Edmund Kemper

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Edmund Kemper
Edmund Kemper (mug shot - 1973).jpg
Kemper's mugshot
Born (1948-12-18) December 18, 1948 (age 65)
Burbank, California
Other names The Co-ed Killer
The Co-ed Butcher
Criminal penalty
Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole
Conviction(s) Murder
Victims 10 (including his grandparents and mother)
Span of killings
August 27, 1964–April 20, 1973
Country United States
State(s) California
Date apprehended
April 20, 1973

Edmund Emil "Big Ed" Kemper III (born December 18, 1948),[1] also known as "The Co-ed Killer",[2] is an American serial killer and necrophile who was active in California in the early 1970s. He started his criminal life by murdering his grandparents when he was 15 years old.[2] Kemper later killed and dismembered six female hitchhikers in the Santa Cruz area. He then murdered his mother and one of her friends before turning himself in to the authorities days later. Kemper is noted for his imposing physicality and high intelligence, standing 6 ft 9 inches (2.06 m), weighing over 300 pounds (140 kg), and having an IQ in the 140 range.

Early life[edit]

Kemper was born in Burbank, California, the middle child and only son born to Edmund Emil Kemper, Sr. (1919–1985) and Clarnell Stage (1921–1973).[3] As a child, he was extremely bright but exhibited antisocial behavior such as cruelty to animals; he reportedly fatally stabbed a pet cat at age 13.[4] He acted out bizarre sexual rituals with his sisters' dolls and exhibited a dark fantasy life. He recalled later that his eldest sister pushed him into the deep end of a swimming pool and he had to struggle to get out and nearly drowned. She also pushed him within yards of a moving train.

Kemper had a close relationship with his father and was devastated when his parents divorced in 1957 and he had to be raised by his mother in Helena, Montana. He had a horrible relationship with his mother Clarnell, a violent alcoholic who would constantly belittle, humiliate and verbally abuse him. Clarnell often made her son sleep in a locked basement, because she feared that he would rape his younger sister.[5] It is alleged that she had borderline personality disorder.[6]

In the summer of 1963, Kemper ran away from home in search of his father in Van Nuys, California. Once there, he learned that his father had remarried and had another son. Kemper stayed with his father for a short while until the elder Kemper sent him back to Montana.[2] Clarnell, however, was unwilling to let Kemper back into her household and instead sent him to live with his paternal grandparents, Edmund and Maude Kemper, who lived on a 17-acre (6.9 ha) ranch in the mountains of North Fork, California.[1] Kemper hated living in North Fork; he referred to his grandfather as "senile" and claimed that his grandmother "was constantly emasculating [Kemper] and [Kemper's] grandfather."[7]

First murders[edit]

Kemper's grandmother
Kemper's grandfather

On August 27, 1964, Kemper's grandmother was sitting at the kitchen table working on her latest children's book when she and Kemper began arguing. Eventually, Kemper shot her in the head.[8] (Some sources[9][10] claim that he also stabbed her with a kitchen knife after shooting her.) When his grandfather came home from grocery shopping, Kemper went outside and fatally shot him in the driveway.[1] Kemper then called his mother, who urged him to call the police.[1] When questioned, he said that he "just wanted to see what it felt like to kill Grandma", and that he killed his grandfather because he knew he would be angry at him for what he had done to his grandmother.

At age 15, Kemper was committed to the Atascadero State Hospital, where he befriended his psychologist and even became his assistant. Tests during his time at Atascadero revealed that he had an I.Q. of 136. Later, during adulthood, he tested at 145.[11] Kemper was released from prison in 1969, after serving fewer than five years. At the time of his release, he had grown to 6 ft 9 inches (2.06 m) and weighed close to 280 pounds (130 kg). Against the wishes of several doctors at the hospital, he was released into his mother's care. Kemper later demonstrated further to the psychologists that he was well — and his juvenile records were expunged.

