Edmund Kemper: The Co-ed Killer

Crime Files

The Co-Ed Killer

According to famous FBI profiler John Douglas and Robert Ressler, any one of ten traits can indicate someone is a serial killer. Edmund Kemper has them all.

As a baby, and as a boy, Edmund Kemper III is huge. (He’ll eventually grow to a three hundred pound, six foot nine inch ‘hulk’ of a man).

At nine years old, his parents’ divorce and Edmund is left with his two sisters, and his mother, Clarnell. She constantly ridicules Edmund for his size and mocks his ‘weirdo’ personality. She incessantly tells him that no woman will ever love him.

He’s taught to hate himself, but he learns to hate everybody else as well, especially women.

His twisted impulses are evident at an early age. Attracted to a female teacher, his sister teases and asks why he doesn’t try to kiss his teacher.

He replies...

‘If I kiss her, I’d have to kill her first’

One of his favourite school games is pretending he’s being executed in a gas chamber. At home, he decapitates his sister’s doll: Then his pets. A ten year old Edmund buries alive his cat. Once dead, he digs it up, decapitates it, and displays it on a spike. This is his first trophy.

At 13, he uses a machete on the replacement cat. He slices off the top of its skull all the while holding onto its leg so he’s showered in its blood. As the writer Harold Schechter notes, for serial killers, ‘animal torture isn’t a stage. It’s a rehearsal.’

Puberty for Edmund involves masturbatory images of killing everyone in town and then having sex with their corpses.

His mother locks him in the basement fearing he’ll rape his sister. At 15, Edmund tries to reconcile with his father. His father again rejects him and Edmund is made to live with his grandparents on their ranch in California. On his first summer there, he shoots his grandma in the head and then repeatedly stabs her because...

‘I just wondered how it would feel to shoot Grandma.’

When his grandfather returns, Edmund shoots him dead. Edmund says later he killed him so he wouldn’t have to see what Edmund had done to his wife.

Edmund rings his mother and the police and waits for them.

Diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, he’s sent to State Hospital. There, he especially likes listening to serial rapists retell their crimes.

He masks his obsession with sexual violence with an outward calm. Tests reveal him to have an extremely high IQ. And he’s paroled after just five years. This is against the advice of his doctor, and Edmund himself. (They release him, without irony, into his mother’s care.)

Now, eight women will die.

Timeline

18 December 1948 Edmund Kemper III is born to Edmund Kemper Jr and Clarnell Strandberg in Burbank California. They already have one daughter, and will soon have another one, but Edmund will be their only son.1957 Edmund’s parents’ divorce and his father leaves home1963 Kemper kills both grandparents and is imprisoned.1969 Kemper is released from the state hospital on parole. After finding he was too tall to join the police, he takes on a series of unremarkable jobs.May 1972 Kemper murders hitchhiking students Mary Ann Pesce and Anita Luchessa. Returning home with their bodies, he’s stopped because of a broken rear light. But the policeman doesn’t check the boot and lets Kemper go.August 1972 The remains of Mary Ann Pesce’s head are found.14 September 1972 Aiko Koo decides to hitchhike rather than wait for the bus. Kemper kills her.7 January 1973 19 year old student Cindy Schall is picked up and killed by Kemper.5 February 1973 24 year old Rosalind Thorpe and 23 year old Allison Liu are picked up by Kemper on campus grounds. After killing, he performs what has now become his routine. He beheads, and rapes both the severed head, and the headless body, and then disposes of the remains wherever is easiest.Easter 1973 Kemper finally focuses on the cause of his rage and kills his mother. He does the same to her friend, 59 year old Sally Hallett.23 April 1973 Kemper rings the Santa Cruz police and confesses, much to their disbelief. In fact, it takes several calls before anyone takes him seriously.7 May 1973 Kemper is charged with eight counts of murder.November 1973 Kemper is found guilty of eight counts of murder.2012 Kemper’s next scheduled parole hearing.

