Case Study Analysis and Findings on Serial Killer David Berkowitz

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Case Study Analysis and Findings on Serial Killer David Berkowitz

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Case Study Analysis and Findings on Serial Killer David Berkowitz

Many psychological and theoretical models have been developed to explain the characteristics of criminals. In the case of David Berkowitz, the New York serial killer, researchers have identified endogenous and exogenous theories of criminal behavior. The theories fall under biological and social categories (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990). Biological criminal theory explains that people are born criminals due to genetic makeup, brain development and other factors inside a person’s body. Biological theories are endogenous in nature. Sociological theories, on the other hand, posit that crime is shaped by the external factors surrounding an individual such as the neighborhood, friends and the family (Blackburn, 1993). In order to understand how the theories apply in the life of Berkowitz, this paper examines his crime history and his life history while interweaving the assumptions and biases made by people around him.

A historical account of the crimes carried out by Berkowitz reveals many assumptions and biases from the individuals interacting with his murder cases. At first, the investigators did not find a correlation between the murder scenes of Berkowitz in spite of the statements recorded by eyewitnesses (David Berkowitz). On July, 29, 1976, Valenti told the police that she did not know the shooter. However, she told the police that the shooter was in a yellow car ( Editors, 2017). Testimonies from other individuals also pointed to the fact that the shooter has a yellow car. The police found out that a .44 caliber Bulldog rifle was used in the attack.

On October, 23, 1976, the victims survived but they did not see the shooter. The police again determined that the shooter used a .44 caliber gun know the shooter. However, she told the police that the shooter was in a yellow car ( Editors, 2017). Although the neighbors gave sketches of the shooting, the police did not link the attempted murder with the earlier ones ( Editors, 2017). On January 30, 1977, Berkowitz stuck again killing Freund and injuring Diel. The victims did not see the shooter. Once again, the shooter used his .44 caliber gun. It was only after this shooting that the police connected the shooting with the previous ones.

Sketches made by the police over the entire action time of Berkowitz still gave the police a weak image of the shooter. The police thought that they were dealing with multiple shooters know the shooter. However, she told the police that the shooter was in a yellow car ( Editors, 2017). How could they conclude that way and yet only one caliber gun was identified? Their findings show a clear bias (Mayo, 2008). By comparing the victims of the shootings, the police also concluded that the attacker targeted young dark-haired women (David Berkowitz, n.d). This would be later refuted when the attacker shot a victim, Moskowitz, of different hairstyle (Terry, 1987). She did not have long dark hair. Again, by the fact that Berkowitz shot men, the assumptions made by the police remain null.

Another incident occurred on March 8, 1977 when Berkowitz shot Christine Freund several times. Neighbors described the attacker as a short, husky teenagerknow the shooter. However, she told the police that the shooter was in a yellow car ( Editors, 2017).  Although their descriptions matched the appearance of Berkowitz, police officials treated him as a witness and failed to investigate him. Their assumption was again wrong.

After the April 17, 1977 shooting which claimed the lives of Alexander Esau and Valentina Suriani, the police could not solve the puzzle ( Editors, 2017). Investigators created a psychological profile of the shooter. They identified him as a neurotic person, probably suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and demon-possessed. All evaluations of legally acquired .44 caliber guns could not reveal the one used in crime. Investigators also found nothing when they set traps of undercover police officers acting as happily married young couples or beautiful girls.

The June 26, 1977 attack in Bayside, Queens painted yet another picture of the attacker  know the shooter. However, she told the police that the shooter was in a yellow car ( Editors, 2017). Eyewitnesses said that they saw a tall, stocky man who had dark hair running away from the scene of crime and another blond man with a mustache driving nearby. The fact that the police assumed the dark man to be the perpetrator of the crimes and the blonde man to be a mere witness confused them further. Berkowitz’s last shooting occurred on July 31, 1977 when he shot Moskowitz in a new location, Brooklyn (Rothman, 2015). Moskowitz later succumbed to her injuries in hospital. Eyewitnesses described the shooter as one who appeared to be wearing a wig. The investigators started understanding why different witnesses saw different shooters know the shooter. However, she told the police that the shooter was in a yellow car ( Editors, 2017). The shooter could change his appearance. However, he was still driving a yellow car. Although his yellow car was among those identified for investigation, the police officers still treated him as an eye witness.

