David Berkowitz was born Richard David Falco on June 1, 1953, in Brooklyn, New York.:73 His mother, Elizabeth “Betty” Broder, grew up as part of an impoverished Jewish family, and was a waitress. She married Tony Falco, an Italian American, in 1936.:76–9 After a marriage of less than four years, Tony Falco left her for another woman.:76
In 1950, Broder started a relationship with a married man named Joseph Klineman.:76,81 Three years later, she became pregnant with a child to whom she chose to give the surname Falco and, within a few days of Richard’s birth, Broder gave the child away.:80 Although her reasons for doing so are unknown,:81 writers have surmised that Klineman threatened to abandon her if she kept the baby and used his name.
The infant boy was adopted by Pearl and Nathan Berkowitz of the Bronx.:16 The Jewish-American couple were hardware store retailers of modest means, and childless in middle age. They reversed the order of the boy’s first and middle names and gave him their own surname, raising young David Richard Berkowitz as their only child.
Journalist John Vincent Sanders wrote that Berkowitz’s childhood was “somewhat troubled”. Although of above-average intelligence, he lost interest in learning at an early age and became infatuated with petty larceny and starting fires.] Neighbors and relatives would recall Berkowitz as difficult, spoiled, and a bully. His adoptive parents consulted at least one psychotherapist due to his misconduct, but his misbehavior never resulted in a legal intervention or serious mention in his school records. He attended Public School #123 and Public School #77.
Berkowitz’s adoptive mother died of breast cancer when he was 14 years old,:18 and his home life became strained during later years, particularly because he disliked his adoptive father’s second wife.:60–1 He lived with his father while attending Christopher Columbus High School (graduating in 1971) and college in a four-and-a-half-room apartment at 170 Dreiser Loop in Co-op City in the Bronx from 1967 to 1971.
In 1971, at the age of 17, Berkowitz joined the United States Army and served in Fort Knox in the United States and with an infantry division in South Korea. After an honorable discharge in June 1974, he located his birth mother, Betty. After a few visits, she disclosed the details of his birth. The news greatly disturbed Berkowitz, and he was particularly distraught by the array of reluctant father figures. :76–9 Forensic anthropologist Elliott Leyton described Berkowitz’s discovery of his adoption and birth details as the “primary crisis” of his life, a revelation that shattered his sense of identity. ] His communication with his birth mother later lapsed, but for a time he remained in communication with his half-sister, Roslyn. He attended Bronx Community College for one year, enrolling in the spring of 1975. In 1976 he went to work as a driver for the Co-Op City Taxi Company. He subsequently had several non-professional jobs, and at the time of his arrest was working as a letter sorter for the United States Postal Service
Berkowitz grew up in New York City and served in the United States Army before committing his crimes. Using a .44 caliber Bulldog revolver, he killed six people and wounded seven others by July 1977. The killing spree terrorized New Yorkers and gained worldwide notoriety. As the number of victims increased, Berkowitz eluded the biggest police manhunt in the history of New York City while leaving letters that mocked the police and promised further crimes, which were highly publicized by the press.
On the night of August 10, 1977, Berkowitz was taken into custody by New York City Police Department homicide detectives in front of his Yonkers apartment building; he was subsequently indicted for eight shooting incidents. He confessed to all of them, and initially claimed to have been obeying the orders of a demon manifested in the form of a dog belonging to his neighbor “Sam.”
Despite his explanation, Berkowitz was found mentally competent to stand trial. He pled guilty to second-degree murder and was incarcerated in state prison. He subsequently admitted that the dog-and-devil story was a hoax. In the course of further police investigations, Berkowitz was also implicated in many unsolved arsons in the city.
Intense coverage of the case by the media lent a kind of celebrity status to Berkowitz, which he seemed to enjoy, as noted by some observers. In response, the New York State Legislature enacted new statutes, known popularly as “Son of Sam laws”, designed to keep criminals from financially profiting from the publicity created by their crimes. The statutes have remained law in New York despite various legal challenges, and similar laws have been enacted in several other states.
Berkowitz has been incarcerated since his arrest and is serving six consecutive life sentences. During the mid-1990s, he amended his confession to claim that he had been a member of a violent Satanic cult that orchestrated the incidents as ritual murder. A few law enforcement authorities have said that his claims might be credible, but he remains the only person ever charged with the shootings. A new investigation of the murders began in 1996, but was suspended indefinitely after inconclusive findings. Wiki