He worked a series of menial jobs before securing work with the State of California's Department of Public Works/Division of Highways in District 4 (now known as Department of Transportation or Caltrans). By that time, he weighed about 300 pounds (140 kg).

Later murders[edit]

Between May 1972 and February 1973, Kemper embarked on a spree of murders, picking up six female students hitchhiking, taking them to isolated rural areas and killing them. He would stab, shoot or smother the victims and afterwards take them back to his apartment where he would have sex with their severed heads and bodies and then dissect them.[12] He killed five college co-eds. He would often go hunting for victims after his mother's outbursts towards him.

Kemper had managed to stay one step ahead of investigators by virtue of being friends with many Santa Cruz County police officers. Edmund was a regular at a bar called The Jury Room,[13] which was a popular hangout with local law enforcement officers. None of his friends had any suspicions and they freely discussed the case with him.

Mary Ann Pesce and Anita Luchessa[edit]

On May 7, 1972, Kemper was driving in Berkeley when he picked up two 18-year-old hitchhiking Fresno State students, Mary Ann Pesce and Anita Luchessa, on the pretext of taking them to Stanford University.[14] After a one-hour journey, he drove to a secluded, wooded area near Alameda. There, he smothered and stabbed Pesce to death before fatally stabbing Luchessa.[2]

Kemper then put both corpses in the trunk of his 1969 Ford and returned to his apartment. In his room, he took some pornographic photographs of the naked corpses before dismembering them and putting the body parts into plastic bags, which he later abandoned near Loma Prieta Mountain.[14] Kemper had oral sex with Pesce's severed head before disposing of it and Luchessa's head in a ravine.[2]

Aiko Koo[edit]

On the night of September 14, 1972, Kemper picked up 15-year-old Aiko Koo, who had decided to hitchhike to dance class after missing the bus and was afraid of being late.[15] While keeping her at gunpoint, he stopped his car at the side of a road and strangled her to death, and then had sex with her corpse.[16]

Cindy Schall[edit]

On January 7, 1973, Kemper was driving around the Cabrillo College campus, where he picked up 19-year-old student Cindy Schall. He stopped his car in a secluded, wooded area, where he fatally shot her with a .22 caliber pistol. He placed her body in the trunk of his car and drove back to his mother's house, where he dissected her in a bathtub. He kept the body in his room overnight until he removed the bullet from her head and decapitated her. He later dismembered her body and buried her severed head in his mother's garden as a joke, later remarking that his mother "always wanted people to look up to her". He later proceeded to dismember the rest of her body and discarded the rest of her remains in a ravine.[16]

Rosalind Thorpe and Alice Liu[edit]

On February 5, after an argument with his mother, Kemper left the house in search of possible victims. He later encountered 24-year-old Rosalind Thorpe and 23-year-old Alice Liu, who were on the UC Santa Cruz campus. According to Kemper, Thorpe entered his car first, which apparently reassured Liu to enter after her. Right after leaving the university grounds, Kemper fatally shot Thorpe and Liu with a .22 caliber pistol. He then wrapped their bodies in blankets, and placed them both in the backseat of his car. He then sexually abused their bodies. The next morning, he dismembered the bodies of Thorpe and Liu, and discarded the remains off in Eden Canyon near San Francisco, where they were found a week later.[17]

Clarnell Strandberg Kemper and Sally Hallett[edit]

On Good Friday of 1973 (20 April), Kemper had planned on waiting for his mother to come home from a party, but he instead fell asleep and was awakened by the sound of her in another room. He entered her room; she was sitting up in bed reading a paperback book. She noticed him enter the room and said, "I suppose you're going to want to sit up all night and talk now". Kemper replied, "No, good night". before beating her to death with a claw hammer.[18] He then decapitated her and used her severed head for oral sex before finally using it as a dart board. He also cut out her vocal cords, then put them in the garbage disposal. The garbage disposal could not break down the tough vocal cord tissue and ejected the tissue back up into the sink. "That seemed appropriate," he said after his arrest,[19] "as much as she'd bitched and screamed and yelled at me over so many years." He then invited his mother's best friend, 59-year-old Sally Hallett, over to the house. When she entered the house, he strangled her to death, and then Kemper left the scene of his final crimes.