August 10, 1977, the police found a rifle and a duffel bag full of ammunition in Berkowitz’s yellow car and later arrested him with his .44 Bulldog rifle (Rothman, 2015). The investigators found occult graffiti on the walls of his house and diaries with details of his arson crimes within the New York area. Berkowitz even claimed to be working under the instructions of s demon which ordered him to kill people, claims he later refuted. His personal account revealed a different story (Binger, 2011). After some time in New York’s Supermax Prison, he explained on February 1979 that his actions were motivated by his hatred to the world which rejected him (Binger, 2011). His main aim was to kill young and attractive women because they rejected him.

To the prosecutors, Berkowitz did not seem resistant. In the early part of the morning of August 11, 1977, he readily confessed all shootings and said he was ready to plead guilty. He told the prosecutors that his neighbor Sam Carr had a dog which was the reason behind his killingsknow the shooter. However, she told the police that the shooter was in a yellow car ( Editors, 2017).  According to his hoax, the dog was possessed by a demon which irresistibly demanded blood from pretty young girls and forced him to kill. He later refuted the claims, making the investigators and all people question his mental stability know the shooter. However, she told the police that the shooter was in a yellow car ( Editors, 2017). Investigators concluded from his attribution to the dog that there could be other criminal accomplishes with whom he worked (Bartol & Bartol, 2015). He also said “There are other Sons out there, God help the world.” They have never found any of them up to date. This shows that their assumptions were wrong and Berkowitz was right. He was a lone murderer motivated by his life’s challenges.

Separate mental examinations carried out on Berkowitz indicated that he was mentally competent to stand trial (Drell, 2016). Although he was declared normal, the defense attorneys advised him not to plead guilty and feign to be insane. Contrary to the expectations, when he appeared in court, he calmly pleaded guilty to all shootings which were charged against him (Rothman, 2015). At one of his sentencing sessions; he tried to jump out of a window on the seventh floor of the courtroom know the shooter. However, she told the police that the shooter was in a yellow car ( Editors, 2017). Another psychiatric examination was ordered and he was found sane enough to stand trial. He was sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment for every murder charge on June 12 1978. The prosecutors objected to Berkowitz’s eligibility for parole after 25 years but the judge granted it.

The most interesting part is that when the time for the enforcement of his parole reached, Berkowitz was not willing to apply for his release. Instead, he said that he was comfortable living in prison since he had changed to become a better person know the shooter. However, she told the police that the shooter was in a yellow car ( Editors, 2017). He was a born again evangelical Christian whose name was no longer “Son of Sam” but “Son of Hope”. Although he is still in prison, he is entitled to a parole hearing after every two years according to the law. However, to the shock of many, he remains nonchalant about it to an extent of skipping hearings. According to his lawyer Mark Heller, the prison staffs consider him a model prisonerknow the shooter know the shooter. However, she told the police that the shooter was in a yellow car ( Editors, 2017). However, she told the police that the shooter was in a yellow car ( Editors, 2017).

