Son Of Sam: The Truth About David Berkowitz's Adoptive Parents

The crimes of David Berkowitz — also known as the "Son of Sam," and also as the "44. Caliber Killer" — had all the lurid elements to ensure that they would remain seared into the American psyche for decades to come. Formerly a marksman in the U.S. Army, Berkowitz began what would become of one New York's most notorious killing sprees in July 1976, according to Biography, by opening fire at two teenage girls sitting in a car in the Bronx, killing one, Donna Lauria, and wounding the other, Lauria's friend Jodi Valenti. Over the coming months, Berkowitz would continue to attack at random, targeting others who were sitting helplessly in parked cars and unsuspecting New York pedestrians as they walked unprotected throughout the city.

It was only after police were able to identify that the same weapon had been used in the attacks that they were finally able to link Berkowitz's crimes together, a revelation that, as Britannica notes, "plunged the city into a panic and unleashed one of the biggest manhunts in New York history."

The story behind the adoption of David Berkowitz

Berkowitz continued his serial killings until his eventual arrest in August 1977, per Biography, and left a series of mocking messages for police to find at a number of his crime scenes, and sent letters to a number of New York newspapers, in which, per Britannica, he referred to himself as the "Son of Sam." In subsequent police interviews, Berkowitz would explain the monicker as being in reference to his neighbor Sam Carr, whose dog, claimed Berkowitz, was possessed by a demon which communicated messages to the killer, per Biography.

Despite his defense's claims of Berkowitz's insanity, after his spree which saw the deaths of six people and the wounding of 10 others Berkowitz was sentenced to a total of 365 years in prison, per Britannica.

David Berkowitz was born David Falco on June 1, 1953, to an impoverished mother who, feeling unable to raise her newborn child, put him up for adoption, according to Crime + Investigation. According to the same source, the couple who adopted Berkowitz just days after his birth, Nathan and Pearl Berkowitz were loving parents, who lived a humble life running a hardware store in the Bronx, according to Esquire.

'I don't expect you to forgive him'

Though Crime + Investigation claims that Berkowitz was something of an outsider as a child and that he had trouble socializing — they report that he was involved in some bullying incidents — nothing in his early life seemed to suggest that the adopted child would go on to commit a string of notorious crimes. However, one incident in his teenage years is said to have affected the child deeply: the death in 1967 of his beloved adoptive mother Pearl, who had breast cancer, according to ThoughtCo. Berkowitz's father, Nathan, soon remarried and moved away, leaving the grieving and depressed teenager to take his loss as a personal injustice. Per History, Berkowitz soon channeled his aggression into acts of arson, crimes to which he linked when his murders came to light.

Shortly after Berkowitz's arrest, the killer's adoptive father was grief-stricken. Nathan Berkowitz was living in a Florida retirement home when he learned of David's arrest. He shared intense sorrow for the families of his son's victims. According to The New York Times, Nathan said, "If David did these things, I don't expect you to forgive him, as this would be too much to ask of you. ... I will live with this heartache for the rest of my life."

Netflix will stream a four-part documentary series, The Sons of Sam, beginning May 5.