I am deeply hurt by your calling me a wemon hater. I am not. But I am a monster. I am the "Son of Sam." I am a little "brat". When father Sam gets drunk he gets mean. He beats his family. Sometimes he ties me up to the back of the house. Other times he locks me in the garage. Sam loves to drink blood. "Go out and kill" commands father Sam. Behind our house some rest. Mostly young—raped and slaughtered—their blood drained—just bones now. Papa Sam keeps me locked in the attic, too. I can't get out but I look out the attic window and watch the world go by. I feel like an outsider. I am on a different wave length then everybody else—programmed too kill. However, to stop me you must kill me. Attention all police: Shoot me first—shoot to kill or else. Keep out of my way or you will die! Papa Sam is old now. He needs some blood to preserve his youth. He has had too many heart attacks. Too many heart attacks. "Ugh, me hoot it urts sonny boy." I miss my pretty princess most of all. She's resting in our ladies house but I'll see her soon. I am the "Monster"—"Beelzebub"—the "Chubby Behemouth." I love to hunt. Prowling the streets looking for fair game—tasty meat. The wemon of Queens are z prettyist of all. I must be the water they drink. I live for the hunt—my life. Blood for papa. Mr. Borrelli, sir, I dont want to kill anymore no sir, no more but I must, "honour thy father." I want to make love to the world. I love people. I don't belong on Earth. Return me to yahoos. To the people of Queens, I love you. And I wa want to wish all of you a happy Easter. May God bless you in this life and in the next and for now I say goodbye and goodnight. Police—Let me haunt you with these words; I'll be back! I'll be back! To be interrpreted as—bang, bang, bang, bank, bang—ugh!! Yours in murder Mr. Monster
Berkowitz's mother, Elizabeth "Betty" Broder, grew up as part of an impoverished Jewish family and married Tony Falco, an Italian-American, in 1936. After a marriage of less than four years, Falco left her for another woman. About a decade later in 1950, Broder started a relationship with a married man named Joseph Klineman. Three years later she became pregnant with a child to whom she chose to give the surname Falco—Richard David Falco was born on June 1, 1953 in Brooklyn, New York. Within a few days of his birth, she gave the child away. Although her reasons for doing so are unknown, later Writers have surmised that Klineman threatened to abandon her if she kept the baby and used his name.
During the mid-1970s, Berkowitz started to commit violent crimes. He bungled a first attempt at murder using a knife, then switched to a handgun and began a lengthy crime spree throughout the New York boroughs of the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn. He sought young female victims. He was purportedly most attracted to women with long, dark, wavy hair. All but one of the crime sites involved two victims; he infamously committed some of his attacks while the women sat with boyfriends in parked cars. He exhibited an enduring enjoyment of his activities, often returning to the scenes of his crimes.
At the age of 17 in 1971, he joined the U.S. Army and served in the United States and South Korea. After an honorable discharge in 1974, he located his birth mother, Betty. After a few visits, she disclosed the details of his illegitimate birth. The news greatly disturbed Berkowitz, and he was particularly distraught by the array of reluctant father figures. Forensic Anthropologist Elliott Leyton described Berkowitz's discovery of his adoption and illegitimate birth 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 subsequently had several non-professional jobs, and at the time of his arrest he was working as a letter sorter for the U.S. Postal Service.
Underneath the "Son of Sam" was a logo or Sketch that combined several symbols. The writer's question "What will you have for July 29?" was considered an ominous threat: July 29 would be the anniversary of the first .44 caliber shooting. Breslin notified police, who thought that the letter was probably from someone with knowledge of the shootings. The Breslin letter was sophisticated in its wording and presentation, especially when compared to the crudely written first letter, and police suspected that it might have been created in an art studio or similar professional location by someone with expertise in printing, calligraphy, or graphic design. The unusual writing caused the police to speculate that the killer was a comic letterer, and they asked staff members of DC Comics whether they recognized the lettering. The "Wicked King Wicker" reference caused police to arrange a private screening of The Wicker Man, a 1973 horror movie.
