It is hard to say why certain serial killers develop such a tremendous public interest and following in the media. But when a mass murderer becomes so famous that movies are made about him and the name of that killer becomes a household name, it reflects our national obsession with the criminal mind. That was certainly the case as more and more came to be known about Charlie Manson. It is hard to say why certain serial killers develop such a tremendous public interest and following in the media. But when a mass murderer becomes so famous that movies are made about him and the name of that killer becomes a household name, it reflects our national obsession with the criminal mind. That was certainly the case as more and more came to be known about Charlie Manson. And after the Manson Family killings probably the most notorious serial killer would be David Berkowitz, otherwise known as The Son of Sam.
The twelve months of terror that David Berkowitz inflicted on the people of New York that culminated in 1977 was such a huge event that it became known as the Summer of Sam. Compared to many serial killers who continue their crimes for years or decades or others whose “body count” goes much higher, it was the tremendous fear that the Son of Sam caused in such a large population along with the unique nature of his motivations for killing that drew so much attention to the Son of Sam.
The profile of a killer is not hard to identify in the childhood of David Berkowitz. Berkowitz was adopted by Nathan and Pearl Berkowitz and went to live in their home in the Bronx. But David got the thought in his head that the reason he was adopted was because his mother died in childbirth with him. That guilt and anger about what turned out to be completely untrue may have begun his descent into madness. In fact, even when he met his birth mother some time later, that still not stop his decent into an insanity that lead to serial murder.
Throughout his childhood, David was a troubled child and quite antisocial. But when Pearl Berkowitz passed away, he saw that as a spiritual attack which only intensified his feelings of paranoia and madness. Berkowitz joined the army which was a disaster and that failure along with a terrible sexual experience with a prostitute began turning Berkowitz into the Son of Sam. After the military, David’s mental problems made the leap to where he heard voices. His neighbor, Sam Car had a black Labrador named Harvey. As Harvey and other dogs in the neighborhood howled, David became sure they were demons commanding him to kill.
That step into madness drove Berkowitz into a yearlong killing spree that ended the lives of six people, wounded many more and terrorized an entire city. The intense manhunt for the Son of Sam serial killer is one of the most compelling stories of crime detection there is. But in the summer of 1977, David Berkowitz was finally arrested at his home. He gave up without resistance and confessed to being the Son of Sam and to the murders. Nonetheless, after his mental evaluation showed he was sane enough to stand trail, Berkowitz pleaded not guilty. He was convicted of the murders and a 365-year sentence was handed down.
Since being imprisoned, David Berkowitz has undergone a genuine religious conversion. He has become a writer and an evangelist for his faith and his strongest desire is to repair the evil that came out of him during his madness and do good as a result of his conversion. Nonetheless, he has not and will not see parole so his good works will have to be confined to the prison population. The terror that the Son of Sam brought to New York City and its surrounding boroughs will never be let loose on mankind again.