from 1967 to 1971 while he attended Christopher Columbus High School (graduating in 1971) and college.
At 17, Berkowitz enlisted in the American Army and served at Fort Knox in the United States and South Korea with an infantry division. Following an honorable discharge, he found his mother, Betty, in June 1974.
She revealed his birth information after a few visits. Berkowitz was deeply troubled by the revelation, and the abundance of reluctant parent figures especially upset him.
According to forensic anthropologist Elliott Leyton, Berkowitz’s discovery of his birth information was his “major crisis” in life and the realization that completely destroyed his sense of self-identity. Later, he lost touch with his birth mother, but for a while, he kept in touch with his half-sister, Roslyn.
Berkowitz enrolled in the spring of 1975 and studied at Bronx Community College for one year. He started working as a driver for the Co-Op City Taxi Company in 1976. He thereafter held a number of unprofessional jobs until working as a letter sorter for the US Postal Service at the time of his imprisonment.
What Did the Son of Sam Do?
Midway into the 1970s, Berkowitz began committing violent crimes. He failed in his initial knife-based murder attempt, changed to a handgun, and started a protracted crime spree across the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens boroughs of New York, looking for young female victims.
According to reports, he was drawn to Caucasian ladies with long, dark hair that was curly. All except one of the crime locations featured two victims; infamously, he carried out some of his assaults when the women were in parked cars with their partners.
Berkowitz frequently visited the locations of his crimes, showing that he continued to enjoy his work.
The Stabbing of Michelle Forman in December 1975
On Christmas Eve 1975, when Berkowitz was 22 years old, he allegedly stabbed two ladies in Co-op City with a hunting knife. This was his first attack, he said. Police never named the first alleged victim, a Hispanic woman.
The second victim was Truman High School sophomore Michelle Forman, 15, who was stabbed six times on a bridge close to Dreiser Loop. Her injuries required a week in the hospital. Berkowitz moved to an apartment in Yonkers shortly after being cleared of any involvement in these crimes.
The Shooting of Valenti and Lauria in July 1976
The first shooting that Berkowitz is accused of committing occurred in the Bronx’s Pelham Bay district. On July 29, 1976, at around 1:10 a.m., Jody Valenti, a nurse, and Donna Lauria, an emergency medical technician, talked about their night at the New Rochelle discotheque Peachtree’s in Valenti’s double-parked Oldsmobile.
Lauria observed a man swiftly approaching as she unlocked the car door to get out. She was shocked and incensed when the man suddenly appeared, asking, “Now what is this…” The man crouched and pulled a revolver out of his paper bag.
He supported one elbow on his knee while firing while simultaneously aiming with both hands. One gunshot struck Lauria, instantly killing her. A third bullet missed both women and struck Valenti in the thigh. The shooter turned and hurriedly walked away.
Valenti said she did not recognize the murderer despite having survived her wound. She characterized him as a Caucasian man in his forties, around 5 feet 8 inches (1.73 m) tall, with a fair complexion, who weighed about 200 lb. (91 kg).
His short, dark, and curly hair was styled in mod fashion. Lauria’s father confirmed this account and claimed to have seen a man who resembled him seated in a nearby yellow compact car.
Police received supporting information from neighbors that a strange yellow compact automobile had been driving about the neighborhood for several hours before the incident.
Years later, in 1993, a jailed Berkowitz acknowledged to writer Maury Terry in an interview that he had shot Lauria and Valenti.
The Shooting of Denaro and Keenan in October 1976
A comparable shooting occurred in a quiet neighborhood of Flushing, Queens, next to Bowne Park, on October 23, 1976. Rosemary Keenan (18), a student at Queens College, and Carl Denaro (20), a security guard for Citibank, were in Keenan’s parked automobile when the windows were smashed suddenly.
In a later statement, Denaro claimed, “I felt the automobile explode.” Keenan sped off to get aid after rapidly starting the car. Denaro was bleeding from a gunshot wound to his head, but the terrified pair was unaware that someone had been firing at them.
The shattered glass didn’t really hurt Keenan, but Denaro eventually required a metal plate to replace a piece of his skull. Neither victim noticed the assailant.
Although the police identified the.44 caliber bullets in Keenan’s automobile as being there, the police believed it was doubtful that they could ever be connected to a specific firearm because of how badly damaged they were.
Police later theorized that Denaro’s shoulder-length hair made the shooter mistake him for a woman. An extensive inquiry was conducted because Keenan’s father worked as a detective for the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for 20 years.
However, similar to the Lauria-Valenti shooting, there didn’t appear to be any apparent cause for the shooting, and the investigation by the police didn’t go very far.
Although there were many similarities between the Denaro-Keenan shooting and the Lauria-Valenti case, authorities did not originally link the two crimes. This was partial because the shootings occurred in different boroughs and were investigated by police precincts.
