Mental illness can cause people to do insane things. On August 10, 1977, a 24-year-old postal employee named David Berkowitz was arrested and charged with being the “Son of Sam” serial killer who terrorized New York City for more than a year. He killed six young people and wounded seven others with a .44-caliber revolver. Serial killers have a specific type of target victim, and Berkowitz generally targeted attractive young women with long brown hair. The women in New York City were so frightened that hundreds of young women had their hair cut short and dyed blonde during the time “Son of Sam” terrorized the city. Thousands more women were too scared to even leave their homes at night.

August 10th finally brought his reign of terror to an end. After his arrest, Berkowitz claimed that demons and a black Labrador retriever owned by a neighbor named Sam had ordered him to commit the killings. These statements were the first signs that Berkowitz was a Paranoid Schizophrenic…a condition he was later diagnosed with. Mental illness is not an excuse for murder, but I suppose it is an explanation of sorts. David Berkowitz was born Richard David Falco on June 1, 1953, in Brooklyn, New York. His biological mother, Elizabeth “Betty” Broder, placed him for adoption within a few days. His biological father, Joseph Klineman was a married man with whom Broder had a three-year affair. ? The exact reason for Broder’s decision is unknown, but it has been speculated that Klineman threatened to leave her if she kept the baby and if she used his name. Although her reasons for giving Richard away are unknown, have surmised that Klineman threatened to abandon her if she kept the baby and used his name. Broder had grown up as part of an impoverished Jewish family and was working as a waitress. Prior to meeting Klineman, in 1936. She married Tony Falco, an Italian American, who left her for another woman less than four years later. David Berkowitz was adopted by Pearl and Nathan Berkowitz. David loved his adoptive parents and did well until he was traumatized by the death of his adoptive mother from cancer in 1967. That event caused him to become a recluse. In 1971, Berkowitz joined the army and served for three years. He seemed to be in his element and distinguished himself as a talented marksman. In 1974, he returned to New York and worked as a security guard, but his mental condition began to severely deteriorate in 1975. Still a recluse, he began to feel very isolated from the world around him, and he set hundreds of arson fires in New York without being caught.

It was at this time that he began to hear voices of, in his own words, “demons” that tormented him and told him to commit murder. His first attempt came on Christmas Eve, 1975, when is gave into the “demons” and severely wounded 15-year-old Michelle Forman with a hunting knife. In January 1976, after moving into a two-family home in Yonkers, Berkowitz became convinced that the German shepherd that lived in the house and other neighborhood dogs were possessed by demons who ordered him to murder attractive young women. It seems so strange that he connected dogs with the voices his disease caused him to hear. Then his condition progressed, and he also started seeing his neighbors as demons. In April, Berkowitz moved to an apartment house in Yonkers, but this new home also had dogs. His neighbor, retiree Sam Carr, had a black Labrador retriever named Harvey, who Berkowitz believed pleaded with him to kill. He also saw Sam Carr as a powerful demon and was referring to him when he began calling himself “Son of Sam.” On July 28, 1976, Berkowitz quit his job as a security guard, and the killing spree began. Over the next year, Berkowitz killed 6 women. He wounded 11 more, two of which were actually stabbed in 1975. His fatal victims were Donna Lauria, Christine Freund, Virginia Voskerichian, Valentina Suriani, Alexander Esau (Esau was only killed because he was in the way as he kissed Valentina Suriani), and Stacy Moskowitz who was also kissing her boyfriend. Bobby Violante, lost his left eye and nearly all the vision in his right eye, but he lived.

Finally getting a ballistics match after the killing of Virginia Voskerichian, it was determined that this was a serial killer. The New York police announced that a serial killer was on the loose, known to be a white male in his 20s, with black hair and of average height and build. A task force was assembled, called “The Omega Task Force.” Berkowitz was getting brave, now leaving a note with his victims identifying himself as “Son of Sam.” Then, on April 29, Berkowitz shot Sam Carr’s Labrador retriever. He had previously sent an anonymous, threatening letter to Mr Carr concerning the animal. The dog recovered, and the Yonkers police began an investigation. Then, Berkowitz started sending insane letters to other neighbors and his former landlords. These people began to suspect Berkowitz and called the police. individuals began to suspect Berkowitz to be the Son of Sam and reported their suspicions to local police. Still, the detectives of The Omega Task Force, even after receiving thousands of reports of Son of Sam “suspects” and were nevertheless having a difficult time sifting through all the dead-end leads.

On June 26, the Son of Sam struck again, wounding Judy Placido and Sal Lupo as they sat in their car after leaving a Queens disco. A few days later, a major break in the case came when an eyewitness came forward to report that she had seen a man with what looked like a gun minutes before the shots were fired in Brooklyn. Her information led to the first police sketch of Berkowitz. More important, she reminded investigators that two police officers had been writing parking tickets on her street that night. A search of tickets issued eventually turned up Berkowitz’s car. At the same time, Yonkers police investigated Berkowitz after he escalated a harassment campaign against one of his neighbors. Convinced he was the “Son of Sam” they informed the Omega task force of their findings. The Omega detectives finally put two and two together, and on August 10 David Berkowitz was arrested while leaving his Yonkers home. He excitedly admitted to being the “Son of Sam.” It was like it had all been a game of “hide and seek” in his mind. At the time, he had his semiautomatic rifle. He told them that he was on his way to commit another murder. The .44-caliber revolver was also recovered. There was some question about whether Berkowitz was mentally fit to stand trial, but on May 8, 1978, he changed his insanity plea to guilty on six counts of murder. The whole time, he seemed to enjoy the publicity. The case prompted New York state to adopt the first in a nationwide series of so-called “Son of Sam laws” that take proceeds a criminal earns from selling their story and gives them to a victims’ compensation fund.

Berkowitz was given six 25-years-to-life sentences for the crime, the maximum penalty allowed at the time. He has since been denied parole. He is currently held at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility in upstate New York, where he allegedly converted to Christianity. I pray that is so.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Check these out!