Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

David Berkowitz: The Son of Sam

Ressler's Interview

Berkowitz being interviewed
Berkowitz being interviewed

In 1979, Robert Ressler, the FBI veteran, interviewed Berkowitz in Attica Prison three times. Berkowitz had been allowed to keep a scrapbook he had compiled of all the newspaper stories about the murders. He used these scrapbooks to keep his fantasies alive.

Ressler made it clear that he didn't buy the demon dog theory one bit and eventually he was able to get the truth out of Berkowitz. The demon story was to protect him when and if he was caught so that he could try to convince the authorities he was insane. He admitted to Ressler "that his real reason for shooting women was out of resentment toward his own mother, and because of his inability to establish good relationships with women." He would become sexually aroused in the stalking and shooting of women and would masturbate after it was over.

He also admitted to Ressler that stalking women had become a nightly adventure for him. If he didn't find a victim, he would go back to the scenes of his earlier murders and try to recall them. "It was an erotic experience for him to see the remains of bloodstains on the ground, a police chalkmark or two: seated in his car, he would often contemplate these grisly mementos and masturbate." So murderers do return to the scene of the crime, not out of guilt, but because they want to revive the memories of their crimes for sexual pleasure.

He wanted to go to the funerals of his victims but was afraid that the police would become suspicious. However, he did hang around diners near the police stations hoping to overhear policemen talking about his crimes. He also tried unsuccessfully to find the graves of his victims.

Like many serial killers, he nourished his sick ego from the newspaper attention he received for his crimes. He got the idea of sending the letter to Jimmy Breslin from a book on Jack the Ripper. Ressler found out that "after the press started calling him Son of Sam he adopted the moniker as his own, and even fashioning a logo for it."

This story is repeated time after time in every city experiencing the attacks of a serial killer. The demands of the citizens to know what is happening is balanced against the reality that feeding these demands for information virtually ensures that the killer will keep on killing. Legitimate police work is seriously hampered by a deluge of bogus tips from well-meaning citizens. The only party that benefits from this common problem is the media.

 

Categories
Advertisement