The Shooting of Lomino and DeMasi shooting in November 1976
On November 27, 1976, just after midnight, high school girls Donna DeMasi (16) and Joanne Lomino (18) walked home from a movie. They were conversing on the porch of Lomino’s Floral Park house when a young man in military fatigues came over and asked them for directions.
He asked, “Can you teach me how to get…,” in a high-pitched voice, but then swiftly produced a handgun. He opened fire once on each of the victims before shooting the apartment building and fleeing as the wounded victims slumped to the ground.
A neighbor heard shots being fired and ran out of the apartment complex when he saw a blond man running past, holding a revolver in his left hand. Although DeMasi had been shot in the neck, the injury was not fatal.
After being struck in the back, Lomino was taken to the hospital and eventually became paralyzed.
The Shooting of Diel and Freund in January 1977
On January 30, 1977, at around 12:40 a.m., secretary Christine Freund, 26, and her fiancé, bartender John Diel, 30, were sitting in Diel’s car outside the Forest Hills LIRR station in Queens, getting ready to drive to a dance club after seeing the movie, Rocky.
The automobile was hit three times by gunfire. Diel fled for assistance in his car in a panic. Diel received only minor, superficial wounds, but Freund was shot twice and passed away at the hospital some hours later. Both victims were unaware of their attacker.
Police were the first to publicly acknowledge that the shooting of Freund-Diel resembled past crimes and that there may be a connection between the crimes. Each and every person had been struck. The shootings used bullets of caliber 44 and appeared to be directed toward young women with long, black hair.
The police were “leaning towards a nexus in all these cases,” according to NYPD sergeant Richard Conlon. Conlon reported that police were hunting for numerous suspects, not just one. That composite sketches of the black-haired Lauria-Valenti suspect and the blond Lomino-DeMasi suspect had been made public.
The Shooting of Voskerichian on March 8, 1977
On March 8, 1977, Virginia Voskerichian, a 19-year-old student at Columbia University, was heading home from class when an armed man approached her. She resided roughly a block away from the scene of Freund’s shooting.
In an attempt to defend herself, Voskerichian lifted her books in front of her assailant, but the makeshift barrier was breached. She was fatally wounded when the bullet struck her in the head.
Publicity and the press of Son of Sam
At a news conference on March 10, 1977, Mayor Abraham Beame and representatives of the NYPD stated the same.
The bullets that murdered Lauria and Voskerichian were fired from a .44 Bulldog revolver. The same .44 Bulldog was allegedly used in both shootings, according to official documents that were later made public, but the evidence was actually inconclusive.
Nearly every day, the local media covered the crimes. The New York Post and the Daily News, tabloid newspapers with vivid crime reporting and commentary, significantly boosted circulation.
Foreign media also covered many reports, including front-page articles in publications like the Soviet Izvestia, the Hebrew weekly Maariv, and the Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano.
The Shooting of Esau and Suriani in April 1977
Valentina Suriani (18), a Lehman College student and aspiring actress and model, and Alexander Esau (20), a tow truck driver, were in a car owned by Esau’s brother on the Hutchinson River Parkway service road in the Bronx at around three in the morning on April 17, 1977.
They were close to Suriani’s home and just a few blocks from the scene of the Lauria-Valenti shooting. Four bullets were fired, and an adjacent building’s resident reported it to the authorities. Esau was shot twice in the head, as was Suriani, who was seated in the driver’s seat.
Esau passed away in the hospital many hours after Suriani died there without being able to identify his assailant (s).
The same weapon that they had suspected in the other shootings was used in this incident, according to the police. Berkowitz acknowledged that he was responsible for the shooting in 1993.
The Letter Written by Son of Sam
Near the bodies of Esau and Suriani, police found a handwritten note that was addressed to NYPD Captain Joseph Borrelli and was primarily written in block capital letters with a few lowercase characters.
In this letter, Berkowitz initially introduced himself as the “Son of Sam.” The killer’s preferred weapon earned him the moniker “the.44 Caliber Killer” in the news previously. The letter was first kept secret from the general public, but after some of its contents were made public to the press, the old name was rapidly supplanted by “Son of Sam.”
The letter highlighted the killer’s will to carry out his mission and mocked authorities for their vain attempts to apprehend him. The entire letter was misspelled, but it nevertheless read as follows:
You labeling me a woman [sic] hater has badly hurt me. Not me. However, I’m a monster. “Son of Sam” is who I am. I’m a bit of a “brat.” Father Sam becomes abrasive when he is intoxicated. He abuses his relatives.
He occasionally ties me to THE HOUSE’S BACKYARD. Sometimes he keeps me locked in the garage. Sam enjoys consuming blood. “Go out and kill,” father Sam orders. Resting area behind our home. Primarily young, raped, killed, and had their blood drained; now only bones. Papa Sam also locks me in the attic.
