David Berkowitz murdered six people and injured seven more during a series of eight shootings in New York City between 1976 and 1977. Berkowitz gave numerous motives for the killings that are now known as the Son of Sam murders. The most sensational of these reasons is, of course, that he was following the orders of a neighbor's demon-possessed dog. Of all the compelling things that led to his murderous rampage, the relationships Berkowitz had with his birth and adoptive mothers may provide the most answers.
The link between male serial killers and their mothers is often brought up in the media, especially when the killer targets women, and the David Berkowitz mother connection is especially disturbing. Berkowitz's relationship with his birth mother was quite distressing and it wasn't until after he met her that he started killing people. It may have been his messed up and burgeoning connection to his birth mother, combined with his resentment toward his adoptive parents and his neglectful birth father, that caused him to snap.
There's plenty of dysfunction to explore when it comes to the Son of Sam and his mothers.
He Believed His Birth Mother Was Dead
According to interviews Berkowitz gave to David Abrahamsen recounted in his book Confessions of Son of Sam, the Son of Sam killer grew up believing his birth mother was dead. He was told by his adoptive parents, Pearl and Nathan Berkowitz, that his birth mother died during childbirth. It's hard to say exactly how this impacted his childhood but some psychologists believe adopted children suffer from separation anxiety. It's possible Berkowitz felt this separation from an early age and had a sense of loss thinking his mother was gone.
Learning That He Hadn't Killed His Mother In Labor Only Made Him Feel Unwanted
After serving in the military and getting an honorable discharge, Berkowitz discovered that his adoptive parents had been lying to him his entire life. Up until this point, Berkowitz had blamed himself for his birth mother's death. He would later tell David Abrahamsen that the truth flipped his internal script to something even more destructive.
Worse than the internalization of believing he had killed his own mother in childbirth, Berkowitz switched to internalizing that he "was an accident, a mistake, never meant to be born - unwanted." This didn't keep him from wanting to track down his birth parents. Perhaps for confirmation or denial of what he was starting to believe.
Berkowitz May Have Taken Out His Disdain For His Mother's Immorality On His VictimsPhoto: NYPD
Berkowitz made it clear during interviews after he was caught that he was upset to learn he was conceived when his mother had an affair with a married man. Within a year of learning the truth of his origins, Berkowitz went on his killing spree.
During his trial, the Son of Sam killer shouted, "Stacy was a whore." He showed no remorse for his victims by also admitting, "I'd kill her again. I'd kill them all again." His extreme views on his victims purity would indicate he'd come to believe that such impureness deserved death. A view that likely stemmed from his extreme disdain for his birth mother and her actions leading to his birth.
He Targeted Women Who Looked Like His Adoptive Mother
Berkowitz learned the truth about his birth mother and sought her out in 1974. The next year, he began to plot violent crimes against women. The targets of most of his criminal activity were women with long, wavy, and dark hair. This is suspiciously similar to what his adoptive mother, Pearl, looked like. It's hard to know for certain, but it seems likely that Berkowitz's victims received the brunt of his rage related to the loss of his adoptive mother and the lie that she told him.