David Berkowitz was born June 1, 1953 and was put up for adoption (4). Shortly after he was adopted by Pearl and Nathan Berkowitz, and he was raised in the Bronx (4). His parents were middle class people and he had a relatively normal childhood (3). Berkowitz was a good baseball player but that was his main outside activity (1). He was therefore mostly a social outcast otherwise. He always felt rejected because he was adopted, which from the start, even with caring parents, caused him to be a loner (1). Also, as a child he was known to be hyperactive and was also sort of a neighborhood bully partly, some believe, because he thought that his genetic mother died giving birth and that caused guilt and anger to build up inside him (1). Also, Berkowitz was of above average intelligence yet he was sometimes troubled in that he liked petty larceny and pyromania (2). Pearl Berkowitz, his mother died from breast cancer in 1967 and this caused David to become severely depressed (1). He thought that his mother’s death was part of a plot to destroy him and therefore he spent most of his time alone after her death (1). David Berkowitz then joined the army and was honorably discharged after three years (3). He continued his trouble with holding down jobs. He briefly worked as a security guard and also at a church as a postal clerk (3). After he came back from the army he met his biological mother and sister, but he stopped visiting them as he was starting to get paranoid delusions (1). It was at this time that Berkowitz said that he believed his neighbor’s dog was possessed by a demon that was telling him that he has to kill people (2). He attempted to kill the dog once but he failed because what he thought was supernatural interference (2). This is when his attacks started, with the attack on Christmas Eve in 1975 (1).
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David Berkowitz, like many serial killers had medical and physiological conditions. As a child he had many problems such as being severely depressed after the death of his mother (1). Also he liked to set small fires and steal (2). Before Berkowitz was caught for his crimes the police had a physiological profile made for the unknown at the time killer. It said that the killer was probably a neurotic that most likely suffered from paranoid schizophrenia (2). It was also believed that the killer thought he was a victim of demonic possession (2). These conditions mostly likely caused him to commit the crimes that he did.
The world during Berkowitz’s life was different. At the time there were problems between the media and the police. In the Son of Sam killings, a letter was given to the media in which part of it was released to the public through the newspaper (2). The public at the time listened to everything that the paper said about the case. This also caused the massive panic that occurred as a result of these killings. With it all over the media, everyone was waiting to hear the latest with every new issue of the newspaper. With the story being everywhere there was a large amount of tips in the tip line for the police which were all useless (2). People were afraid for their lives. People were afraid to walk the streets of New York City and many stayed indoors even on hot summer nights (5). Also a problem with the media printing the letter was that Berkowitz like most serial killers liked publicity, so the media was just giving him what he wanted (5). This possibly caused him to continue murdering young women as he got the attention he wanted and needed.
David Berkowitz AKA the Son of Sam killer had a specific MO or Modus Operandi. All of his attacks were directed at young women in New York City (5). Also he always used a .44 caliber Bulldog gun to kill with, causing some to call him the .44 caliber killer (2). His first attack was not done with a gun though. His first attack which was Christmas Eve 1975 was done with a knife (1). He attacked two women, wounding both of them (1). He later said that he did not think that murdering someone would be messy and when it was it caused him to run away from the scene. He thought it would be like in the movies and so later on he started to use a gun to make the murders cleaner, and with less trouble (5). His first murder was of Donna Lauria who he shot with her friend Jody Valenti inside a car parked outside Donna’s apartment (1). His next shooting like most of his shootings, was the shooting of a young woman in a parked car (1). Overall there were nine attacks by David Berkowitz and six people were killed while the other people evolved in the attacks were injured, with some getting serious injuries such as paralysis. (1).Another interesting part of the way Berkowitz killed is that he left notes on multiple occasions. One note he gave to the media, Jimmy Breslin of the New York Daily News, and another he gave to the police, more specifically Joseph Borrelli (2). In the one addressed to Joseph Borrelli he said the famous line, “I am the Son of Sam” (5). This note is where he acquired the title, Son of Sam killer. The notes did not however help or aide in the capturing of David Berkowitz, as through the notes police were only able to come up with educated guesses on why he wrote what he did and also what he meant in his notes (2). Berkowitz killed his last victim on July 31, 1977 when he shot Stacy Moskowitz (5). This murder was not done well and was overall messy. This murder was not done well because before he murdered Stacy he looked face to face with a woman named Cacilia Davis, but did not hurt her because she was too old after which he moved on to Stacy (5).