The Sociological Theory of Deviance that best portrays Berkowitz’s deviant behavior is the Differential-Association Theory (Bartol &Bartol, 2015). The theory is endogenous in nature. According to the theory, people behave depending on their company. People who keep good company develop good character traits while those who keep bad company end up developing bad morals and bad character traits. The behavior of David Berkowitz was directly influenced by the friends he kept. When he joined the occult, his friends led him astray and that is what led him to stray to the path

A historical review of his life reveals that David Berkowitz did not receive positive influence as a child. After birth, David never received parental care from his real parents. In fact, not even his real mother took care of him. He was embraced by the Berkowitz family since they did not have their biological children know the shooter. However, she told the police that the shooter was in a yellow car ( Editors, 2017). There are high chances that they handled him delicately. They spoiled him by allowing him to get anything that he wanted. He grew up knowing that he must get his way no matter what. In case he did not get his way, he bullied his way through by hurting those who were on his way.

He lost interest in school at an early age. Since he did not like school and he had to get his way, nobody could tell him otherwise (Gottfredson & Hitachi, 1990). The moment he left school, his mind started replacing formal education with something else that his new friends in the occult world offered. He stopped paying attention to life and engaged in illegal things. However, there are no records indicating any legal intervention to stop him. He was left to his own devises (Mayo, 2008). When Berkowitz’s adoptive mother died, he lacked parental love since the adoptive father did not like him. The adoptive father was too busy to love him and correct his wrong deeds which later became normal.

In his quest for love, he discovered his biological mother and the whole story behind his illegal birth and how he was abandoned know the shooter. However, she told the police that the shooter was in a yellow car ( Editors, 2017). He was abandoned at birth, was left by the only adoptive mother who cared for him, and girls rejected him. All problems facing him needed an urgent solution. He had to fill the gap in his life. The discovery about his birth changed his view of life and changed the course of his lifeknow the shooter. However, she told the police that the shooter was in a yellow car ( Editors, 2017). The situation was aggravated when he learned that his real father was dead. All he could do was to join a group which could accommodate him for who he was – the occult.

In my opinion, the case of Berkowitz has a great influence on the future of similar cases. Firstly, the police have learnt to take all evidence seriously. Taking swift action and treating every person near the crime scene as a suspect rather than a witness helps a lot in unravelling crimes (Mayo, 2008). Making assumptions on witnesses and failing to question all people involved is a sure recipe for disaster.

People commit crimes due to various reasons. It is not easy to know the reason behind a crime unless a background check is done on the perpetrator. For instance, Berkowitz’s crimes started unperceptively. Before realizing it, he was already in crime. It took him a lot of time and a life in prison to change (Drell, 2016).

Lastly, the fact that criminals can change is an important aspect of Berkowitz’s story. Given that various factors shape a person’s engagement in crime, it should be the work of law enforcement officers to prevent as many people as possible from the risk factors. In case of arrest and subsequent sentence to jail, criminals should have access of rehabilitation. If Berkowitz’s case is something to go by, it is possible for the worst criminals to change and have a better life and most importantly, change the lives of other prisoners (Drell, 2016).



Bartol, A., & Bartol, C. (2015). Introduction to forensic psychology: Research and application (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Binger, R. (2011). Prison Ain’t Hell: An Interview with the Son of Sam–David Berkowitz, and Why State-Funded Faith-Based Prison Rehabilitation Programs Do Not Violate the Establishment Clause. Pace Law Review, 31(1), 488-530. Editors. (2017). David Berkowitz Retrieved February 04, 2017, from

Blackburn, R. (1993). The psychology of criminal conduct: Theory, research and practice. John Wiley & Sons.

David Berkowitz (Son of Sam). (n.d.). Retrieved January 4, 2018, from

Drell, C. (2016). How Son of Sam Changed America. Retrieved from

Gottfredson, M. R., & Hirschi, T. (1990). A general theory of crime. Stanford University Press.

Mayo, Mike (2008). American Murder: Criminals, Crimes and the Media. Canton, MI: Visible Ink Press. ISBN 978-1-57859-191-6.

Rothman, L. 2015. How the Son of Sam Serial Killer Was Finally Caught. Retrieved from

Terry, Maury (1987). The Ultimate Evil: An Investigation into America’s Most Dangerous Satanic Cult. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-23452-X.

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