(The Son Of Sam)
Richard David Berkowitz was born the illegitimate child of Betty Broder. His mother had an affair with a married man, Joseph Kleinman, and became pregnant. Joseph wanted nothing to do with the child. So, in order to save her relationship with him, she put the child up for adoption. David was adopted by a Jewish couple, Nathan and Pearl Berkowitz, who could not have children of their own due to medical problems.
When David was 14, his adopted mother died of cancer. His grades began to decline even more than they had already had and his adopted father moved them into a neighborhood located in the Bronx section of New York. During this time David's problems with communication became even worse, particularly communication with woman.
In 1971, his adopted father decided it was time to re-marry. David eventually decided to join the United States Army. In 1974, David returned from the army and denounced Judaism. This decision did not help his home life, so he moved out and got his own place. He moved into 2151 Barnes Avenue, also located in the Bronx.
David soon discovered who his real mother was and they became close friends. He seemed to have finally found a happy family that he could become a part of. The first known "Son of Sam" murder occurred on July 29, 1976. 18-year-old Donna Lauria and her friend 19-year-old Jody Valente, were sitting in Valente's car chatting about guys. By 1:00 a.m. the conversation came to a finish and Donna opened the car door and said her goodbyes. However, as she opened the door, a man came out of the shadows, put his hand into a brown paper bag and pulled out a .44 caliber revolver. Donna exclaimed "What does this guy want?", before she could get her answer, a bullet ripped through her neck. In defense, she raised a hand to protect her face. However, obviously surprising to Donna, her hand was not bullet proof and a projectile went into her elbow and traveled up her forearm. Donna dropped to the footpath and Berkowitz fired at Jody, hitting her once in the thigh. In response, Jody dove forward and hit the horn, which alerted Mike Lauria, Donna's father who amazingly seemed to have missed the loud noise of the bullets. By the time he got outside, Berkowitz was gone and Donna Lauria was dead. Jody Valente was however able to give police a decent description of the killer.
Approximately 12 weeks later, on October 23, 1976, a young couple, 18-year-old Rosemary Keenen and her boyfriend 20-year-old Carl Denaro, were sitting in Keenen's bright red Volks Wagon in Flushing, Queens - some distance from the site of the first murder in the North Bronx. This time Berkowitz came better prepared. He had his .44 tucked into his belt and was not going to take any risks. He walked up to the passenger side window pulled the gun out, and fired five shots into the window. The Bulldog .44 is well known for having quite a kick. Hence, only one of the bullets found its way into Denaro's head. Luckily for Denaro all it did was graze his skull and completely missed his brain, letting him survive.
Berkowitz was a bit more successful on November 27, in Queens. 18-year-old Joanne Lomino and her friend 16-year-old Donna DeMasi, were sitting on the front steps of Lomino's house. As Lomino decided to call it a night, she stood up and grabbed her keys. At that moment, Berkowitz walked past the house on the other side of the road. When he noticed the girls he changed his direction and walked toward them. He started asking for directions, then suddenly and un-expectantly, he pulled out the .44 caliber revolver and began firing. The first shot pierced Lomino's spine, the second went through DeMasi's neck. The next three missed both girls as they ran into nearby bushes. Berkowitz was seen running down the street by a neighbor. When the girls arrived at the hospital, it was discovered that DeMasi was not badly injured, but Lomino was less lucky – she has since spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair. Some detectives tried to link this shooting with the two previous ones, but decided it was unlikely as the description these girls had given did not match the previous ones.
On January 29, 1977, 30-year-old John Diel and 26-year-old Christine Fruend, were sitting in their Pontiac Firebird in Queens NY after seeing The film "Rocky". The couple had been fooling around as people are known to do in parked cars, and as the windows were fogged up, they never had a chance to see Berkowitz coming. All that they were able to see was an explosion of glass as Berkowitz fired into the car. Before Diel knew what had happened his girlfriend who was bleeding profusely, David Berkowitz was gone. Christine Fruend died a few hours later in hospital. Police were able to get a bullet out of her that matched the bullets that came out of the other victims. However, investigators still did not believe they had a single murderer on their hands as the descriptions still did not match.
