By 1977, the Son of Sam had murdered six people and wounded seven others. To this day, the killer remains in prison, serving six consecutive 25-years-to-life terms.
However, in a new interview with CBS news, the Son of Sam says it “was not [him]” who committed the murders. So who does he blame, and what’s his story?
Let’s find out.
The Son of Sam’s real name is David Berkowitz, born Richard David Falco. Berkowitz was just days old when he was adopted by Nathan and Pearl Berkowitz, after his birth mother could not take care of him. Despite the adoption, he and his mother remained close.
Growing up, Berkowitz was a mean child. He bullied and taunted other kids, and when his birth mother died when he was a teenager, it affected him deeply. Berkowitz joined the military when he was 18 years old and served in South Korea.
After leaving the military in 1974, Berkowitz came back to New York City and started working for the U.S. Postal Service. His neighbors said he was a loner, but he was actually dwelling in rage, about to kill.
On July 29, 1976, David Berkowitz shot his first two victims. Donna Lauria and Jody Valenti were sitting in Valenti’s car in front of Lauria’s home, when Berkowitz walked over and shot them both. Lauria died and Valenti was injured.
Three months later, Berkowitz shot a couple sitting in a parked car. One month after that, Berkowitz attacked two teenage girls walking home. Both girls were shot, one killed and the other left paraplegic. Police didn’t think these shootings were related.
Three months after those killings, Christine Freund and her fiancé were sitting together in a car. Berkowitz shot them both. Freund was shot in the head and later died of her injuries. This is when police started to piece things together. Berkowitz was labelled the “.44-caliber killer” as he shot each victim with a .44 caliber gun.
The new name didn’t stop Berkowitz from killing, though. Two months later, he killed Virginia Voskerichian as she walked home from class. Then, he killed Valentina Suriani and Alexander Esau while they were parked in their car. After this killing, Berkowitz left a letter addressed to NYPD Captain Joseph Borrelli and called himself “Son of Sam” for the first time. The letters were left at each crime scene, taunting police, but he had never addressed himself by a name before.
“Effectively, it was him winning over us each time he got away with it,” says former NYPD Detective Bill Clark.
Stacy Moskowitz and Bobby Violante were Son of Sam’s final victims on July 31, 1977. A witness noticed a car driving away from the scene with a parking ticket on it. Only a handful of tickets had been handed out that day, and police were able to trace it to David Berkowitz.
Son of Sam was arrested on August 10, 1977. When police arrived, Berkowitz said “Well, you’ve got me.”
Berkowitz claimed he had been commanded to kill by his neighbor, who was sending messages to Berkowitz through his dog, Harvey. Because of this claim, Berkowitz was subjected to numerous psychiatric evaluations, but he was declared competent enough to stand trial.
In 1978, Berkowitz pled guilty to the six killings. He also admitted to setting nearly 1,500 fires around New York City. For each murder, Berkowitz was sentenced to 25 years in prison. When the judge announced the decision, Berkowitz tried to jump out the seventh-floor courtroom window.
Berkowitz later admitted that his story about getting messages through the dog was “a hoax, a silly hoax.” He’s also made statements that he was a member of a violent satanic cult with his neighbor’s sons. Berkowitz has been offered insane amounts of money to share his story, but laws have been passed – called Son of Sam laws – that prevent convicted criminals from financially profiting from books, movies, or other enterprises related to their crimes.
Berkowitz’s case was re-opened in 1996, but lack of significant findings suspended it once again. Berkowitz has been eligible for parole 15 times, and each times he has been denied.