Berkowitz, David (1953– )
David Berkowitz, a serial killer known as the Son of Sam,
complained that his killing activity was forced upon him by
demon voices in his head. Berkowitz was born out of wedlock
on June 1, 1953, to Betty Falco and her boyfriend Joseph
Kleinman, but was adopted by Nat and Pearl Berkowitz soon
after his birth. They gave him a somewhat normal upbringing
in the Bronx, New York. It was noted that he was a loner and
had a tendency to bully his peers. He became even more introverted
after Pearl Berkowitz’s death in 1967. Four years later
his father remarried and moved to Florida. Berkowitz remained
in New York, but within a few months joined the Army.
He served for three years.
During the 1970s, it would later be discovered that Berkowitz
had become an arsonist. He kept a record of more than
1,400 fires he had started. In 1975 he also began to hear voices.
He believed them to be coming from demons, and he identified
several of his neighbors and their German shepherd dogs
as the locus of the demons. He first gave into the demonic
voices on Christmas Day 1975. He claimed to have stabbed two
women, though the police were later able to verify only one of
the incidents. His victim, Michelle Forman, survived in spite of
multiple stab wounds.
On January 29, 1976, he shot Donna Lauria, who was
parked in a car with her boyfriend. The shooting of victims sitting
in parked cars with his .44 pistol would become his trademark.
Sometimes the boyfriend escaped with a bullet wound;
sometimes he was killed. However, it was obvious Berkowitz was
primarily targeting women. On several occasions he attacked
women on the street. On April 17, 1977, he killed Valentina
Suriani and Alexander Esau, and left a letter in their car signed
Son of Sam. In the letter, he described his father Sam as a
bloodthirsty blood drinker. He also said of himself, ‘‘I am the
‘Monster’—‘Beelzebub’—the chubby behemouth.’’ When the
letter was released to the press several weeks later, the Son of
Sam became an instant celebrity.
Meanwhile Berkowitz started a correspondence with the
people he thought of as demons. He complained to Jack Carr,
a former neighbor, that his dog, a black Labrador, was barking
too much. On April 19, 1977, he sent a second letter. On April
29 he shot the dog. In June he sent a letter to Jack Cassara but
signed it with the names of Jack Carr and his wife. Carr and
Cassara soon had a meeting, shared stories, and first tied the
letters to David Berkowitz, who had lived in the Cassara house.
They shared their speculations with the police, who initially ignored
them; they were already overloaded on leads.
Berkowitz would strike twice more before police put the
murdered women together with the attack on Carr’s dog.
Shortly thereafter, however, they arrested Berkowitz, who freely
admitted his identity as the Son of Sam. Berkowitz was tried
and sentenced to 365 years in prison.
There are three theories as to Berkowitz’s motivation in the
murders. One accepts his basic story of demon possession.
One, put forth by writer Maury Terry, has built a picture of Berkowitz
operating within the context of a Satanic group that had
members in New York and at several locations across the country.
Many of the police came to believe that he was a typical serial
killer who had set up the demon possession idea as a defense
should he ever be caught. This latter hypothesis now dominates
serious thinking about Berkowitz.
In 1987, Berkowitz converted to Christianity. From his prison
cell, he now has a webpage, httpwww.inetworld.nethutrcc
davidb.htm, hosted by a Christian church in San Jose, California.
In his testimony published on that site, he mentioned that
before he began his killing spree he had read The Satanic
Bible written by Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of
Satan. As a result, he began to dabble in the occult and do Satanic
rituals. He does not mention demon voices.
Abrrahamsen, David. Confessions of the Son of Sam. New York
Columbia University Press, 1999.
David Berkowitz. httpwww.inetworld.nethutrcc
davidb.htm. May 16, 2000.
Klausner, Lawrence. Son of Sam. New York McGraw-Hill,
Terry, Maury. The Ultimate Evil. New York Barnes and
Noble, 1999.

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