On March 8, 1977, Police stopped thinking about different killers as David Berkowitz struck again. 19-year-old Virginia Voskerichian, was walking home in Queens at approximately 7:30 p.m. when she stepped to the side to allow a young man to pass her. However, instead he raised a .44 caliber revolver to her face. She raised the books she was carrying but the bullet sliced through them and went into her skull, killing her instantly. A witness gave yet another different description of the murderer. Nonetheless, the bullet was a perfect match for an earlier killing. Police at this time, finally decided they were after one guy.
"Operation Omega" was set up to catch the man the press dubbed "The .44 Killer". Berkowitz obviously decided that the police needed some help catching him. Hence, he wrote them a letter. He did not trust the post office so he decided to leave it where it could not be ignored. On April 17, 1977, at 3:00 a.m. Berkowitz stumbled upon 18-year-old Valentina Suriani and her boyfriend 20-year-old Alexander Esau. Suriani was sitting on Esau's knee as the couple made out when Berkowitz fired into the car. The first 2 shots penetrated Valentina's skull killing her instantly. The next 2 went into Esau's head. Berkowitz put the note a few feet from the car in the middle of the road and left. Police found the note, and rushed Esau to Hospital where he died 2 hours later.
The letter did not really say much of anything, it was mainly a taunt. In addition, there was no chance of lifting prints off it as approximately eight different policemen had handled it before it made its way into evidence. Berkowitz mailed another letter, this time to a journalist, Jimmy Breslin, at New York's Daily News. Over the next week the paper teased its readers, and sold over 1,116,000 copies, a record at the time. The letters proved to mean very little. Nonetheless, it did provide the press with a new nickname from the 44-caliber killer - "Son of Sam"
On June 25, 1977, 3 weeks after his last letter, Berkowitz struck again. 17-year-old Judy Placido and Slavatore Lupo were sitting in Lupo's car talking about "Son of Sam" when the window exploded. A bullet hit Lupo in the wrist and rebounded into Placido's neck. The following shot penetrated her shoulder. Salvatore decided to run to the disco they had just left. By this time, Berkowitz was gone. Both victims survived the attack.
On July 31, 1977, 2 days following the anniversary of his first murder, Berkowitz decided to celebrate by trying for 2 more victims. Robert Violente and his date 20-year-old Stacy Moskowitz, were making out in Robert's car when Berkowitz fired 2 shots into Violente's face. He was blinded by the shots and never saw Berkowitz shoot Stacy. She died 2 days later. Violente was to remain blind for life. Unfortunately for Berkowitz, he had been seen by the occupants of the next car, who in turn, gave a decent description of him. In addition, many witnesses also saw his car. However, the most damming evidence was a parking ticket he received for parking too close to a fire hydrant. This lead would have remained undiscovered if a witness did not come forward. She had noticed a ticket being given to a car, to which she had seen a man fitting the description of "Son of Sam" getting into it after the shooting. This was the end for David Berkowitz.
It took police approximately, 10 days to check for the ticket. Nevertheless, once they found it, it did not take long to decide David Berkowitz was their man. On August 10, 1977, David Berkowitz was arrested for the "Son of Sam" attacks. Police sat outside his apartment for 6 hours waiting for Berkowitz to surface. They had searched his car and found a semi-automatic rifle and an envelope addressed to a detective in the murder task force, which contained a letter threatening yet another attack. When Berkowitz jumped in his car a few hours later, half of the New York police department was waiting for him. When police surrounded him, Berkowitz simply smiled and when asked, "Who are you?", he calmly answered, "I'm Sam."
Berkowitz confessed to all of the attacks and went on to blame it all on the "voices" in his head. He said he was urged to kill by Sam Carr, his neighbor, who transmitted the messages through his dogs barking. He also had informed investigators that there were demonic voices telling him what to do when he was out hunting. This was obviously an early attempt for his insanity plea, one that was quickly rejected.
David Berkowitz pled guilty to all the murders in court and was sentenced to 365 years in prison. On July 10, 1979 Berkowitz was attacked in prison. His throat was slashed and required 56 stitches to sew him up. He refused to name his attacker and claimed it was a killer cult that attacked him in order to silence him.
Berkowitz suddenly claimed that he was a part of a cult and that they committed the murders, not him. Surprisingly many Christians believed him and tried to plea for his release.