Edmund Kemper

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Edmund Kemper
Mug shot of Kemper, taken after his arrest in April 1973
Born Edmund Emil Kemper III
(1948-12-18) December 18, 1948 (age 72)
Burbank, California, U.S.
Other names Big Ed
The Co-ed Killer
The Co-ed Butcher
Criminal penalty Life imprisonment
Conviction(s) Murder
Victims 10
Span of killings
August 27, 1964–April 20, 1973
Country United States
State(s) California
Date apprehended
April 20, 1973

Edmund Emil Kemper III (born December 18, 1948),[1] also known as The Co-ed Butcher or 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] and 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 size and high intelligence, standing 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) tall and weighing over 300 lbs (140 kg) and having an IQ in the 140 range, attributes that left his victims with little chance to overcome him.

Early life

Kemper was born in Burbank, California, the middle child and only son born to Edmund Emil Kemper, Jr. (1919–1985) and Clarnell Stage (1921–1973).[3] As a child, he was extremely bright but exhibited antisocial and psychopathic behavior such as cruelty to animals; he reportedly fatally stabbed a pet cat at age 13.[4] He buried animals alive, including his family's pet cat, and would later dig them up for further torture.[5] 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 severely dysfunctional 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.[6] It is alleged that she had borderline personality disorder.[7]

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."[8]

First murders

Maude Matilda Hughey Kemper
Edmund Emil Kemper

On August 27, 1964, Kemper's grandmother, Maude Matilda Hughey Kemper, 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.[9] (Some sources[10][11] claim that he also stabbed her with a kitchen knife after shooting her.) When his grandfather, Edmund Emil Kemper, 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.[12] 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

Between May 1972 and April 1973, Kemper embarked on a murder spree that started with six female students and ended with the murders of his mother and her best friend. Kemper would pick up female students who were hitchhiking, take them to isolated areas where he would stab, shoot or smother his victims. He would then take their lifeless bodies back to his apartment where he would rape their severed heads and bodies and then dissect them.[13] He killed five college co-eds, one high school student, his mother and ending with his mother's best friend. He would often go hunting for victims after his mother's outbursts towards him.[14]

Kemper had managed to stay one step ahead of investigators by befriending many Santa Cruz County police officers. Kemper was a regular at a bar called The Jury Room,[15] 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.[citation needed]

Mary Ann Pesce and Anita Luchessa

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.[16] After driving for an hour, he found a secluded wooded area, near Alameda, where he smothered and stabbed Pesce to death before fatally stabbing Luchessa.[2]

Kemper then put both of the women 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.[16] Before disposing of Pesce's and Luchessa's heads in a ravine, Kemper engaged in fellatio with both of their heads.[2]

Aiko Koo

On the evening of September 14, 1972, Kemper picked up 15-year-old Aiko Koo, who had decided to hitchhike to dance class after missing the bus.[17] While holding her at gunpoint, he pulled over to the side of the road and strangled her to death. He then had sex with her corpse.[18]

Cindy Schall

On January 7, 1973, Kemper was driving around the Cabrillo College campus, where he picked up 19-year-old student Cindy Schall. He drove to a secluded wooded area and 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. He kept her body in his room overnight so he could remove the bullet from her head and decapitate her. He buried her severed head in his mother's garden facing upward toward his mother's bedroom as a joke, later remarking that his mother "always wanted people to look up to her". He proceeded to dismember the rest of her body and discarded her remains in a ravine.[18]

Rosalind Thorpe and Alice Liu

On February 5, 1973, after an argument with his mother, Kemper left the house in search of possible victims. He encountered 24-year-old Rosalind Thorpe and 23-year-old Alice Liu, on the UC Santa Cruz campus. According to Kemper, Thorpe entered his car first, which apparently reassured Liu to also enter. 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 sexually abused their bodies and the next morning dismembered the bodies and discarded the remains at Eden Canyon near San Francisco, where they were found a week later.[19]

Clarnell Strandberg Kemper and Sally Hallett

On Good Friday April 20, 1973, while waiting for his mother to come home from a party Kemper fell asleep and was awakened by her coming home. While his mother was sitting in bed reading a paperback book she noticed Kemper enter her 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.[20] He then decapitated her and engaged in fellatio with her severed head before using it as a dart board. He also cut out her vocal cords and put them in the garbage disposal. The garbage disposal could not break down the tough vocal cord tissue and ejected the tissue back into the sink. "That seemed appropriate as much as she'd bitched and screamed and yelled at me over so many years" he later said after his arrest.[21] He then invited his mother's best friend, 59-year-old Sally Hallett, over to the house. Upon her arrival to the condo located at 358 Hemlock Street, Vacaville CA, 95688, he strangled her to death. Kemper then left the scene of his final crimes.

