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Son of Sam

Updated on February 21, 2011

The Son of Sam's Story

David Berkowitz was born on June 1, 1953 as the adopted son of Nathan and Pearl Berkowitz. The family lived comfortably in the Bronx. Although the couple loved and cherish their son, Berkowitz still grew up feeling rejected because he knew he was adopted. It did not help matters that he was obese and not particularly attractive. He was naturally a loner, as were his parents.
Pearl Berkowitz was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1967 (David was only fourteen). Berkowitz became severely depressed, failing school and viewing the death as a cruel joke to destroy his own life. He became less social and resented his father's new wife. The couple later moved to Florida. Berkowitz stayed behind.
Berkowitz soon joined the army, which ended up in disaster and left after three years. During his stay in the army, a sexual experience with a prostitute contracted Berkowitz with venereal disease. He came home from the army to discover who his birth mother is, and even that he had a sister. He visited frequently, but the visits became less frequent and in time his paranoia drove him to isolation.
Soon anything upsetting to Berkowitz was seen as a message from the demons in his deranged mind. Soon the "Son of Sam" was created as he began his spree of murders (the descriptions of the murders will be explained later). Berkowitz was finally caught via a parking ticket. He plead not guilty and received a 365-year sentence.

The Son of Sam
The Son of Sam

His Life of Crime

Berkowitz began his crime spree with "General Jack Cosmo," a fictitious general. Howling dogs outside his house were viewed as demonic messages, with their owner as one of Satan's generals. On Christmas Eve 1975, in a desperate attempt to quiet the demons, Berkowitz decided to do as they say. He went out in the street with a hunting knife and stabbed two women. One cannot be confirmed, but the other was 15-year-old Michelle Forman. She survived, but was treated for six knife wounds. The demons were not satisfied with Berkowitz, since nobody was killed. "General" Jack and Nann Cassara's howling dogs were, in Berkowitz's eyes, part of a demon conspiracy. Berkowitz attempted to free himself from the demons' grasp by moving away from the area, but their grip on him was too strong. His new neighbor, Sam Carr, owned a black Labrador, Harvey. The alleged demon possessed Berkowitz and, in an attempt to free himself once again, shot the dog. This did not help because he soon believed the demon inside Harvey derived from Sam Carr himself. Every night was a battle between the forces of good and evil; the demons driving him for blood, and Berkowitz trying to resist. Soon he fell victim to the demons, and created victims of his own:

  • July 29,1976: Jody Valenti and Donna Lauria were shot. Lauria died instantly, but Valenti managed to survive and escape.
  • October 23, 1976: Carl Denaro and Rosemary Keenan were shot inside of a parked car. Both managed to survive.
  • November 26, 1976: Berkowitz shot two 18-year-old girls coming out of a late night movie. One was paralyzed for life, the other recovered.
  • January 30, 1977: 26-year-old Christine Freund and fiance John Diel were shot in a parked car. Christine died and John survived.
  • March 8, 1977: Virginia Voskerichian was shot an killed after walking home from class at Bernard College.
  • April 17, 1977: 18-year-old Valentina Suriani and 20-year-old boyfiend Alexander Esau were both shot twice. Both bled out, and here was the first letter at the scene. The letter read "Son of Sam."
  • June 26, 1977: Judy Placido and Sal Lupu were shot leaving a disco. Both survived.
  • July 31, 1977: Bobby Violante and Stacy Moskowitz were shot in a car. Stacy died via a bullet through her skull and Bobby was permanently blinded.

Those are all the known crimes against David Berkowitz. It is believed that these are the only crimes Berkowitz committed, since he admitted to everything.