In 1979, Berkowitz mailed a book about witchcraft to police in North Dakota. He had underlined several passages and written a few marginal notes, including the phrase: "Arliss [sic] Perry, Hunted, Stalked and Slain. Followed to Calif. Stanford University." The reference was to Arlis Perry, a 19-year-old North Dakota newlywed who had been murdered at Stanford on October 12, 1974. Her death, and the notorious abuse of her corpse in a Christian chapel on campus, was a widely reported case. Berkowitz mentioned the Perry attack in other letters, suggesting that he knew details of it from the perpetrator himself. Local police investigators interviewed him but they "now  believe he has nothing of value to offer" and the Perry case remains unsolved.
After his admission to Sullivan prison, Berkowitz began to claim that he had joined a Satanic cult in the spring of 1975. In 1993, Berkowitz made these claims known when he announced to the press that he had only killed three of the Son of Sam victims: Donna Lauria, Alexander Esau and Valentina Suriani. In his revised version of the events, Berkowitz said that other shooters were involved and that he fired the gun only in the first attack (Lauria and Valenti) and the sixth (Esau and Suriani). He said that he and several other cult members were involved in every incident by planning the events, providing early surveillance of the victims, and acting as lookouts and drivers at the crime scenes. Berkowitz stated that he could not divulge the names of most of his accomplices without putting his family directly at risk.
Donna DeMasi, 16, and Joanne Lomino, 18, walked home from a movie soon after midnight on November 27, 1976. They were chatting on the porch of Lomino's home in Bellerose, Queens when a man dressed in military fatigues who seemed to be in his early 20s approached them and began to ask directions.
Son of Sam has been popularly (and mistakenly) associated with the contemporaneous song "Psycho Killer" (1977) by Talking Heads. Compositions more directly inspired by the events include "Son of Sam" (1978) by The Dead Boys, "Son of Sam" by Chain Gang, and "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun" (1989) by the Beastie Boys. Guitarist Scott Putesky used the stage name "Daisy Berkowitz" while playing with Marilyn Manson in the 1990s, and the band's song "Son of Man" conspicuously describes Berkowitz; several other rock Musicians established a full ensemble named Son of Sam during 2000. A cartoon composite of Berkowitz and the breakfast cereal icon Toucan Sam was featured in Green Jellÿ's comedy rock video Cereal Killer (1992) by the name of "Toucan Son of Sam", but it was later removed under threat of a copyright lawsuit by the Kellogg Company.
Jimmy Breslin, in collaboration with Writer Dick Schaap, published a novelized account of the murders, .44 (1978), less than a year after Berkowitz's arrest. The highly fictionalized plot recounts the exploits of a Berkowitz-based character dubbed "Bernard Rosenfeld". Outside of North America, the book was renamed Son of Sam. The 2016 young adult novel Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina is set in New York during 1977, and depicts how fear of being one of the Son of Sam victims affected the daily lives of people.
Berkowitz declared at a press conference during February 1979 that his previous claims of demonic possession were a hoax. Berkowitz stated in a series of meetings with his special court-appointed Psychiatrist David Abrahamsen that he had long contemplated murder to get revenge at a world that he felt had rejected and hurt him. Berkowitz claimed he felt particular anger due to his lack of success with women, and thus singled out attractive young women as victims.
A paper bag containing a .44-caliber Bulldog revolver of the type that was identified in ballistics tests was found next to Berkowitz in the car. As described in Son of Sam (1981) by Lawrence D. Klausner, Detective Falotico remembered the big, inexplicable smile on the man's face:
Vigorously denied by police at the time, Terry's articles were widely read and discussed; they were later assembled in book form as The Ultimate Evil (1987; expanded second edition 1999). Largely impelled by these reports of accomplices and Satanic cult activity, the Son of Sam case was reopened by Yonkers police during 1996, but no new charges were filed. Due to a lack of findings, the investigation was eventually suspended but remains unclosed.
