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Son of Sam

Son of Sam

The Son of Sam is an infamous American serial killer who was also known as the .44 Caliber Killer. David Berkowitz was born in 1953 in Brooklyn, New York. As a child, David went through some hardships, he was abandoned by both his biological parents but was adopted by Pearl and Nathan Berkowitz and moved to the Bronx in New York. Though David was of a higher intelligence, he lost all interest in education, and would rather commit crimes, mainly theft and arson. An interesting thing to note is that David, like many other murderers, had several head injuries as a kid. Even more interestingly, it is unknown if this caused any of his murderous rage. 

When David was young, he had visited a therapist on occasion because of his inappropriate and illegal behavior, but it was said that nothing came about because of it. David was heartbroken when his adoptive mother died from breast cancer when he was just 14 years old. The grief further grew because he didn’t like his adoptive father’s second wife. Not much is known between this time and his college days, except that he was living with his father during this time. Sometime during college, David got in touch with his biological mother and found out information about his birth. This is when David entirely shattered, he felt like he had no sense of identity after this time. 

After he finished college, he had a few jobs, but none paid much money and he kept either quitting or getting fired. Eventually, his dissatisfaction grew until in the 1970s it exploded and he committed his first violent crimes. At 22 years old, on Christmas Eve of 1975, David allegedly stabbed two Hispanic women. It is unknown if this is true or not because the women have never been identified. His second known victim that night was a 15-year-old girl named Michelle Forman. He took her to a bridge and stabbed her 6 times. Luckily for Michelle, none were fatal with the help of a week-long hospital stay. Unfortunately for the police, after this murder attempt, David moved to a new apartment in the next town over. 

David was disappointed in his work with a knife, so he moved on to using a gun. This is where the name “.44 Caliber Killer” comes from. The first shooting he was thought of committing was in July of 1976. He approached two women sitting in a car, 19-year-old Jodi Valenti and 18-year-old Donna Lauria. Donna opened her door to leave when David walked up and shot Donna with a single bullet which immediately killed her. He shot Jodi in the thigh and shot one other bullet, which missed both women. He then quickly walked away before anyone could even react. Jodi survived but was unable to remember anything useful about her friend’s killer. The few bits of the description that stuck were made clear, for neighbors remembered seeing a man who looked similar walking around near the area of the killing. 

The next shooting was in October of the same year. He came up next to 20-year-old Carl Danaro and 18-year-old Rosemary Keenan’s car and shot only once when Carl instinctively drove away very quickly. Thankfully, Rosemary only had small scratches from the glass breaking, and Carl also survived, though in worse shape. Carl had been shot in the head and had to have a metal plate inserted in his skull. “Many details of the Denaro–Keenan shooting were very similar to the Lauria–Valenti case, but police did not initially associate them, partly because the shootings occurred in different boroughs and were being investigated by different police precincts.”

In November, David struck again. He approached 16-year-old Donna DeMasi and 18-year-old Joanne Lomino and pretended to ask for directions. It was assumed that the girls weren’t as suspicious as they probably should’ve been because David had on a military uniform. When the girls were listening to what he had to say, he suddenly pulled out his revolver and shot both of the girls, shooting several more times once they fell to the ground. Hearing the commotion, a neighbor ran out to see what was going on, but David was already running away by the time the neighbor came out, and the girls were much more of a priority. Donna had been shot in the neck but was able to recover rather well. Unfortunately, Joanne had been shot in the back of the head and was paraplegic. 

In January of 1977, David pulled up to 26-year-old Christine Freund and her fiance, John Diel while they were sitting in their car. David shot 3 times, but John was able to drive away without getting any major injuries. Christine on the other hand, had been shot and died just hours after being hospitalized. It was this shooting that made the police start to connect the cases, but possible suspects were still unknown. 

On March 8th, he approached 20-year-old Virginia Voskerician, and shot her in the head, killing her immediately. After this death, the police finally went to the press, telling everyone that it was the same person committing these murders. 

In April, 20-year-old Alexander Esau and 18-year-old Valentina Suriani were sitting only a block away from Valentina’s home when they were both shot. A neighbor came out from the noise to find Valentina shot once but died at the scene. Alexander was shot twice in the head and died later in the hospital. This was when David started leaving letters at the crime scene. He would call himself “Son of Sam,” which quickly replaced “.44 Caliber Killer.” “The letter expressed the killer’s determination to continue his work, and taunted police for their fruitless efforts to capture him.” 

In June, David shot at 20-year-old Salvatore Lupo and 17-year-old Judy Placio. Both survived, but neither were able to identify their attacker. In July, David came up to Stacy Moskowitz and Robert Violante and shot 4 rounds. Robert lost his right eye, and Stacy sadly succumbed to her head injuries. This would be David’s last killing. 

A dogwalker had seen a young man walking around with a “dark object” which worried her because of the killings that had been happening. The dogwalker rushed home to tell the police about this man, and she was further worried when she heard gunshots a bit later. The police decided to look through all the cars that had been ticketed that night, and among them, was David’s yellow Ford. The police were going to interview every person who had a car that had been ticketed that night, hoping to find a lead. When the police went to investigate David’s car, they found a gun and a duffle bag full of ammunition. The police found this highly suspicious and decided to bring him in for questioning. 

The police were even more suspicious of him when his neighbors called to report he was leaving them threatening letters. Surprisingly, David confessed relatively quickly, claiming that his neighbor, Sam Carr’s dog (Harvey), was possessed by a demon and telling him to commit these murders. So contrary to popular belief, Sam was indeed not the dog, it was the dog’s owner. David was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, which explains why he was having auditory and visual hallucinations. During his sentencing, David was given 25 years to life. The last thing anyone has heard, David has been denied parole and is currently serving out his sentence at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility in New York.

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About the Contributor
Mitchell Sherman is a sophomore who lives with her grandparents, dogs, and other pets. Her hobbies include but are not limited to, crocheting, sewing, herbology, gardening, and baking.

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