Since I cannot go, I sit in the attic window and observe the outside world. I experience alienation. I’m designed to kill; I’m on a different wavelength from everyone else. But you have to KILL me in order to stop me. Officers in the police: SHOOT TO KILL OR ELSE SHOOT ME FIRST.
DO NOT OBSTRUCT ME, OR YOU WILL PERISH! Papa Sam is now a senior. He requires blood in order to maintain his youth. Too many heart attacks have plagued him. a surplus of heart attacks. “I hoot it hurts, sonny boy,” you say. I most certainly miss my lovely princess.
She is currently resting in our women’s residence, but I will see her shortly. I am Beelzebub, the Monster, and Chubby Behemoth. I adore hunting. roaming the streets in search of excellent meat or fair game.
The most beautiful of all are the women of Queens. They must be drinking the water I am. My existence revolves around the hunt. Papa needs blood. I don’t want to kill Mr. Borrelli, no sir, not anymore, but I have to “honor thy father.”
To the entire planet, I want to make love. I cherish people. I’m not supposed to be here. Bring me back to Yahoo. I’m in love with Queens residents. And I want to wish a happy Easter to everyone. I bid you farewell and good night and pray that God will richly bless you in this life and the one to come.
Police — I’ll be back, so let me haunt you with those words. I’M COMING BACK! To be taken literally as “bang, bang, bang, bang, bang” is awful!! Mr. Monster, your murder is mine.”
Police at the time assumed the letter’s author could be conversant with Scottish English. I hoot it hurts sonny boy was interpreted as the Scottish equivalent of “my heart, it hurts, sonny lad.”
The words “too many heart attacks,” the fact that Lauria was a medical technician and Valenti was enrolled in nursing school, and the fact that the gunman blamed a dark-haired nurse for his father’s passing also led the authorities to this theory.
The murderer’s peculiar demeanor toward the police and the media came under intense examination.
Many serial killers, according to psychologists, get satisfaction in avoiding their pursuers and spectators; for them, feeling in control of the media, law enforcement, and even entire populations is a kind of social power.
On May 26, 1977, police presented a psychiatric profile of their suspect following consultations with various psychologists. He was labeled as “neurotic,” perhaps suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, and thought demons had possessed him.
To Jimmy Breslin, A Letter
Jimmy Breslin, a columnist for the Daily News, received a handwritten letter on May 30, 1977, from someone claiming to be the .44 Caliber Killer. The letter was mailed in Englewood, New Jersey, early on the same day.
Blood and Family – Darkness and Death – Absolute Depravity – .44 were carefully hand-printed in four exactly centered lines on the back of the envelope. The message within said:
“Hello from the dog poop, vomit, stale wine, pee, and blood-filled gutters of New York City. Hello from New York City’s sewers, which eat up these delights after the sweeper trucks wash them away.
Hello from the ants that live in the crevices in the pavements of New York City and eat the dried blood of the dead that has settled into the cracks. J.B., I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your concern about those recent horrific events. 44 murders.
I also want to let you know that I read your column daily and find it incredibly educational. Jim, tell me what you have planned on July 29. I don’t care about publicity, so you can disregard me if you want. However, you must remember Donna Lauria and not allow the public to forget about her.
She was a very kind woman, but Sam is a bloodthirsty boy who won’t let me stop killing until he has had enough. Don’t assume I went to sleep because you haven’t heard from me in a while, Mr. Breslin. Instead, I’m still here.
Like a ghost prowling the dark. Always on the go, never stopping to rest, and eager to win Sam over. I adore what I do. The gap has now been filled. Maybe one day we’ll actually meet, or maybe I’ll get shot by the police for smoking. 38’s.
Whatever the case, if I have the good fortune to meet you, I’ll tell you everything there is to know about Sam and introduce you to him. The horrible Sam is his name. I’ll bid you farewell and hope to see you at your subsequent employment despite not knowing what the future holds.
Or perhaps I should say that you will witness my work in the upcoming job? Keep in mind, Ms. Lauria. I’m grateful. “Sam’s creation” was made from their blood and the trash. 44 Some names to get you started are listed below.
Send these to the inspector so that N.C.I.C. can use them: THE TWENTY-TWO DISCIPLES OF HELL, THE DUKE OF DEATH, THE WICKED KING WICKER, AND JOHN “WHEATIES – a rapist and suffocation of young girls.
PS: Please let the detectives who are investigating the murder know to stay.
P.S.: JB, I wish all the detectives working on the case the best of luck, so please let them know. “Knock on coffins, keep ’em digging, drive on, think positively, get off your butts, etc.” If I can get the money, I’ll make a guarantee to buy each of the men investigating the case a new pair of shoes upon my capture.
The Son of Sam.”
There was a logo or sketch that merged various symbols underneath the “Son of Sam” text. Breslin called the police, who believed that the letter was most likely written by someone who knew about the shootings.
