10 Strange Facts about Son of Sam Serial Killer David Berkowitz
Ask anyone to name the worst serial killers of all time, and the odds are good that David Berkowitz will make the list. Better known by the nickname given to him by the media, Son of Sam, he killed six people and wounded seven during a murderous rampage that took place in New York over the course of a year. Berkowitz attempted an insanity plea and claimed that his neighbor’s dog talked to him and told him to go on his rampage. The insanity plea failed to save him, and Berkowitz found himself sent to prison.The Son of Sam ranks right up there with John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy and all the other infamous serial killers throughout history. Though his death toll was lower than those associated with other killers, there is something about his legacy that lives on. Find out more with our list of weird Berkowitz facts.
10. He Was Adopted as a Child
David Berkowitz had a rough life even as a child. Born in 1953, he was the son of a Jewish mother and a Catholic father. The couple started a business together but experienced a number of problems in their marriage. Both had affairs during her pregnancy, and his mother later embarked on a long term affair with another man. When the man refused to accept her pregnancy, she decided that adoption was her only option.
Unlike other children who sometimes bounce around from family to family, Berkowitz quickly found a new home. Pearl and Nathan Berkowitz were Jewish entrepreneurs living in the Bronx and struggling with their own attempts to have a child. After hearing of a baby up for adoption under the name Richard David, they worked with an agency to adopt him and bring them home. They later renamed him David Richard Berkowitz.
Though Berkowitz was a normal child during his early years, he began lashing out in various ways during his later years. He often stole from other businesses near his home and frequently fought with his parents. Pearl even convinced Nathan to talk with a psychologist to get him help, but nothing they did work. After Pearl passed away and Nathan later remarried, Berkowitz experienced even more problems. Though he later found his birth mother, he ceased all contact with her after learning the details surrounding his birth and discovering his birth father has passed away.
9. His Attacks Began Earlier Than Most Think
The first date recorded by police of an attack by the Son of Sam killer occurred on July 29, 1976, but Berkowitz himself later admitted that his attacks began much earlier. He claims that he attempted to kill two women on Christmas Eve in 1975. After his arrest, Berkowitz told police that he attacked the women with a knife. Despite an extensive search, police found no evidence of his first attack and believe the woman likely never sought help. The second woman apparently did go to the hospital and later recovered, but she could not describe her attacker. Police did not associate Berkowitz with the crime until he confessed.
Berkowitz claims that he attacked other women and committed other crimes but refused to give police any details. As he lived in the Bronx, Yonkers and other neighborhoods around NYC, some believe he is responsible for dozens of other attacks and possibly even a few murders.
His earlier and later attacks do share some similarities. He primarily attacked women with dark brown or black hair, and he preferred women with long hair. Though he primarily used a knife in his earlier attacks, he later used a gun and preferred a .44 caliber bulldog revolver, which earned him a second nickname as the .44 Killer. Berkowitz initially went after young women who were alone, but he later attacked young women who matched his profile while they were with their boyfriends or significant others.
8. A Task Force Went After Him
The New York Police Department scheduled a press conference on March 10, 1977 and announced they believed a link existed between several recent shootings in and around the city. Though they initially claimed that they had evidence that the same shooter used the same gun in all the attacks, insiders later admitted that they only believed it was the same gun and killer and that they actually had little to no evidence. In the hopes of catching the killer, the NYPD launched the Operation Omega Task Force.
Timothy Joseph Dodd, a Deputy Inspector in the NYPD, took over the leadership of the task force. More than 300 uniformed officers in the NPYD volunteered their services. Despite intensive investigation into the murders and attacks, the Son of Sam struck again.
A little over a month after the task force started, Berkowitz attacked a young couple in the Bronx. Ironically, the attacked occurred just a short distance from an earlier attack that police investigated. Eighteen-year-old Valentina Suriani died before help arrived from injuries sustained during the attack. Her 20-year-old boyfriend Alexander Esau was alert when police arrived and immediately went to the hospital for help. He died from his injuries without giving police any information about the attack.
The unexpected violence of the attack shocked many in the community and left them fearful of the future. Despite the task force working hard to stop him, Berkowitz would later taunt them with a series of letters.
7. He Named Himself
Serial killers often receive nicknames from the media. Benjamin Atkins, a serial killer active in Michigan during the 1990s, earned the nickname of The Woodward Corrider Killer due to the location of his killings. Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono Junior, the two cousins who ravaged Boston, found themselves called The Hillside Strangler in the media before police realized the two worked together. Even John Wayne Gacy picked up the nickname of The Killer Clown due to his work as a clown in the past. David Berkowitz ranks as one of the only serial killers who gave himself a nickname.
When Berkowitz began his killing streak, the media dubbed him the .44 Caliber Killer or the .44 Killer. The nickname was so common that the task force investigating his crimes even used those nicknames themselves. Berkowitz apparently wasn’t too happy with the moniker because he later started calling himself the Son of Sam.
The first mention of the name came in a letter that Berkowitz himself wrote and sent to the NYPD. The letter, which featured a number of misspelled words and colloquialisms not commonly used in the United States, mentioned details of the murders that only the killer would know. The police released sections of the letter in the hopes that someone would recognize some of the phrases or the handwriting. The New York Daily News and other publications ran stories devoted to the letter and printed portions of the letter for readers to examine. As Berkowitz signed the letter Son of Sam, media outlets quickly shifted from calling him the .44 Caliber Killer to calling him Son of Sam.
6. He Almost Got Away With It
David Berkowitz’s Ford Galaxie Gave Him Away
Despite taunting the police with a letter and shooting at least four people after sending the letter, Berkowitz came very close to getting away with the attacks. During the early stages of the investigation, police believed that the killer had some connection to the NYPD or another police department due to the way he held his gun. There were a few early reports that indicated police believed the shooter was actually two men. As there were some differences in the early attacks, police thought that they attacks were not connected. After identifying the murder weapon, they thought those differences indicated two men working together.
Berkowitz also came close to walking away free and clear later in the investigation. A young woman came forward to speak with police about a man she spotted near one of the last murders and about the eerie way that he looked at her. Police identified a 1970 Ford Galaxie as being one of the cars on the street that night. A representative from the NYPD spoke with officers working for the Yonkers Police Department and uncovered some startling facts.
YPD officers admitted that they had their doubts about Berkowitz and that some of the crimes he committed in the past were similar to crimes mentioned in the infamous Son of Sam letter. Officers later found weapons and ammunition inside his car. After a warrant allowed them to search his car, they found additional proof of his crimes. Upon arriving at his home to serve him a warrant, Berkowitz gave up on the spot. His insults continued even then, as he asked police, “what took you so long?”.