The nature vs. nurture debate has been tackled by psychologists and the public for years. Are people born evil? Or is it their environment that shapes them into who they turn out to be? It’s hard to believe that children, who are supposedly the most innocent beings, are born with evil tendencies. With figures like Ted Bundy, and Jeffrey Dahmer it might be hard to believe that they were at one point just children struggling through their adolescence like everyone else. This little boy might seem innocent, but he would actually be one of the most infamous serial killers in American history. His name was David Berkowitz, but you might know him as the Son of Sam. It’s hard to believe that this little boy would soon begin a killing spree that would make him infamous amongst the public.
David Berkowitz was born on June 1st, 1953, as Richard David Falco in Brooklyn, New York. He was born under the affair of his mother, Elizabeth Borden’s three-year affair with a married man. In fear of being less attractive to her lover, she put up Berkowitz for adoption.
Berkowitz was quickly adopted by a lovely couple from the Bronx named Pearl and Nathan Berkowitz. They decided to rename their adopted son and doted on the infant. Soon after adopting him, they realized he was incredibly smart, but troubled. As he grew, it seemed his bad behavior only seemed to get worse. He was constantly gettin reprimanded by teachers for theft and bullying his fellow classmates. Sadly, his adoptive mother died of cancer when he was just 14, and he grew to hate his new stepmother. When he turned 18 he decided to join the U.S Army.
Berkowitz served three years in the army, but once his service ended, he found himself feeling lost, alone, and searching for what to do next. He attempted to search for his birth mother, but after finding her, he felt more angry and isolated. Once he learned the identity of his father, he felt ashamed of being “illegitimate”. His thoughts began to turn to violent ones, and on December 24th, 1975, he brutally attacked a teenage girl with a hunting knife. Michelle was able to get help and was hospitalized. Berkowitz managed to escape all suspicion and consequences of the crime.
In order to keep a low profile, Berkowitz decided to move in to the city of Yonkers which is right outside New York. Yet, he found himself going back to the Bronx, which is where he spotted a young couple, Donna Lauria and Jody Valenti kissing in a parked car. Armed with a gun, he shot them both. Lauria died at the scene while Valenti survived with only scars. This first murder seemed to open the floodgates for Berkowitz. For two years after that, he would continue to murder innocent strangers. Police called him the .44 Caliber Killer, after the type of gun he used to commit his crimes.
By 1977, Berkowitz had killed two other people, and had left other victims wounded by bullets. However, on April 17, he decided to leave a note at the crime scene after fatally shooting Alexander Esau and Valentina Suriani. The note he left was addressed to the new York City police Captain Joseph Borelli. It was said that his handwriting could be compared to that of a child. However, his message was very loud and clear, he had committed these murders, and he would commit more of them before he was caught. Also included in the note was a nickname that that he wanted to be called; The Son of Sam. The message angered the police force which terrified the public. Women across the country noticed that he had often killed women with long dark hair, so women began cutting and dying their hair in hopes to escape.
Unfortunately, although Stacy Moskowitz cut and dyed her hair, it didn’t save her from her fate. Stacy and her boyfriend, Robert Violante were in their car when Berkowitz attacked them on July 31st, 1977. Moskowitz was fatally shot, while Violent survived the attacks. But this time was different. This time, a man named Tommy Zaino witnessed the entire attack.
Because of the description provided by Zaino, the police finally felt like they were getting closer to making a break in the case. They were even more optimistic when a local woman named Cecilia Davis admitted to having seen a man acting strangely in the area the day they were attacked. She said she heard gun shots and then ran.
With the help of the woman description, the police were able to narrow down their search to a black within the city. They eventually found his car, (A bright yellow Ford Galaxie) and inside of it they found a rifle, maps of the different scene areas and another note directed to a police officer named Timothy Dowd. On August 10th, 1977, David Berkowitz was finally caught.
He claimed that the “Sam” in his notes was a former neighbor, Sam Carr. Berkowitz claimed that Sam’s dog was possessed by an evil spirit who made Berkowitz kill young women. Due to his strange claims and bizarre behavior, there was a concern amongst the force that he would not be mentally capable of standing trial. However, in the end the judge ruled him competent and Berkowitz was sentenced to 25 years in prison for every single person he killed.