The Trial

Going back to santa cruz

On Easter Sunday, 1973, Edmund Kemper flees. He makes it to Colorado but realises that with the killing of his mother, it is over. On just a practical level, there’s little chance that this murder won’t be linked to him. So, he puts in a call to the police back in Santa Cruz and confesses. At first, no one believes him. Like many serial killers, Kemper’s fascination with authority means he’s on friendly terms with many of his local police and they think it a prank by their friend, ‘Big Ed’.The FBI profiler John Douglas later observed that Kemper liked to ‘frequent bars and restaurants known to be police hangouts and strike up conversations. This made him feel like an insider, gave him the vicarious thrill of a policeman’s power. But also, once the Co-Ed Killer was on the rampage, he had a direct line into the progress of the investigation, allowing him to anticipate their next move’.

 

Kemper sits patiently by the phone until one of them decides to come out and arrest him.His confession convinces them.Kemper pleads insanity but at his trial, like at his last psychiatrists’ interview, he’s considered legally sane. After three weeks, he’s convicted of eight counts of murder. The judge asks what Kemper thinks would be the appropriate punishment for his crimes. Kemper replies...‘Death by torture’Instead, he receives a sentence of life in prison and is sent to the California Medical Facility State Prison, for observation.

The Arrest

Mum's the word

On Easter Sunday, 1973, Edmund Kemper flees. He makes it to Colorado but realises that with the killing of his mother, it is over. On just a practical level, there’s little chance that this murder won’t be linked to him. So, he puts in a call to the police back in Santa Cruz and confesses. At first, no one believes him. Like many serial killers, Kemper’s fascination with authority means he’s on friendly terms with many of his local police and they think it a prank by their friend, ‘Big Ed’.The FBI profiler John Douglas later observed that Kemper liked to ‘frequent bars and restaurants known to be police hangouts and strike up conversations. This made him feel like an insider, gave him the vicarious thrill of a policeman’s power. But also, once the Co-Ed Killer was on the rampage, he had a direct line into the progress of the investigation, allowing him to anticipate their next move’.

Kemper sits patiently by the phone until one of them decides to come out and arrest him.His confession convinces them.Kemper pleads insanity but at his trial, like at his last psychiatrists’ interview, he’s considered legally sane. After three weeks, he’s convicted of eight counts of murder. The judge asks what Kemper thinks would be the appropriate punishment for his crimes. Kemper replies...‘Death by torture’Instead, he receives a sentence of life in prison and is sent to the California Medical Facility State Prison, for observation.

The Crimes

"I always knew I'd be a killer"

"I knew long before I started killing that I was going to be killing, that it was going to end up like that. The fantasies were too strong. They were going on for too long and were too elaborate.”Edmund Kemper

Despite Edmund Kemper having killed two people, save for one examination by a panel of psychiatrists after his parole, he receives little in the form of mental health support or psychiatric examination. As the panel believe him reformed, they expunge his juvenile record.

However, the day before the hearing, he had killed. And this killing was his third since being released.

He targets random, female hitchhikers. (Many of them are college educated, hence the nickname, ‘The Co-Ed killer’.) He quickly kills them either with a knife, or a .22-caliber pistol he buys. Death is usually quick as his perversion doesn’t involve torture. Instead, he takes their bodies’ home so that he has the time and space he needs. His necrophilia involves photographing the body, then having sex with it. After dissection, and decapitation, he has sex with the head, and with the viscera.

Twice, he butchers his victim and uses their flesh in a macaroni casserole.

Later, he bags and buries the remains but hurls their heads into a ravine. (If he’s shot them, he’s careful to remove the bullet to minimise forensic evidence.)Six women die this way before Kemper gets to the main event, his mother.

Just before Easter 1973, Kemper enters his mother’s bedroom with a knife and a hammer. He smashes in her skull and then cuts off her head and has sex with the remains. Then...

‘In one of the more symbolically resonant acts in the annals of criminal depravity, he jammed her larynx down the garbage disposal-which promptly spat it back out into his face. “‘That seemed appropriate,” Kemper would later tell the police, “as much as she’d bitched and screamed and yelled at me over so many years”

Kemper then props what’s left of her head on the mantel and uses it as a dartboard. Later, he invites his mother’s best friend over for dinner. He strangles her with a scarf and spends the night violating the body.

“I was making life-and-death decisions...playing God in their lives”Edmund Kemper