Police believed that the Breslin letter may have been produced in an art studio or other similar professional setting by someone with knowledge of printing, calligraphy, or graphic design. This is because the Breslin letter needed to be more sophisticated in its wording and presentation, especially compared to the sloppily written first letter.
The peculiar writing led the authorities to believe that the murderer was a comic book letterer, and they enquired as to whether DC Comics employees were familiar with the lettering. Police scheduled a private showing of the 1973 horror film The Wicker Man due to the “Wicked King Wicker” remark.
After negotiating with authorities to suppress some of the letter’s content, The Daily News published the letter a week later. Breslin pleaded with the murderer to turn himself in.
More than 1.1 million copies of the paper were sold that day, making it the Daily News’s best-selling issue, thanks to the dramatic piece.
Based on references in the parts of the letter that were made public, the police got thousands of tips; all fruitless tips. Due to the fact that all of the shooting victims up to this point had long, black hair, many women in New York City got short haircuts or dyed their hair bright colors, and beauty supply companies struggled to keep up with the demand for wigs.
The Shooting of Placido and Lupo shooting in June 1977
On June 26, 1977, a mechanic’s assistant named Salvatore Lupo and a recent high school graduate named Judy Placido were sitting in Lupo’s parked car when three bullets rang out, striking the car. They had just left the Elephas discotheque in Bayside, Queens.
Placido was shot in the right temple, shoulder, and back of the neck, while Lupo was hit in the right forearm; both victims lived through their wounds. Just prior to the shooting, according to Lupo’s account to the police, they had been talking about the Son of Sam case.
Lupo and Placido hadn’t seen their attacker, but two witnesses saw a tall, dark-haired man running away in a leisure suit; one of them even saw him get into a car and give a partial license plate number.
The Shooting of Moskowitz and Violante in July 1977
Police set up a significant dragnet that focused on former hunting sites in Queens and the Bronx as the first anniversary of the initial murder approached. But the third and last .44 shootings took place in Brooklyn.
Stacy Moskowitz, a secretary, and apparel salesman Robert Violante, both 20, were on their first date that morning as they sat in Violante’s automobile that was parked beneath a streetlight close to a local park in Bath Beach.
A man came within three feet (90 cm) of the passenger side of the car while they were kissing, he fired four shots, hitting both victims in the head before running into the park. Violante lost his left eye, and Moskowitz, Berkowitz’s only other victim who was blonde, passed away from her wounds.
Detective John Falotico was woken at his residence that evening and instructed to report to the Coney Island station house of the 60th Precinct’s 10th Homicide Division.
He had two weeks to work on the Moskowitz and Violante case as a regular murder probe; if he couldn’t crack it in that time, he was supposed to turn it over to the Son of Sam task team.
How Was Son of Sam Discovered
At the scene of the Moskowitz-Violante shooting, local homeowner Cacilia Davis was walking her dog when she noticed patrol officer Michael Cataneo issuing a ticket to a vehicle that was parked close to a fire hydrant.
A short while after the traffic cops had left, a young man approached her from behind the car and appeared to be taking an interest in her. Davis was alarmed because he held a “dark item” in his hand.
When she arrived at her house, she heard gunfire from the street behind her. Davis kept quiet about this incident for four days before speaking with the police, who thoroughly examined each vehicle that had been given a citation in the vicinity that evening.
One of the vehicles they looked at was Berkowitz’s 1970 yellow Ford Galaxie.
James Justis, an NYPD detective, called the Yonkers Police Department on August 9, 1977, to request an appointment for Berkowitz.
Wheat Carr, the sister of John and Michael Carr and the daughter of Sam Carr, a purported member of Berkowitz’s cult, was the Yonkers police dispatcher who initially answered Justis’ call. Wheat said, “Let me tell you about him,” when Justis mentioned Berkowitz to her.
“I am acquainted with him. He resides directly behind me.” Additionally, she told Justis that Harvey, her father Sam’s black Labrador Retriever, had been shot and injured by Berkowitz. Justis immediately recognized Berkowitz as their suspect after hearing “Sam.”
Son of Sam is Caught!
Justis requested assistance from the Yonkers police in locating Berkowitz. Police in Yonkers, according to Sergeant Mike Novotny, had their own suspicions about Berkowitz in relation to bizarre incidents that occurred there and were mentioned in one of the Son of Sam letters.
Yonkers investigators informed even Justis that Berkowitz might be the Son of Sam.
The arrest of the Son of Sam
Police looked into Berkowitz’s car, parked outside his Yonkers apartment complex at 35 Pine Street, the following day, on August 10, 1977. When they searched the vehicle after spotting a gun in the backseat, they discovered maps of the crime places, a duffel bag with ammo, and a letter of a threat sent to Inspector Timothy Dowd of the Son of Sam task team.
