A Brief History
On July 29, 1976, the homicidal lunatic known to the tabloid press as “Son of Sam” murdered his first victim and wounded another in the first of 8 shooting attacks by David Berkowitz of New York City.
Berkowitz, also called “The .44 Caliber Killer” because his murder weapon was a “Bulldog” revolver in .44 Special caliber, eventually killed 6 people and wounded another 7 in the 8 attacks that spanned about a year. During his spree, he left messages taunting the police and telling of being told by a “demon” to commit the crimes.
The “demon” was his neighbor Sam’s dog, Harvey, which is the origin of the “Son of Sam” name for the serial killer. Readily confessing to the crimes when finally captured, Berkowitz was convicted of the murders and sentenced to 6 life terms, which he is currently serving. He later (1990) added a wrinkle to his story by saying he was part of a satanic cult that planned the attacks, but an investigation was unable to find any proof of this conspiracy.
Berkowitz was apparently some sort of misfit woman hater that targeted attractive women with dark hair, often in the company of a boyfriend. His earlier life included a stint in the Army (Honorable Discharge) and he was actively employed by the Post Office during his crime spree. It is believed Berkowitz also committed several arsons and knife attacks (prior to) in addition to his shooting rampage.
The fame (infamy) Berkowitz received due to his murderous crimes resulted in many laws being passed throughout the country to prevent a criminal from profiting from the notoriety of his crimes. These laws call for the government seizing such royalties and turning the money over to the victims. Of course, Berkowitz predictably became a Born Again Christian in prison, but has been denied parole several times.
Note: Not to be confused with the powerful .44 Magnum caliber, Berkowitz’s Charter Arms 5 shot “Bulldog” revolver fired the .44 Special round, capable of a respectable 755 feet per second with a 246 grain bullet or 870 feet per second with a 200 grain bullet, both sufficient to deliver over 300 foot pounds of energy, a considerable amount (similar to a .45 Auto) but far less than a .44 Magnum which delivers 740 to 1500 foot pounds of energy!
Question for students (and subscribers): What would be an appropriate sentence for Berkowitz? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Brody, Paul and LifeCaps. Son of Sam: A Biography of David Berkowitz. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012.
White, David. David Berkowitz: The Son of Sam (True Crime Shorts Book 15). 2016.