While he was a young boy, Berkowitz’s school career was marred by bullying and petty crime. Then, when he was 14, his adoptive mother succumbed to breast cancer. And after his father remarried, Berkowitz took a dislike to his new stepmother. Wanting to escape his troubled home life, then, he enlisted in the United States Army at just 18 years of age.
Three years later, after a stint serving in South Korea, Berkowitz was out of the army and searching for his birth mother. Eventually, he managed to track her down – but the reunion wasn’t what he was hoping for. In fact, when Elizabeth told Berkowitz about his illegitimate birth, the young man fell into a pit of despair.
Heartbroken by the news, Berkowitz abandoned his birth mother and turned instead to violent crime. On December 24, 1975, he committed his first vicious attack. Wielding a hunting knife, he stabbed teenager Michelle Forman, hospitalizing the girl. At the time, however, Berkowitz escaped suspicion and then fled to Yonkers, a city just north of New York.