Who is David Berkowitz? Serial killer 'Son of Sam' found god in prison and renamed himself 'Son of Hope'
Berkowitz began committing violent crimes in the mid-1970s, his first attack took place in 1975 when he used a hunting knife to stab two women
For those of you who know a thing or two about true crime, Sam Berkowitz is a name that is synonymous with sinister. The serial killer, who once christened himself as the 'Son of Sam', was responsible for a reign of terror which resulted in the loss of six lives.
In Netflix's latest documentary, 'The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness', the details of the case are looked at once again. The official synopsis by Netflix reads: "The Son of Sam case grew into a lifelong obsession for journalist Maury Terry, who became convinced that the murders were linked to a satanic cult."
Who is David Berkowitz?
Born in Brooklyn, New York, on June 1, 1953, Berkowitz's birth name was Richard David Falcon. His mother Elizabeth "Betty" Broder was a waitress who married Tony Falco in 1936. However, Falco left her for another woman. Broder began seeing Joseph Klineman in 1950 and became pregnant in 1953. She gave the child the last name 'Falco' but gave away the baby. The exact reason behind her giving the child away is unknown. The child was adopted by Pearl and Nathan Berkowitz, a Jewish-American couple from the Bronx.
They reversed the order of the child's name and christened him David Richard Berkowitz, giving him their last name. Known to have had above-average intelligence, Berkowitz was always curious about larceny and arson, with neighbours and relatives viewing him as difficult and a bully. However, there was no legal intervention or serious record against him. He even went on to serve in the army, which he left on honorable discharge. It was after this that he got in touch with his birth mother, who told him the details of his birth. The number of unwilling father figures in his life reportedly had a grave impact on him.
When did the murders begin?
Berkowitz began committing violent crimes in the mid-1970s. His first attack took place in 1975 when he used a hunting knife to stab two women — an unidentified Hispanic woman and Michelle Forman, a 15-year-old girl. Forman was hospitalized for seven days following the attack.
On July 29, 1976, he shot two women in a parked car — Jody Valenti and Donna Lauria. Lauria died instantly but Valenti survived the attack. He then attacked Carl Denaro and Rosemary Keenan on October 23. The two of them were also seated in a parked car and managed to survive the attack. On November 27, he shot Donna DeMasi and Joanne Lomino. While they both survived the attack, Lomino was paralyzed. On January 30, he shot Christine Freund and John Diel while they were seated in a parked car. It was around this time that he earned the name the '.44 Caliber Killer', which was given by the media since that was the weapon of his choice.
On March 8, 1977, he shot Virginia Voskerichian, killing her instantly. On April 17, he shot dead Valentina Suriani and Alexander Esau. He also left behind a letter and signed it off as 'Son of Sam'. On June 26, he shot Judy Placido and Sal Lupo, but they both survived the attack. On July 31, he shot Robert Violante and Stacy Moskowitz. Violante was blinded by the attack while Moskowitz died.
What is the 'Son of Sam' law?
The Berkowitz case was highly sensationalized and it drew extensive media coverage. Berkowitz even wrote a letter to Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin with the words "Blood and Family – Darkness and Death – Absolute Depravity – .44" printed on an envelope.
Before this, he even left a letter at a crime scene. The media coverage ultimately led to Berkowitz achieving a celebrity status of sorts. It also resulted in the New York State Legislature forming new statutes, particularly the 'Son of Sam law', to ensure that criminals don't financially profit from the publicity of their crimes.
Is Berkowitz still alive?
Berkowitz is currently 67 years old and is serving six life sentences. He had a heart attack back in 2017 and was hospitalized after a few complications. He is now a born-again Christian and refers to himself as the 'Son of Hope'. As reported by New York Post, his longtime lawyer Mark Heller said, "David was optimistic. He said God was watching over him. He’s a very spiritual person.”
'The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness' premieres on Netflix on May 5.