Kemper drove eastward, leaving California, driving through Nevada and Utah. Kemper arrived in Pueblo, Colorado, and after not hearing any news on the radio about the murders of his mother and Sally Hallett, Kemper found a phone booth and called the police. He confessed to the murders of his mother and Hallett, but the police didn't take his call seriously and told him to call back at a later time. Several hours later, Kemper called again asking to speak to an officer he personally knew. Kemper then confessed to that officer of killing his mother and Hallett, but he did not mention he was also the murderer of the six female students. He would do that while being interviewed by detectives. Kemper waited in his car for the police to arrive, arrest him and take him into custody. [19]


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. To this day he does not wish to be released for fear of repeating the same crimes.

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]

While imprisoned, Kemper has participated in a number of interviews including 1984's "Murder, No Apparent Motive". The interviews are notable for their contribution to understanding these types of criminals. He is quite forthcoming and also states that he participated in the interviews to save others like himself from killing. He regards himself as much a victim as the deceased.

In popular culture

Film and literature

Kemper was one of several serial killers who served as an inspiration for the character of Buffalo Bill in Thomas Harris' novel The Silence of the Lambs and its subsequent film adaptation. Like Kemper, Bill begins his career as a serial killer by fatally shooting his grandparents as a young teenager, then goes through a significant cooling off period before beginning to murder again.

The French author Marc Dugain published a novel, Avenue des géants (Giants Avenue), about Kemper in 2012.



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 A&E Television Networks (2011), Edmund Kemper Biography, Biography.com<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Katherine Ramsland. "Edmund Kemper: The Coed Butcher". truTV. Retrieved March 5, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Ancestry of Edmund Emil Kemper III
  4. Martingale 1995, p. 104
  5. Helen Gavin (2013). Criminological and Forensic Psychology. p. 120.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Lawson 2002, pp. 129–131, 136
  7. Lawson 2002, pp. 129–131, 136, 139, 141, 144 , 278
  8. 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Cheney, Margaret (1976). The Co-ed Killer. ISBN 0-8027-0514-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Frasier, David K. (2007). Murder Cases of the Twentieth Century: Biographies of 280 Convicted or Accused Killers. ISBN 0-7864-3031-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Lunde, Donald T. (1976). Murder and Madness. ISBN 0-913374-33-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Sue Russell (2002). Lethal Intent. Pinnacle. p. 511. ISBN 978-0-7860-1518-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Martingale 1995, p. 108
  14. "Ed Kemper Interview 2/2 from Documentary Murder - No Apparent Motive". June 27, 2011. Retrieved September 5, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Larson, Amy (October 11, 2011). "Santa Cruz Serial Killer Spotlighted In TV Documentary". KSBW. Retrieved October 11, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. 16.0 16.1 Stephens, Hugh (August 1973). "I'll Show You Where I Buried the Pieces of Their Bodies". Inside Detective. Retrieved February 1, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Gini Graham Scott (January 1, 2007). American Murder [Two Volumes]. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 1. ISBN 978-0-313-02476-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. 18.0 18.1 Michael Newton (January 1, 2006). The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. Infobase Publishing. p. 144. ISBN 978-0-8160-6987-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. 19.0 19.1 John E. Douglas; Mark Olshaker (November 26, 1998). Mindhunter: Inside the FBI's Elite Serial Crime Unit. Scribner. p. 152. ISBN 978-0-684-86447-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Ed Kemper Interview 1984 2/2 on YouTube
  21. Douglas, John E. (1995), Mindhunter: inside the FBI's elite serial crime unit, Scribner, p. 153, ISBN 0-671-52890-4 Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Cheney, Margaret (1992). Why: The Serial Killer in America. R&E Publishers. ISBN 0-8027-0514-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>. Reprinting of The Co-Ed Killer. Walker and Company. 1976. ISBN 0-8027-0514-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Damio, Ward (1974). Urge to Kill. Pinnacle Books. ISBN 0-523-00380-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Douglas, John E. (1995), Mindhunter: inside the FBI's elite serial crime unit, Scribner, ISBN 0-671-52890-4 Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lawson, Christine Ann (July 2002), Understanding the Borderline Mother – Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship, Jason Aronson, ISBN 0-7657-0331-9<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Leyton, Elliott (2005). Hunting Humans: The Rise Of The Modern Multiple Murderer. McClelland & Stewart. ISBN 0-7710-5025-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Martingale, Moira (1995), Cannibal Killers, St. Martin's Press, ISBN 978-0-312-95604-2<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Ressler, Robert. Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for The FBI. ISBN 0-7710-5025-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Schechter, Harold (2003). The Serial Killer Files: The Who, What, How, and Why of the World's Most Terrifying Murderers. Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 0-345-46566-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • West, Don (1974). Sacrifice Unto Me. Pinnacle Books. ISBN 0-515-03335-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links