Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

David Berkowitz: The Son of Sam


David began to deteriorate after Pearl's death. His grade average nose-dived. His faith in God was shaken. He began to imagine that her death was a part of some plan to destroy him. He became more and more introverted.

In 1971, Nat remarried a woman that did not get along with David. The couple moved to a Florida retirement community without him, leaving him to drift, absent of a purpose or a goal. He just existed until his fantasy life had become stronger than his real life.

He did have one relationship with a girl named Iris Gerhardt. The relationship was more fantasy on Berkowitz's part. Iris considered him only a friend. He attended a few classes at Bronx Community College, more to appease Nat than anything else.

David joined the Army in the summer of 1971 and stayed there for three years. He was an excellent marksman, particularly proficient with rifles. During his time in the Army, he briefly converted from Judaism to the Baptist faith, but then lost interest.

At one point, David found his biological mother Betty Falco. She and her daughter Roslyn did everything they could to make David feel welcome in their family. For a while, it worked and David seemed happy in their company, but eventually he drifted away from them too, making excuses for not coming to visit.

Anger and frustration with women, coupled by a bizarre fantasy life, started him down the road to violence when he got out of the Army in 1974. The only consummated sexual experience with a woman that he ever had was with a prostitute in Korea. He contracted a venereal disease as a souvenir.

Even before the murders began, David had set some 1,488 fires in the city of New York and kept a diary of each one. He was acting out a control fantasy. Robert Ressler in his book Whoever Fights Monsters explains: "Most arsonists like the feeling that they are responsible for the excitement and violence of a fire. With the simple act of lighting matches, they control events in society that are not normally controlled; they orchestrate the fire, the screaming arrival and deployment of the fire trucks and fire fighters, the gathering crowds, the destruction of property and sometimes of people."