Category: Serial Killing
Location: United States
Date: 1976 - 1977
Crime: Known as the infamous 'Son of Sam', the crimes Berkowitz committed were originally called the '.44 Caliber Killings'. He is serving life in prison for the shooting deaths of six people committed in the summer of 1976, through his capture in August of 1977.
Biography: Born as Richard David Falco in Brooklyn, New York on June 1, 1953, he was later adopted by hardware store owners Nathan and Pearl Berkowitz, hence the change in surname. Said to have had a troubled childhood, he was quite intelligent but lost his desire to learn and became unusually interested in larceny and pyromania. When he was thirteen, his adopted mother died of cancer and in the coming years his life became strained further because of his dislike for his adoptive father's second wife. In 1971, Berkowitz joined the military and served honorably until 1974, while avoiding service in Vietnam. When his military life ended, he tracked down his birth mother, but that relationship ended badly when he found out that he was illegitimately conceived which forced his adoption. By 1975, Berkowitz claimed to have joined a cult where he was introduced to drug use and violent crime. His first shooting occurred on July 29, 1976 when he approached two young women who were talking in the back seat of a parked car and opened fire. One of the girl's died from a gunshot wound to the chest, the other survived after being struck in the thigh. Almost three months later, he struck again. This time both victims survived, one needing a metal plate in their head to replace a damaged skull. He continued the shootings through the winter and into the spring of 1977, always attacking two victims in a pair. A handwritten letter was left near the crime scene in April 1977, signed 'Son of Sam'. Up until this point, the crime spree had been known as the .44 Caliber Killings, but now the killer had a new name, 'Son of Sam'. Throughout the borough's of New York City, panic ensued as a new letter was received by a reporter for the Daily News and published in the paper. The letter spoke of more shootings leading up to the anniversary of the first killing in July of 1976. In June 1977, another couple was shot, but both survived the attack. Then on July 31, 1977, Berkowitz approached a vehicle where inside, a young couple were kissing. He fired shots into the vehicle and ran away into the park. Several witnesses saw the gunman and another saw him get into a light colored vehicle and drive off, catching a partial license plate number. The evidence led police to Berkowitz who was brought in for questioning and soon confessed to the shootings, pleading guilty to the crimes in exchange for avoiding the death penalty. Berkowitz has since recanted his confessions, claiming that most of the shootings were conducted by a Satanic cult and in 2004, the case was re-opened with no further arrests to date as Berkowitz continues to serve his life sentence.