After his arrest, Berkowitz was initially confined to a psychiatric ward in Kings County Hospital where the staff reported that he seemed remarkably untroubled by his new environment. On the day after his sentencing, he was taken first to Sing Sing prison and then to the upstate Clinton Correctional Facility for psychiatric and physical examinations. Two more months were spent at the Central New York Psychiatric Center in Marcy before his admission to Attica prison. Berkowitz served about a decade in Attica until he was relocated (c. 1990) to Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, New York, where he remained for many years until he was transferred to Shawangunk Correctional Facility. Berkowitz described life in Attica as a "nightmare". In 1979, there was an attempt on Berkowitz's life in which the left side of his neck was slashed from front to back, resulting in a wound that required more than fifty Stitches to close. Berkowitz refused to identify his assailant, and he only claimed that he was grateful for the attack—it brought a sense of justice or, in Berkowitz's own words, "the punishment I deserve".
After rampant speculation about publishers offering Berkowitz large sums of money for his story, the New York State Legislature swiftly passed a new law that prevented convicted Criminals (and their relatives) from making any financial profit from books, movies, or other enterprises related to the stories of their crimes. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the so-called "Son of Sam law" for violating the First Amendment's right of free expression in the 1991 case of Simon & Schuster, Inc. v. Crime Victims Board, but New York produced a constitutionally revised version of the law in the following year. Similar laws have since been enacted in 41 states and at the federal level.
Soon after his imprisonment, Berkowitz invited Malachi Martin, an exorcist, to help him compose an autobiography, but the offer was not accepted. During later years, Berkowitz developed his memoirs with assistance from evangelical Christians. His statements were released as an interview video, Son of Hope, during 1998, with a more extensive work released in book form, entitled Son of Hope: The Prison Journals of David Berkowitz (2006). Berkowitz does not receive any royalties or profit from any sales of his works. He has continued to write essays on faith and repentance for Christian websites. His own official website is maintained on his behalf by a church group, since he is not allowed access to a computer. Berkowitz stays involved with prison ministry, and regularly counsels troubled inmates. While in the Sullivan facility, he pursued education and graduated with honors from Sullivan Community College.
The Spike Lee drama Summer of Sam was released in 1999 with actor Michael Badalucco in the role of Son of Sam. The movie depicts the tensions that develop in a Bronx neighborhood during the shootings, and Berkowitz's part is largely symbolic. A minor character in the script, he functions "mostly as a berserk metaphor for Lee's view of the seventies as a period of amoral excess". Berkowitz was reported to be disturbed by what he called exploitation of "the ugliness of the past". Other movie portrayals of Berkowitz include the Ulli Lommel DVD release Son of Sam (2008) and the CBS television movie Out of the Darkness (1985). The character of Son of Sam played a significant minor role in the miniseries The Bronx Is Burning (2007).
Skeptics include a former FBI profiler, John E. Douglas, who spent hours interviewing Berkowitz. He states that he was convinced Berkowitz acted alone and was an "introverted loner, not capable of being involved in group activity." Dr. Harvey Schlossberg, a NYPD Psychologist, states in Against The Law, a documentary about the Son of Sam case, that he believes that the Satanic cult claims are nothing but a fantasy concocted by Berkowitz to absolve himself of the crimes. In his book Hunting Humans (2001), Elliott Leyton argued that "recent journalistic attempts to abridge—or even deny—Berkowitz's guilt have lacked all credibility."
Before his first parole hearing in 2002, Berkowitz sent a letter to New York Governor George Pataki asking that it be canceled. He wrote, "In all honesty, I believe that I deserve to be in prison for the rest of my life. I have, with God's help, long ago come to terms with my situation and I have accepted my punishment." Officials at the Sullivan facility duly rejected his case.