Kemper drove eastward, leaving California, then driving through Nevada and Utah, before stopping at a telephone booth in Pueblo, Colorado, after hearing no news on the radio about his crimes. He confessed to the murder of his mother and Hallet, but, at first, the police didn't take his call seriously and told him to phone back at a later time. Several hours later, Kemper phoned again and asked to speak to an officer he knew personally. At this time, he did not speak of his crimes as the "co-ed killer", and he waited inside his car until he was arrested.[17]


Edmund's mug shot taken after his arrest in 1973.

At his trial, he pleaded "not guilty" by reason of insanity. He was found guilty in November 1973 of eight counts of murder.[1] He asked for the death penalty, but with capital punishment suspended at that time, he instead received life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

At the time of Kemper's murder spree in Santa Cruz, another serial killer named Herbert Mullin was also active, earning the small California town the title of "Murder Capital Of The World." Also adding to the college town's infamy was the fact that Kemper's and Mullin's crimes were preceded three years earlier by multiple murders committed by John Linley Frazier, who murdered Santa Cruz eye surgeon Victor Ohta and his family.

Edmund Kemper remains among the general prison population at California Medical Facility in Vacaville, California.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f A&E Television Networks (2011), Edmund Kemper Biography, Biography.com .
  2. ^ a b c d e Katherine Ramsland. "Edmund Kemper: The Coed Butcher". truTV. Retrieved March 5, 2008. 
  3. ^ Ancestry of Edmund Emil Kemper III
  4. ^ Martingale 1995, p. 104
  5. ^ Lawson 2002, pp. 129–131, 136
  6. ^ Lawson 2002, pp. 129–131, 136, 139, 141, 144 , 278
  7. ^ von Beroldingen, Marj (March 1974). ""I Was the Hunter and They Were the Victims": Interview with Edmund Kemper". Front Page Detective Magazine. Retrieved February 2, 2012. 
  8. ^ Cheney, Margaret (1976). The Co-ed Killer. ISBN 0-8027-0514-6. 
  9. ^ Frasier, David K. (2007). Murder Cases of the Twentieth Century: Biographies of 280 Convicted or Accused Killers. ISBN 0-7864-3031-1. 
  10. ^ Lunde, Donald T. (1976). Murder and Madness. ISBN 0-913374-33-4. 
  11. ^ Sue Russell (2002). Lethal Intent. Pinnacle. p. 511. ISBN 978-0-7860-1518-4. 
  12. ^ Martingale 1995, p. 108
  13. ^ Larson, Amy (October 11, 2011). "Santa Cruz Serial Killer Spotlighted In TV Documentary". KSBW. Retrieved October 11, 2011. 
  14. ^ a b Stephens, Hugh (August 1973). "I’ll Show You Where I Buried the Pieces of Their Bodies". Inside Detective. Retrieved February 1, 2012. 
  15. ^ Gini Graham Scott (1 January 2007). American Murder [Two Volumes]. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-313-02476-4. 
  16. ^ a b Michael Newton (1 January 2006). The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. Infobase Publishing. p. 144. ISBN 978-0-8160-6987-3. 
  17. ^ a b John E. Douglas; Mark Olshaker (26 November 1998). Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit. Scribner. p. 152. ISBN 978-0-684-86447-1. 
  18. ^ Ed Kemper Interview 1984 2/2 on YouTube
  19. ^ Douglas, John E.; Olshaker, Mark (1995), Mindhunter: inside the FBI's elite serial crime unit, Scribner, p. 153, ISBN 0-671-52890-4 


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