Instead of risking a physical altercation in the building’s tiny corridor, police chose to wait for Berkowitz to leave the unit. They also delayed getting a search warrant for the flat out of concern that their search might be legally contested.
Although carrying a firearm was allowed in New York State and didn’t call for special permission, the initial search of the car was centered on the handgun that was seen in the back seat. Around 10:00 p.m., Berkowitz left the apartment complex and got into his car without a warrant.
While Detective Sgt. William Gardella stood on the passenger side of the vehicle and pointed his revolver at Berkowitz’s temple, Detective John Falotico stood on the driver’s side.
Next to Berkowitz in the automobile, a paper bag was discovered that contained a.44 caliber Bulldog handgun recognized in ballistics tests. After that, Berkowitz said bluntly, “Well, you got me.”
Falotico recalled the man’s broad, puzzling smile, as stated by Lawrence D. Klausner in Son of Sam (1981):
Detective Falotico asked the subject, “Now that I have you, who have I got?”
The detective remembered that the man’s voice was gentle, almost beautiful, and he said, “You know.”
“No, I do not. You inform me.”
“I’m Sam,” the man muttered as he turned his head.
“Are you Sam? Who’s Sam?”
“I’m Sam. David Berkowitz.”
According to a different version, Berkowitz’s first remarks were reported, “I guess you got me. Why did it take you so long to do it?” The NYPD officially acknowledged Falotico as the officer who apprehended the Son of Sam.
When police searched Berkowitz’s apartment, the walls were covered in Satanic graffiti and messy. Additionally, they discovered diaries Berkowitz had been keeping since he was 21 years old.
In three completely full stenographer’s notebooks, Berkowitz methodically recorded the hundreds of arsons he claimed to have started throughout New York City. According to some reports, this figure may exceed 1,400.
The apartment building’s address was changed from 35 Pine Street to 42 Pine Street shortly after Berkowitz’s arrest in an effort to shed its reputation.
Berkowitz was briefly detained in a Yonkers police station before being taken straight to the Son of Sam task force’s 60th Precinct on Coney Island. Mayor Beame showed up to speak with the suspect at around 1:00 a.m.
“The residents of the City of New York can rest easy because the police have apprehended a man whom they believe to be the Son of Sam,” he told the media after a brief and silent exchange.
Son of Sam Confesses to His Crimes
In the early hours of August 11, 1977, Berkowitz was questioned for roughly 30 minutes. He instantly admitted to the shootings and said he would be willing to plead guilty. John Keenan, who took the confession, oversaw the inquiry.
During interrogation, Berkowitz alleged that his neighbor’s dog was one of the causes of his murder, claiming that the dog was driven to bloodlust by attractive young women.
He said that Sam Carr, his former neighbor, was the “Sam” described in the first letter and that Harvey, Carr’s black Labrador, was controlled by an old demon that gave Berkowitz unavoidable orders to kill people.
A few weeks after being apprehended, Berkowitz was permitted to speak with the media. He referenced his initial account of demonic possession in a letter to the New York Post dated September 19, 1977.
Still, he ended it with a warning that some investigators have construed as an admission of criminal collaborators: “There are more Sons out there, God help the world.” However, Berkowitz claimed that his earlier accusations of demonic possession were a lie during a news appearance in February 1979.
In a series of conversations with his personal court-appointed psychiatrist David Abrahamsen, Berkowitz eventually said that he had long considered murder as a way to exact revenge on a society that he believed had rejected and injured him.
Where is Son of Sam Now?
It was ruled that Berkowitz could stand trial after three mental health evaluations. Despite this, Berkowitz was instructed by the defense team to plead not guilty due to insanity, but he declined. On May 8, 1978, Berkowitz pleaded guilty to all of the shootings and maintained his composure.
At his sentencing, Berkowitz attempted to leap out of the seventh-floor courtroom window two weeks later, causing a scene. He chanted again after being restrained, “I’d kill Stacy [his previous victim] again because she was a whore,” he yelled. “I’d murder them all once more!”
Prior to sentencing, the court-mandated another psychiatric evaluation. In the review, Berkowitz sketched a picture of a prisoner who was encircled by many walls and stated, “I’m in bad shape. Not at all well “. However, Berkowitz was once more determined to be competent to stand trial.
On June 12, 1978, Berkowitz was given a sentence of 25 years to life in prison, to be served consecutively, for each murder. He was sentenced to serve time in upstate New York’s supermax prison, Attica Correctional Facility. Despite the prosecution’s concerns, Berkowitz was eligible for release in 25 years under the conditions of his guilty plea.
When Berkowitz was first detained following his arrest, the personnel at Kings County Hospital noted that he appeared to be profoundly upset by his new surroundings.
He was transferred to Sing Sing jail for psychological and physical evaluations the day following his sentencing and subsequently to the upstate Clinton Correctional Facility. Before being transferred to the prison in Attica, he spent two additional months in the Marcy-based Central New York Psychiatric Center.