Cacilia Davis was a major part in the downfall of David Berkowitz. She told the police about a man who was complaining about a parking ticket in very close proximity to the last murder along with coming face to face with the same man (5). The Police were led to Berkowitz for more than just one reason. He had multiple things going against him, the parking ticket, the threatening letters to his neighbor, and a previous arson incident (1). The police then had a stakeout outside of Berkowitz’s home (5). When finally Berkowitz went to his car the police walked up to him and asked who he was. He replied “I am Sam” (5). This immediately was a clue that this was most likely the man that the police had long searched for during his serial killings. Police were worried after they arrested him that their search of his car was unconstitutional, but that did not end up mattering as Berkowitz confessed to the murders (2). Berkowitz confessed in part because he believed that if he confessed then he would serve a life imprisonment instead of the death sentence (2). This motivation for confessing to the murders is very strange as at the time the police had very little evidence to actually connect him to the crime along with the fact that the search of his car could be proved unconstitutional. This means that he must have also wanted to be caught for what he did, because Berkowitz loved publicity, and this gave him the ultimate publicity. During questioning Berkowitz said that the “Sam” from the note that he wrote to the police came from his neighbor’s name, Sam Carr, whose dog he thought was possessed and told him to kill people (2). David Berkowitz pleaded guilty to the murders (3).
After doctors tested and cleared David Berkowitz to stand trial he was able to plead guilty (4). He was sentenced to 365 years or 6 life sentences (4). Berkowitz has refused parole multiple times, and continues to state that he does not think he should ever be released from prison (2). After being in jail Berkowitz later said that the dog story was a lie and that he killed instead because of his own sexual inadequacies (3). He also confessed that the letters that he sent to the police were intended to throw the police off his trail (3). Along with this revelation Berkowitz said that he was part of a satanic cult that pressured him to kill and also knew about his murders and still urged him on (3). But his story has changed multiple times and there have been many different versions of his stories that he himself has told, making it hard to tell what was the real reason that he killed.
Berkowitz’s reaction to his sentence and killings is not what would be expected of anybody. He believed that he should never be released (2). He thought that he was a bad person and there was no reason he should be out in the public ever again. Berkowitz also became a born again Christian in prison (2). Another interesting part to his reaction is that he felt that his crimes weren’t his fault (5). He said that he didn’t want to kill women but he had no choice because he was a monster (5). He told this to police in one of his notes. He said that he thought of killing as his job (5). Berkowitz felt like he was obligated to kill. This is interesting that he thought of it that way as he had trouble his whole life holding down jobs. After being in prison he was attacked by a fellow inmate and shortly afterwards was when he became a born again Christian and even created a couple self help tapes that Berkowitz did not receive any money from (3).
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David Berkowitz expressed many of the normal signs of a serial killer. First of all he was a male, like most serial killers are. He also had trouble holding down any job. He had multiple jobs after coming out of the army and could never stick with one. Also he came from an unstable family in which after his adopted mother’s death, abandoned him. His father and his father’s new wife left him. He had a psychiatric history from when he was a child. Berkowitz also like to set harmless fires and enjoyed petty larceny was he was younger. He even showed abuse to animals when he shot his neighbor’s dog because it wouldn’t stop barking, and he also thought that the barking was making him kill. Also Berkowitz did poorly in school, especially after his mother died, but was also of an above average IQ (2). These signs are common among serial killers and David Berkowitz is no different.
I believe that it was a combination of a few things that cause David Berkowitz to become a serial killer. He had a lot of family problems his whole life. Because he was adopted he never felt like he fit in with his family. He also thought his biological mother died while giving birth to him so he felt extremely guilty. When his adopted mother died, young David was also greatly affected. He was said to be extremely depressed afterwards and he become even more of a loner than before. He lost contact with his adopted father when he remarried and he did not like his father’s new wife (1). Also another major factor as to why David Berkowitz killed was the pressure from his peers. Not only was he not accepted and was mostly a loner, he later said that a satanic cult urged him to continue with his killings. Also the pressure from not being accepted by society made him angry and probably was a main reason he killed. Either way, whether the cult stories are true, he still was pressured by others which pushed him towards killing. Finally I believe that David Berkowitz killed because he craved attention. At one point he said that he stayed in his apartment for an extended period of time alone. When nobody noticed that he was gone or came to check on him or even ask him where he has been he got very angry (5). He wanted people to notice him but he was always a social outcast so that need could not be fulfilled. This most likely led to him killing because he knew that if he killed he would get the attention that he desired. People would finally notice him, and they did when he killed.
In conclusion David Berkowitz was a serial killer who killed six young women during a one year period in New York City. He developed a MO and physiological profile during his killings. He was eventually caught and confessed to the crimes. He thought that killing was his job and also that he was a monster. He never wants to be released from prison. There are many possible reasons for David Berkowitz killings but in my opinion the main reason was that he was not accepted by society and he wanted to be noticed.
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