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David Berkowitz

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David Berkowitz

David Falco Berkowitz (born June 1, 1953), better known by his nickname Son of Sam, is an infamous 1970s New York City serial killer who killed six people and wounded several others. His given name was David Falco— Berkowitz was the name of his adoptive parents.

Berkowitz struggled with being adopted and with the concept that his mother did not want him. His murders began after a three-year enlistment in the U.S. Army; the first occurring on July 29, 1976, when he fired into a car where two girls sat, wounding Jody Valentini and killing Donna Lauria.

The "Son of Sam" nickname came from neighbor/landlord Sam Carr. According to Berkowitz, Sam Carr was a "high demon" who sent his "evil" labrador dog to command Berkowitz to kill. After his fourth attack in January 1977, authorities realized that he targeted teen girls with long, dark hair and young couples. Berkowitz began writing letters to the media and was arrested on August 10, 1977. He had been issued a parking ticket near the scene of his final crime, and police investigation led them to Berkowitz. Berkowitz, who immediately confessed, was arrested outside his Yonkers apartment on August 10, 1977. He was sentenced on June 12, 1978, to 365 years in prison for the killings.

Berkowitz claimed to receive his orders to kill from an acquaintance's barking dog. He now says that story was untrue, and that during the time of the killings, he was a Satanist. He invited the former priest and exorcist Malachi Martin to visit him to discuss his past occult involvement. He survived at least one attempt on his life in prison, but his behavior in prison early in his sentence earned him the nickname of "David Berserkowitz." Berkowitz became a born-again Christian in 1987 in prison and now works as a chaplain. In March 2002, Berkowitz wrote a letter to New York governor George Pataki asking that his parole hearing be cancelled. "I can give you no good reason why I should even be considered." In June 2004, he was denied his second parole, even after he stated that he does not want one. The board saw that Berkowitz has a good record in the prison programs, but the viciousness of his criminal acts call for him to stay imprisoned.

One major side effect of his serial killings were the "Son of Sam laws". The first of these laws was enacted in the state of New York after rampant speculation about publishers offering Berkowitz large sums of money for his story. The new law, quickly named for Berkowitz, authorized the state to seize all money earned from such a deal from a criminal for five years, with intentions to use the seized money to compensate victims. The Supreme Court declared such laws unconstitutional in 1991.

The 1999 movie Summer of Sam, directed by Spike Lee, is set against the backdrop of Berkowitz's killing spree. Although Berkowitz, played by Michael Badalucco, features in a number of scenes (including a darkly comical part where Berkowitz hallucinates that his neighbor's black labrador walked into his apartment and maniacally demanded he go out and kill someone), the film is primarily concerned with the oppressive effects of the atmosphere of fear and paranoia on a group of young friends in the Throgs Neck section of the Bronx.

In common Australian slang the abbreviation of 'berko' is commonly used to describe someone getting excessively angry and violent, or flaring in agression.

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