Before being transferred (about 1990) to the Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, where he spent many years, Berkowitz served roughly ten years at Attica. Later, he was moved to Ulster County’s Shawangunk Correctional Facility. The Attica Correctional Facility was a “horror,” according to Berkowitz.
The left side of Berkowitz’s neck was cut from front to back during an attempt on his life in 1979, leaving a wound that required more than fifty stitches to repair. Berkowitz did not attempt to identify his attacker, saying only that he appreciated the assault because it gave him a sense of justice or, in his words, “the penalty I deserve.”
Why Did the Son of Sam Convert to Christianity?
In prison, Berkowitz converted to evangelical Christianity in 1987. He claims that reading Psalm 34:6 from a Bible that a fellow prisoner had given him was what finally led to his conversion. He claims that from now on, he should be referred to as the “Son of Hope” rather than the “Son of Sam.”
Malachi Martin, an exorcist, was offered to help Berkowitz write an autobiography soon after he was imprisoned, but the offer was rejected. Later on, with the help of other evangelicals, Berkowitz wrote his memoirs.
Son of Hope: The Prison Journals of David Berkowitz, a book including a more in-depth work based on his assertions, was published in 2006. No royalties or profits from the sales of Berkowitz’s works are given to him. He has continued to produce articles for evangelistic websites about faith and repentance.
Since Berkowitz is not permitted access to a computer, a church group maintains a website on his behalf. Berkowitz continues to be active in prison ministry and routinely provides inmates who need counseling. He continued his schooling while residing in the Sullivan facility and earned an honors degree from Sullivan Community College.
Hearings For Parole for Son of Sam
State law requires Berkowitz to have a parole hearing every two years, but he has continuously declined to petition to be released, occasionally skipping the meetings altogether. In 2002, prior to his first parole hearing, Berkowitz wrote to New York Governor George Pataki and demanded that it be postponed.
He noted: “In all honesty, I think I should spend the rest of my life behind bars. I’ve long since accepted my predicament and my penalty with God’s assistance.” The Sullivan facility’s officials turned down his demand.
While parole was “unrealistic,” Berkowitz said during his Shawangunk, New York hearing in 2016, “I feel I am no risk, whatsoever.” He continued, “I feel I have better myself behind the prison.” Mark Heller, his attorney, claimed that Berkowitz was regarded as a “model prisoner” by the staff.
Trustees rejected parole. Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, his most recent parole hearing, which was set for May 2020, has been postponed indefinitely.
Does Son of Sam Have Remorse?
In a letter to the shooter during the D.C. sniper assaults in 2002, Berkowitz urged him to “stop hurting innocent people.” After Rita Cosby wrote to him asking for his opinion on the sniper attacks, he responded in a three-page letter to her.
In June 2005, Berkowitz filed a lawsuit against one of his former attorneys for stealing numerous letters, pictures, and other personal items. Hugo Harmatz, a lawyer from New Jersey, had previously defended Berkowitz in a legal battle to stop the National Enquirer from purchasing one of his letters.
Harmatz later self-published Dear David (2005), a compilation of correspondence and memorabilia he had acquired from Berkowitz during their meetings. According to Berkowitz, the lawyer must sign over all proceeds to the families of the deceased before the case may be dismissed.
Harmatz agreed to return the things that were in question and to contribute a portion of the proceeds from his book to the New York State Crime Victims Board as part of an out-of-court settlement between Berkowitz and Harmatz in October 2006.
Was Son of Sam in a Satanic Cult?
Berkowitz sent a book about witchcraft to North Dakota police in 1979. He had highlighted numerous sentences and made some marginal notes, one of which read: “Arlis Perry, Slain, Hunted, and Stalked. followed to Stanford University in California.”
The connection was to Arlis Perry, a North Dakota bride who was killed at Stanford on October 12, 1974, when she was 19 years old. Her passing and the infamous treatment of her body at a school chapel were both well-reported events.
Her hands were crossed across her chest when she was discovered face-up. The handle of an ice pick protruding from the back of her head had broken off and was missing.
Strangulation indications were also seen. According to the police, Perry was completely naked below the waist. She had an altar candle that was three feet long (one meter) placed in her vagina and another between her breasts.
Her legs were covered in a diamond-shaped arrangement of her jeans.
Berkowitz alluded to the Perry incident in subsequent letters, indicating that he had firsthand knowledge of its specifics from the assailant. After speaking with him, local police detectives concluded in 2004 that he had “nothing of value to give.” In 2018, the Perry case was resolved.
Berkowitz started claiming that he had joined a Satanic group in the spring of 1975 after being sent to Sullivan prison. He told the press that he had only murdered Lauria, Esau, and Suriani out of the Son of Sam victims in 1993.
