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David Berkowitz: The .44 Caliber Killer

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On Christmas Eve of 1975, David Berkowitz made a fateful decision – to kill. He set his sights on a 14-year-old girl who was ice skating with her friends. As she made her way home, he approached her and stabbed her multiple times. But thanks to the fortuitousness of her sturdy, slippery coat, the victim managed to escape. In that moment, a new serial killer was born.

Childhood and Adolescence

David Berkowitz, originally named Richard David Falco, was born on June 1, 1953, in New York City. Due to his stepfather’s refusal to have more children, his mother put him up for adoption. Nathan and Pearl Berkowitz became his adoptive parents. From a young age, Berkowitz felt different from others. He was shy, had a knack for lying, struggled academically, and had few social connections. At the age of 14, he experienced another loss as his adoptive mother passed away from cancer. Berkowitz’s personality grew more complex over time, with feelings of loneliness and social rejection. When his adoptive father remarried four years after his wife’s death, Berkowitz underwent a radical transformation in his behavior and demeanor.

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Enlisting in the Army

Seeking a change in his life, David Berkowitz decided to enlist in the Army and was stationed in Korea for three years. During that time, he received extensive military training and became a skilled marksman. When he returned to the Bronx in 1974, he found that what was once his home felt distant and unfamiliar. Tensions with his father led Berkowitz to make the decision to move to his own apartment in a different part of the Bronx. It was during this period that he decided to search for his biological parents and eventually found his sister Rosalyn and his mother. While he initially reconnected with Rosalyn, over time, David grew distant from her. During this period, he committed his first attack.

The “Son of Sam”

After his unsuccessful attempt to kill a girl with a knife, David Berkowitz realized that the physical encounter had been too intimate for his liking. For his next attack, he decided to use a specific weapon – a .44 caliber Bulldog revolver.

The Indiscriminate Attacks of David Berkowitz

On July 29, 1976, he approached two girls, Donna and Jody, aged 18 and 19 respectively, who were saying goodbye on the street. Carrying a brown paper bag with his revolver inside, he pulled it out and shot both of them without uttering a word. Unfortunately, neither of them survived. Initially, the police considered the possibility that the Mafia was behind the murders, as the area had a significant Italian population known for settling scores. However, this hypothesis was eventually discarded when the first composite sketch of David Berkowitz appeared in the media – a white man with dark hair, average build, between 25 and 32 years old, and standing at 1.80 meters tall.

He struck again on October 23. Rosemary Keenan and Carl Denaro, aged 18 and 20 respectively, were sitting in their car when David Berkowitz approached and shot at them five times through the window. The recoil of the gun disrupted his aim, resulting in only minor injuries for Carl and leaving Rosemary unscathed.

On November 27, he targeted Donna DeMasi and Joanne Lomino, two teenagers aged 16 and 18 respectively, with a similar attack. One of the shots grazed Donna’s neck but caused no serious harm. However, one of the shots pierced Joanne’s spine, leaving her wheelchair-bound for life. It was after this attack that a neighbor witnessed David fleeing, leading them to connect him to the previous attacks.

Two months later, David took the life of 26-year-old Christine Freund. When ballistic experts analyzed the bullets, they confirmed that they all came from the same .44 caliber Bulldog revolver.

Seeking Attention

Continuing with his modus operandi, David Berkowitz claimed the lives of Virginia Voskerichian as well as Valentina Suriani and Alexander Esau. After the last shooting, he left a letter addressed to the lead investigator, Joe Borelli. It was his first contact with the police. Filled with incoherent ramblings and a feverish tone, the letter expressed his determination to keep killing and mocked the police for their futile efforts to catch him. This would not be the last time he contacted the police. He continued to do so on many occasions, sometimes expressing that he felt possessed by Satan.

A Parking Ticket Leads to the Discovery

David committed his final murder on July 31, 1977. Approaching a parked car near a park, he shot and killed Stacy Moskowitz and Robert Violante. That night, there were witnesses who provided a more accurate description of the killer. Additionally, Cecilia Davis recognized him due to his poor behavior after discovering a parking ticket on his windshield. The police began to piece together the puzzle, comparing the data they had with the evidence from previous cases, including the traffic violations that had been issued on the day of the murders. And it worked. An officer had issued a ticket to license plate number 561-XLB. The car was registered to a man named David Berkowitz. They finally had their suspect.

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On August 10, 1977, David Berkowitz was arrested, and it didn’t take long for him to confess to his crimes. He blamed his neighbor’s dog for commanding him to commit the acts and claimed to hear demonic voices urging him to continue killing. In 1978, a psychological evaluation diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia. The prosecution challenged the diagnosis, arguing that he was fully aware of his actions. Ultimately, David Berkowitz was sentenced to life in prison.

But the story doesn’t end there. On July 10, 1979, another inmate attacked him, slashing his throat from behind with a razor blade. Berkowitz required 56 stitches. Afterward, he sought redemption through Christianity. Recently, he reentered the public eye through the television series Mindhunter. Today, he continues to serve his sentence.

David Berkowitz

Image: David Berkowitz portrayed by Oliver Copper in the series Mindhunter

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