Hockenberry's own report was broadcast by network news and given much exposure by Dateline NBC (2004). In it, he discusses another Journalist, Maury Terry, who had begun investigating the Son of Sam shootings before Berkowitz was arrested. Terry published a series of investigative articles in the Gannett newspapers in 1979 which challenged the official explanation of a lone gunman.
During June 2005, Berkowitz sued one of his previous lawyers for the misappropriation of a large number of letters, photographs, and other personal possessions. Hugo Harmatz, a New Jersey attorney, had represented Berkowitz in an earlier legal effort to prevent the National Enquirer from buying one of his letters. Harmatz then self-published his own collection of letters and memorabilia—Dear David (2005)—which he had obtained from Berkowitz during their consultations. Berkowitz stated that he would only drop the lawsuit if the attorney signed over all the money he made to the victims' families. In October 2006, Berkowitz and Harmatz settled out of court, with Harmatz agreeing to return the disputed items and to donate part of his book profits to the New York State Crime Victims Board.
Neysa Moskowitz, who previously had not hidden her hatred of Berkowitz, wrote him a letter shortly before her own death in 2006, forgiving him for killing her daughter, Stacy.
Among Berkowitz's alleged unnamed associates was a female cult member whom he claims fired the gun at Denaro and Keenan, both of whom survived, Berkowitz said, because the alleged accomplice was unfamiliar with the powerful recoil of a .44 Bulldog. Berkowitz declared that "at least five" cult members were at the scene of the Freund–Diel shooting, but the actual shooter was a prominent cult associate who had been brought in from outside New York with an unspecified motive—a cult member whom he identified only by his nickname, "Manson II". Another unnamed person was the gunman in the Moskowitz–Violante case, a male cult member who had arrived from North Dakota for the occasion, also without explanation.
Police searched Apartment 7-E and found it in disarray, with Satanic graffiti on the walls. They also found diaries that he had kept since he was twenty-one—three stenographer's notebooks nearly all full wherein Berkowitz meticulously noted hundreds of arsons that he claimed to have set throughout New York City. Some sources allege that this number might be over 1,400. Soon after Berkowitz's arrest, the address of the building was changed from 35 Pine Street to 42 Pine Street in an attempt to end its notoriety. After the arrest, Berkowitz was briefly held in a Yonkers police station before being transported directly to the 60th Precinct in Coney Island, where the detectives' task force was located. At about 1:00 a.m., Mayor Abraham Beame arrived to see the suspect personally. After a brief and wordless encounter, he announced to the media: "The people of the City of New York can rest easy because of the fact that the police have captured a man whom they believe to be the Son of Sam."
Berkowitz is entitled to a parole hearing every two years as mandated by state law, but he has consistently refused to ask for his release, sometimes skipping the hearings altogether. In his 2016 hearing at Shawangunk, Berkowitz stated that while parole was "unrealistic", he felt he had improved himself behind bars, adding "I feel I am no risk, whatsoever". His Lawyer, Mark Heller, noted that prison staff considered Berkowitz to be a "model prisoner", but commissioners once again denied a parole.
Other contemporaries have voiced their belief in the Satanic cult theory including Donna Lauria's father, and Carl Denaro who stated his opinion that "more than one person was involved" but admitted he could not prove the cult theory. Denaro's conclusion rests on his criticism of Berkowitz's statement to police as "totally false." John Diel’s recollection is that he physically bumped into Berkowitz outside the Wine Gallery restaurant as he and Christine Freund departed and walked to his car where the shooting occurred; Berkowitz, in contrast, told police that he passed within a few feet of Diel and Freund shortly before they entered the car. Diel contends he and Freund passed no one on their way to the car and further that the placement of the car parked at the curb would have made it impossible for Berkowitz to have sneaked up on them in the few minutes between their encounter outside the restaurant and the shooting at the car. Diel thus reasons he was shot by someone other than Berkowitz.