Berkowitz said that additional shooters were engaged and that he only used the gun in the first attack (against Laurian and Valenti) and the sixth one (Esau and Suriani). He said that he and several other cult members planned each attack, provided early victim surveillance, and served as lookouts and drivers at the crime scenes.
According to Berkowitz, revealing the identities of the majority of his cohorts would put his family in danger.
Female cult member among Berkowitz’s alleged nameless accomplices, he claimed she fired the gun at Denaro and Keenan; Berkowitz credited their survival to the accused accomplice’s lack of experience with a.44 Bulldog’s strong recoil.
He claimed that “at least five” cult members were present at the scene of the Freund-Diel shooting, but the real gunman was a well-known cult acquaintance who had traveled to New York from outside the city for an unknown reason.
He only gave his moniker, “Manson II,” to identify this cult member. The shooter in the Moskowitz-Violante case, a male cult member who had traveled from North Dakota for the event without explanation, was another unknown individual.
Berkowitz identified two of the cult members as John and Michael Carr. The two guys, who resided on neighboring Warburton Avenue, were the sons of dog-owner Sam Carr. John Carr, who was slain in a shooting that was determined to be a suicide in North Dakota in 1978, and Michael Carr, who died in a fatal car accident in 1979, had both been “Sons of Sam” for a very long time.
John, according to Berkowitz, was responsible for the DeMasi-Lomino shooting, and a Yonkers police officer who was apparently a cult member was also involved. He asserted that Lupo and Placido were the targets of Michael’s gunfire.
Michael was a committed adherent of the Church of Scientology, according to author Maurice Terry; at the time of Berkowitz’s detention, he was in possession of a list of phone numbers, among them the one for the Fort Harrison Hotel, the organization’s administrative center in Clearwater, Florida.
Did Son of Sam Act Alone?
Journalist John Hockenberry claimed that many officials questioned the single-shooter explanation even in the absence of the Satanic cult charges, writing,
What most people don’t realize about the Son of Sam case is that not everyone accepted the notion that Berkowitz acted alone from the start.
Both police investigator Mike Novotny and John Santucci, the district attorney for Queens at the time of the killings, indicated their opinion that Berkowitz had accomplices.
According to NYPD detective Richard Johnson, who participated in the initial inquiry, unsolved contradictions in witness and survivor testimony show Berkowitz did not act alone:
“Why does the perpetrator have multiple heights, forms, and sizes, three suspect autos, and five different suspect descriptions? There was someone else there.”
Other others from the time, including Donna Lauria’s father, expressed support for the Satanic cult notion. Carl Denaro, a Berkowitz survivor, asserted that “more than one individual was involved,” but he acknowledged he could not demonstrate the cult idea.
His judgment that Berkowitz’s statement to the police was “completely untrue” supports his finding.
In contrast to Berkowitz, who claimed to police he passed within a few feet of Diel and Freund just before they got in the car, Diel remembered physically bumping into Berkowitz as he and Freund left the Wine Gallery restaurant and walked to his car, which is where the shooting took place.
Diel claims that he and Freund passed no one on the way to the car, and Berkowitz could not have snuck up on them in the brief time between their interaction outside the restaurant and the shooting at the car. As a result, Diel believes that someone other than Berkowitz shot him.
In 1979, journalist Maury Terry published a number of investigative articles for Gannett newspapers that disputed the official conclusion that the Son of Sam case included a lone gunman. Terry’s pieces, which the police at the time vehemently denied, were extensively read and discussed and ultimately collected in a book.
The Yonkers police revived the Son of Sam investigation in 1996, largely motivated by these accusations of accomplices and Satanic cult activities, but no additional charges were brought. The probe was eventually suspended but is still ongoing due to a lack of findings.
Terry’s writing inspired the Netflix series The Sons of Sam: A Descent into Darkness, which premiered in 2021.
Berkowitz persisted in making and adding to his allegations of demonic possession while in prison. In a set of nine films he released in 2015, he said that the “voice” he perceived was Samhain, a druid devil who is the real source of the name “Son of Sam.”
He continued by adding that it was never a dog and that the media made up that information.
Many people rejected Berkowitz’s later statements made by skeptics. Breslin denied his claim that he had accomplices in a Satanic cult, saying that “David Berkowitz remembered every detail when they spoke to him later that night. He only has a 100 percent recall rate.
“There is nothing else to look at because he is the one.” John E. Douglas, a veteran FBI profiler who spent hours questioning Berkowitz and concluded that he was an “introverted loner, not capable of being involved in group activities,” was another skeptic.
In the documentary Against the Law about the Son of Sam case, NYPD psychologist Dr. Harvey Schlossberg expressed his opinion that Berkowitz made up the Satanic cult accusations to exonerate himself from the killings. Elliott Leyton said that “recent media attempts to abridge—or even deny—guilt Berkowitz’s have lacked all credibility” in his book Hunting Humans (2001).
