The Son of Sam and Terror of New York

“At one a.m. on July twenty-ninth a man was cruising in the Bronx when he spotted two young women sitting in a parked blue Oldsmobile. He swung around a corner and abandoned his car, pushing the bag-covered pistol into the waistband of his trousers. With his characteristics gait he shuffled back toward the women, Donna Lauria, eighteen, a medical technician, and Jody Valenti, nineteen, a student nurse. They were parked in front on Lauria’s home; her parents had just returned from a restaurant and had spoken to their daughter before going into the house. Donna had promised to follow in a minute. At 1:10 a.m., the man walked up to the passenger side of the Oldsmobile Cutlass, pulled his revolver from the paper bag, and assumed a semi-crouch. He pulled the trigger five times. (True Crime 1992, 164)

As the car window shattered, Donna Lauria raised her hands to protect herself. One of the .44 caliber bullets struck her in the right side of the neck, killing her quickly. Another bullet hit Jody Valenti in the thigh. She screamed and fell forward, landing on the car horn. The man dashed back to his car and drove away”(True Crime 1992, 164)

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This was the start of a terrifying year for New York. A demon was among the city. This demon possessed the mind of a twenty-three-year-old pudgy Jewish man. The demon was a six thousand-year-old spirit, which communicated to him through his neighbor, Sam Carr’s Labrador retriever. (Reicher 1996)

Born Richard David Falco but better known now as the Son of Sam or the .44 Caliber killer had no real sense of identity from birth. The result of an affair between his mother and her married lover he was unwanted even before birth. As soon as he was born adoption papers had been filed. Unlike many children stuck in the system for years, the baby was adopted. Pearl and Nat Berkowitz, a Jewish couple, adopted him and changed his name to David Berkowitz.

They loved and cared for David more then he ever felt before; this according to psychologist should have erased all former feelings of being unwanted. When David turned fourteen his adoptive mother died. This tore David up inside. A little over a year after his mothers death his father remarried, this left David with a feeling of being abandoned and betrayed. He lived with them for a little while, but unhappy he moved on. He went to join the Army and had a sense of wanting to die for a cause. He found out soon after enrollment that he wasn’t going to die for any cause during combat because he was stationed in non-fighting zones.

When he couldn’t find a patriotic cause to die for he clung to his new found religion. He became enthralled in his faith going to services staying there sometimes all day. But this too grew old like many things did for him. He went in search of his biological family. After a long search he was successful in finding his mother and a half sister. By this time, his adoptive father had moved to Florida leaving David with his new found relatives.

David had put so much emphasis on finding his family that his life had deteriorated. He lived in filth and as much darkness he could make in his tiny apartment. He had become even more of a quiet loner, and constant outsider, but now he was turning into to a homicidal lunatic.(True Crime 1992, 160)

Within a year, David Berkowitz’s killed six people. David claimed to have an evil demon spirit within him, which told him to kill. After he killed, the voices would stop for a while. David left a number of notes at his killings, many of them saying he would never be caught and he was an evil demon.

Also found in his apartment, they discovered writing all over the walls and floor saying of him being a demon and being imprisoned in his own mind. Psychiatrists believed he was paranoid schizophrenic. Another theory, which contributed to this, was an identity crisis. This was due to his being put up for adoption at birth, his mother dying, father leaving, and never having any real friends. The most common symptoms David had of being a paranoid schizophrenic was the presence of an external force.(Hill 1999)

David once wrote his father a letter, which described being hated by all and being cold and gloomy. David had lived signs of an identity crisis. As an adult and as a child, David constantly lost interest in every activity that he tried. His crisis started as a baby though, when his mother gave him away. Even after he was adopted and stable, he never had any real friends. He had many associates but never any real playmates. He had many jobs and never held one for long. Some even believe if he had not killed anyone he would have passed through life without ever even being known. (True Crime 1992)

Although psychiatrists believed Berkowitz was insane, legally he was found sane and totally normal and had to answer for his crimes. The main reason they categorized David as a paranoid schizophrenia was because he felt the need to make himself the instrument of an outside force. This was a common symptom of this disease. (Apsche 1993, 142)

Unlike most serial killers, David had no real significant childhood traumas.Many have severe falls or hits on their head, which is sometimes a common childhood experience of killers. He was a solitary child though. As he got older, he would start little fires around places. When he started school, he skipped often and would try and find ways to stay home. (New York Times,May 9, 1978) The only real thing that made David odd from others was his fascination with death all his life.(Abrahamsen 1999, 104)

David’s victims were all meant to be women but the last was a man also. The reason of this could have steamed from a detachment complex with his mother. He lost both of his mothers before he was even fully matured. His birth mother just gave him away not wanting him at all. His adoptive mother who babied him and gave him everything he wanted died and left him with a father who didn’t show much affection. One thing that stemmed from this was not being able to communicate with girls. He never had a girlfriend; he never even had contact with girls. Before he went to the army, he stated he hated girls and wanted nothing to do with them. This is what psychologists believe the reason most of David’s victims were women.(Apshce 1993, 151)

David Berkowitz was found and convicted a little over one year after his first murder was committed. There are no actual reasons psychologists give for a motive or a reason for David’s crimes. He is currently alive and in Atticca Prison in the state of New York.(True Crime 1992, 182) He gives no reasons for his murders, but does ask for forgiveness from all the victims’ families. This, like many serial murders, has psychological theories but no real proofs.


  1. Abrahamsen, David. 1985. Confessions of Son of Sam. New York: Columbia University Press.
  2. Apsche, Jack A. 1993. Probing the Mind of a Serial Killer. Morrisvile, Pa: International Information Associates, Inc.
  3. Hill, Ian. (1999). Modus Operandi. [Online]. Available:
  4. Reicher (1996). Pogo’s killers page. [Online]. Available:
  5. “Merola Says Berkowitz’s Diaries May Link Slayer to 2,000 Fires.” (1978, May 9). The New York Times, p. B3
  6. Flaherty, Thomas H. (1992). True Crime. Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books.

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