Letter left at a crime scene
Letter left at a crime scene
Letter left at a crime scene
Letter left at a crime scene
Letter left at a crime scene
Letter left at a crime scene

Why the Son of Sam did this

The definition of the LCP is an individual who usually demonstrates a life long pattern of antisocial behavior and who is not responsitive to treatment or rehabilitation. Terri Moffit discovered this behavior. According to Moffit the LCP commits most of the serious, violent crimes. Moffits research shows the LCP can be identified by the age of three. LCP offenders often exhibit neurological problems during their childhood. These individuals exhibit changing manifestations of antisocial behavior, example (biting and hitting at age four.) LCP offenders generally commit a wide assortment of violent crimes over their lifetimes. As children, life course persistent offenders miss opportunities to acquire and practice pro – social and interpersonal skills at each stage of development. This is partly because their childhood peers reject them.

Schizophrenia is the mental disorder that people most associate with as crazy behavior. Schizophrenia is a disorder that generally begins in early life and often leads to social and economic impairment that leaves traces on its victims for the rest of their lives, example (hearing voices or sounds no one else hears).

During Berkpwitz's childhood he felt like he was being rejected and scorned. His size and appearance did not help. He was larger than most kids his age and he was not attractive. His parents were not social and berkowits followed in there paths. David Berkowitz had no personality, which made him feel alone and made him become a serial murderer. A serial murder is usually reserved for incidents in which individuals kill a number of people over time. The time interval, called the cooling off period, may be days or weeks, but more likely months or years. The cooling off period is the main difference between serial murders and other multiple murders. The murders are premeditated and planned, and the offender usually selects specific victims. Researchers have identified four types of serial murderers but David Berkowitz fits under one and that is a visionary type which is a person driven by voices or visions demanding that a particular group of people be destroyed. Everyone Berkowitz murder were strangers, which makes the Son of Sam a serial murderer.

The DSM-iv is a handbook of mental health diagnostics. It gives the definitions of various mental disorders. Conduct disorder is a cluster of behaviors characterized by habitual misbehavior such as stealing, lack of interest, pleasure, appetite, and sleep. Antisocial personality disorder is a term used for adults who displayed conduct disorders as children or adolescents. This term is used by many psychologists to refer to those offenders who demonstrate a failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are ground for arrest. This disorder can also be called sociopath. The Son of Sam would be considered as a psychopath. A psychopath demonstrates a variety of behavioral and neuron-physiological characteristics that differentiate them from groups of individuals. Psychopaths most often function in society as charming, daring, witty, intelligent individuals, high on charisma but low on emotional reaction and affect. Psychopaths appear to lack moral standards or the ability to manifest genuine sensitivity towards others.

In 1905 Sigmund Freud suggested that clinicians pay special attention to the children who are especially cruel to animals. Freud ‘s theory was right because the first crime the Son of Sam committed was against a harmless dog, after he killed the dog he moved on the killing people that he didn’t know. Based on Freud’s psychoanalysis treatment the ego is a person’s contact with reality. Berkowitz’s ID kept telling him to kill people. Berkowitz’s didn’t listen to his ego that told him that killing was wrong.

What Happened to the Son of Sam

David Berkowitzs was finally caught and put in jail in August. Shortly after his arrest in August 1977, Berkowitz confessed to killing 6 people and wounding several others in the course of eight shootings in New York between 1976 and 1977; he has been imprisoned for these crimes since 1977. Berkowitz subsequently claimed that he was commanded to kill by a demon that possessed his neighbor's dog. In March 2002, Berkowitz sent a letter to New York's Governor Pataki asking that his parole hearing be cancelled, stating: "In all honesty, I believe that I deserve to be in prison for the rest of my life. I have, with God's help, long ago come to terms with my situation and I have accepted my punishment." In June 2004, he was denied a second parole hearing after he stated that he did not want one. The parole board saw that he had a good record in the prison programs, but decided that the brutality of his crimes called for him to stay imprisoned. In July 2006, the board once again denied parole on similar grounds. He is very involved in prison ministry and regularly counsels troubled inmates. Berkowitz's next parole hearing is settled for May 2012. He has been denied parole five times thus far, most recently in May 2010. In March 2010 Berkowitz had told Investigative Reporter Mike Mason that he would not seek parole in 2012.


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