David Berkowitz Inspired Movies and Music
The appellation “Son of Sam” is still generally recognized as belonging to a prominent serial killer decades after his arrest. Numerous examples have sustained this notoriety in mainstream culture, and Berkowitz himself still apologizes on Christian websites.
Prior to her own passing in 2006, Neysa Moskowitz, who had previously made no secret of her animosity towards Berkowitz, wrote him a letter in which she expressed her repentance for the loss of her daughter, Stacy.
All of Moskowitz’s kids died while they were very little (Jody, aged 9, in a possible suicide in 1968; Stacy; and Ricky, aged 37, in 1999 of scleroderma). The New York Post said her daughter’s killer was the only survivor.
The New York State Legislature swiftly passed a new law that forbade convicted criminals (and their relatives) from making any financial profit from books, movies, or other ventures related to the stories of their crimes after widespread rumors about publishers offering Berkowitz large sums of money for his story.
The so-called “Son of Sam legislation” was overturned by the United States Supreme Court in the 1991 case of Simon & Schuster, Inc. v. Crime Victims Board for violating the First Amendment’s right to free speech.
However, New York issued a constitutionally altered version of the law the next year. Since then, federally and in 41 states, similar laws have been passed.
Less than a year after Berkowitz’s arrest, Breslin and author Dick Schaap produced the popular culture work “.44,” a novelized version of the killings. The heavily fictitious story follows the activities of “Bernard Rosenfeld,” a character with roots in Berkowitz.
Son of Sam was the title given to the novel outside of North America.
Meg Medina’s 2016 young adult book Burn Baby Burn, which is set in 1977 in New York, shows how people’s daily lives were impacted by their fear of becoming a Son of Sam victim. He is also mentioned in “High Heat,” a short novella from Lee Child’s Jack Reacher Series (2013).
Son of Sam Inspired TV and movie
In 1999, the Spike Lee thriller Summer of Sam came out, and actor Michael Badalucco played Berkowitz. In the movie, Berkowitz plays a mostly symbolic role as tensions rise in a Bronx neighborhood during the shootings. He serves as “primarily a berserk metaphor for Lee’s view of the seventies as a period of amoral excess,” according to the script’s description of this minor character. According to reports, Berkowitz was troubled by Lee’s film’s alleged use of “the ugliness of the past.”
Ulli Lommel’s Son of Sam (2008; direct-to-video) and the CBS television film Out of the Darkness feature Berkowitz in their respective films. The Bronx Is Burning is a miniseries, including a crucial small part for the character of Son of Sam (2007).
Oliver Cooper portrayed him in the television show Mindhunter (2019). The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness, a Netflix documentary series that revisits the Satanic cult theory and Maury Terry’s case-related research, was released in 2021.
In the Seinfeld episode “The Diplomat’s Club,” Kramer uses David Berkowitz’s mailbag, which belongs to Newman, as security for a wager on flight arrival timings.
Kramer suggests “Son of Dad” as a moniker for a new serial murderer named The Lopper in an episode of Seinfeld called “The Frogger,” alluding to Berkowitz’s moniker “Son of Sam.”
Son of Sam, a card game designed specifically for the television program, is played by numerous individuals in the Only Murders in the Building episode “The Tell.”
Similar to the party game Mafia, players in this game take on the roles of assassins—in this case, the Son of Sam—who eliminate other players over the course of several rounds. The other players each have a chance to attempt and determine who is the Son of Sam each round.
Son of Sam Inspired Music
Unintentionally, Son of Sam has been linked to Talking Heads’ contemporaneous song “Psycho Killer” (1977). Elliott Smith has also claimed that his song “Son of Sam” is not actually about Berkowitz, a claim some have found difficult to accept given the song’s lyrics.
More directly influenced works by the events include:
The Dead Boys’ “Son of Sam” from 1978, Chain Gang’s “Son of Sam,” XTC’s “Are You Receiving Me?” from 1978, the Beastie Boys’ “Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun” from 1989, and Krizz Kaliko’s 2013 album “Son of Sam” are all examples.
The album image for Lucki’s 2016 EP Son of Sam shows a page from the first Son of Sam letter.
From his 1978 album Hermit of Mink Hollow, Todd Rundgren’s song “Bag Lady” refers to the Son of Sam. On his 1980 album Glass Houses, Billy Joel wrote the song “Close to the Borderline,” the first lyric that alluded to these incidents.
While performing with Marilyn Manson in the 1990s, guitarist Scott Putesky went by the stage name “Daisy Berkowitz,” The group’s song “Son of Man” prominently features Berkowitz. In 2000, a number of additional rock artists formed Son of Sam, a complete group.
RIP Victims of Son of Sam.
Thank you for reading.
Next, read about the Tragic Massacre of the Clutter Family and the Story of How Jonathan Lovette was Abducted and Mutilated by Aliens!
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