Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

David Berkowitz: The Son of Sam

Adopted Son

Nathan Berkowitz
Nathan Berkowitz

David was lucky to be adopted by Nat and Pearl Berkowitz, a childless couple who were devoted to their new son. He had a normal childhood in the Bronx with no clear warning signs of what was yet to come. Perhaps the most significant factor in his life was that he was a loner. His parents weren't particularly socially oriented and neither was David.

He was always big for his age and always felt different and less attractive than his peers. All through his youth he was uncomfortable with other people. He did have one sport — baseball — which he played well.

His neighbors remember him as a nice-looking boy but with a violent streak, a bully who assaulted neighborhood kids for no apparent reason. He was hyperactive and very difficult for Pearl and Nat to control.

David did not realize that Pearl had suffered from breast cancer before he was born. When it recurred in 1965 and again in 1967, David was shocked. Nat hadn't kept his adopted son very well informed about the prognosis and David was therefore shocked to see how badly Pearl dissipated from the chemotherapy and the illness itself. He was devastated when Pearl died in the fall of 1967.

When David was in his early teens, his parents tried to flee their changing neighborhood to the middle-class safety of the enormous sprawling high-rise development of Co-Op City. By the time their apartment was ready, Pearl had died. David and his father lived in the new apartment alone.

 

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