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Serial Killer Profile: David Berkowitz

David Berkowitz

 

David Berkowitz who was born on June 1, 1953 is better known by his nicknames Son of Sam or The .44 Caliber Killer. Regardless of which name he used he has become one of the most famous serial killers in America.

David Berkowitz has claimed that his first killings were in late 1975 when committed a knife attack on two women. However, he has never been charged with these attacks and the killing spree that would make him infamous began on the streets of New York in the summer of 1976. On July 29, 1976, David Berkowitz shot Jody Valenti and Donna Lauria. They had been sitting in a parked car outside of Donna Lauria's apartment when they were shot. Jody Valenti managed to survive the attack and the attack didn't get much media attention.

Then on October 23, 1976, David Berkowitz went to Queens and attacked another pair sitting in a park car. This time Carl Denaro survived being shot in the head but his companion wasn't injured. Just over a month later on November 26, 1976, David Berkowitz shot teenagers Donna DeMasi and Joanne Lomino when they were walking home from a trip to the cinema. Donna DeMasi recovered from the shooting but Joanne Lomino was left paralyzed.

David Berkowitz took a few months off but on January 30, 1977 he started his shootings again. This attack was on engaged couple, Christine Freund and John Diel. John Diel survived but Christine Freund died from her injuries. It was after this attack that the police determined that the weapon used in the shootings was a .44 caliber Charter Arms Bulldog. The weapon used in the other shootings had been from a similar gun and so they began to suspect the shootings were connected and the the killer was giving the nickname the '.44 Caliber Killer'. The police also made the connection that shootings targeted young women with long, dark hair and/or young couples parked in cars.

On March 8, 1977, David Berkowitz shot Virginia Voskerichian as he walked by her and she died on the spot. Once again, the bullet came from a .44 caliber gun. With this information the police went public on March 10, 1977 and announced that the same .44 caliber gun had been used in a number of the shootings. The media went nuts and began following up every little detail so that the stories they published could become more and more sensational.

On April 16, 1977, David Berkowitz shot and killed Alexander Esau and Valentina Suriani. A police officer found a hand-written letter near the bodies that was addressed to captain Joe Borelli of Operation Omega. Operation Omega was the task force set up to investigate the shootings.

The letter from David Berkowitz was full of bad spelling and grammar and read:

I am deeply hurt by your calling me a weman-hater. I am not. But I am a monster. I am the "son of Sam". I am a little brat. When father Sam gets drunk he gets mean. He beats our family. Sometimes he ties me up to the back of the house. Other times he locks me in the garage. Sam loves to drink blood. "Go out and kills" commands father Sam. Behind our house some rest. Mostly young - raped and slaughtered - their blood drained - just bones now. Pap Sam keeps me locked in the attic too. I can't get out but I look out the attic window and watch the world go by. I feel like an outsider. I am on a different wavelength then everybody else - programmed to kill. However, to stop me you must kill me. Attention all police: shoot me first - shoot to kill or else keep out of my way or you will die. Papa Sam is old now. He needs some blood to preserve his youth. He has too many heart attacks. "Ugh, me hoot, it hurts, sonny boy." I miss my pretty princess most of all. She's resting in our ladies house. But i'll see her soon. I am the "monster" - "Beelzebub" - the chubby behemouth. I love to hunt. Prowling the streets looking for fair game - tasty meat. The wemon of Queens are prettiest of all. I must be the water they drink. I live for the hunt - my life. Blood for papa. Mr. Borelli, sir, I don't want to kill any more. No sur, no more but I must, "honour thy father". I want to make love to the world. I love people. I don't belong on earth. Return me to yahoos. To the people of Queens, I love you. And i want to wish all of you a happy Easter. May God bless you in this life and in the next. And for now I say goodbye and goodnight. Police: Let me haunt you with these words: I'll be back. I'll be back. To be interpreted as - bang, bang, bang, bang - ugh. Yours in murder, Mr. Monster.

The letter changed David Berkowitz's name in the media from the ".44 Caliber Killer" to the "Son of Sam".

On May 30, 1977, columnist Jimmy Breslin of the New York Daily News received a hand-written letter from David Berkowitz. After getting advice from the police the paper ran the letter and that issue of the paper sold in huge numbers.

Part of the letter from David Berkowitz read:

Hello from the gutters of N.Y.C. which are filled with dog manure, vomit, stale wine, urine and blood. Hello from the sewers of N.Y.C. which swallow up these delicacies when they are washed away by the sweeper trucks. Hello from the cracks in the sidewalks of N.Y.C. and from the ants that dwell in these cracks and feed in the dried blood of the dead that has settled into the cracks...

On June 26, 1977, David Berkowitz shot another couple that were sitting in a car but neither of them were injured seriously and were able to give the police a description of their attacker. The other survivors in the past were also able to give some account of their attacker and the police were able to draw up sketches of a suspect.

Nearly a year after the first shooting in his killing spree, David Berkowitz went to Brooklyn and shot both Stacy Moskowitz and Robert Violante in the head as they sat in a car. Stacy Moskowitz died and Robert Violante was left blind. That same evening, Cacilia Davis, who lived near the crime scene, had witnessed a man remove a parking ticket from his car that had been parked too close to a fire hydrant. The event had taken place right before the killing and the woman called the police to inform them. Putting two and two together, the police assumed that whoever had gotten that ticket must have been a witness to the shootings. So, they called another police department and asked for help in tracking down the owner of the car. When the name David Berkowitz came up in connection with the car it came to light that the police in Yonkers had Berkowitz in the frame as a suspect for some of the crimes referenced in one of the Son of Sam letters. However, until then they hadn't thought he was the actual Son of Sam.

When the police searched David Berkowitz's car they found a .44 caliber Bulldog pistol, maps of the crime scenes and a letter to Sgt. Dowd of the Omega task force. David Berkowitz was arrested on August 10, 1977 when he was leaving his building. His first words upon arrest were reported to be "What took you so long?" When David Berkowitz's apartment was searched by police they found it in disarray, with "occult" graffiti on the walls. The police also found a diary where Berkowitz took credit for dozens of arsons throughout the New York area. In a 30 minute interview at the police station, David Berkowitz confessed to the Son of Sam killings.

David Berkowitz made a series of claims that left his mental state in question. For example, he claimed that the "Sam" mentioned in the first letter was one Sam Carr, a former neighbor of Berkowitz. Berkowitz claimed that Carr's dog, Harvey, was possessed by an ancient demon, and that it issued commands to Berkowitz to kill. Berkowitz said he once tried to kill the dog, only to see his aim spoiled due to supernatural interference.

He also caused a disturbance in the courtroom during his sentencing hearing when he was heard to be chanting "Stacy was a whore" over and over again at a level that could just be heard by some of the people in the room. It was assumed he was referring to Stacy Moskowitz who was his final victim. June 12, 1978, to six life sentences in prison for the killings, making his maximum term some 365 years behind bars.