Edmund Kemper biography
Born on December 18, 1948, in Burbank, California, Edmund Kemper, at age 15, killed both his grandparents to "see what it felt like." Upon release, he drifted, picking up and releasing female hitchhikers. But he soon stopped letting them go, killing six college-age women in the Santa Cruz, California, area in the 1970s. In 1973 his killed his mother and her friend and turned himself in.
Serial killer. Born Edmund Emil Kemper III on December 18, 1948, in Burbank, California. During the 1970s, Edmund Kemper killed six young, college-age women in the Santa Cruz, California, area. In addition to the young women, he killed several members of his family and a family friend. Kemper committed his crimes in the same area and around the same time as two other serial killers, John Linley Frazier and Herbert Mullins. At the time, Santa Cruz area became known as the “Murder Capital of the World” in the press and Kemper was dubbed the “Coed Killer” and the “Coed Butcher.”
Kemper was the middle child of E. E. and Clarnell Kemper. After his parents’ divorce in 1957, he moved with his mother and two sisters to Montana. Kemper had a difficult relationship with his alcoholic mother as she was very critical of him, and he blamed her for all of his problems. When he was ten years old, she forced him to live in the basement, away from his sisters whom she feared he might harm in some way.
Signs of trouble emerged early. He had a dark fantasy life, sometimes dreaming about killing his mother. He cut off the heads of his sister’s dolls and even coerced the girls into playing a game he called "gas chamber" in which he had them blindfold him and lead him to a chair, where he pretended to writhe in agony until he "died." At the age of 13, Kemper killed his cat with a knife. He went to live with his father for a time, but he ended up back with his mother. She decided to send the troubled teenager to live with his paternal grandparents in North Fork, California.
Kemper hated living on his grandparents’ farm. Before going to North Fork, Kemper had already begun learning about firearms. His grandparents took away his rifle after he killed several birds and other small animals. On August 27th, 1964, Kemper turned on his grandparents. The 15-year-old shot his grandmother in the kitchen after an argument. (Some reports also indicate that he stabbed her as well.) When his grandfather returned home, Kemper went outside and shot him by his car and then hid the body. He called his mother who told him to call the police and tell them what happened.
Later, Kemper said that he shot his grandmother to see what it felt like. He added that he killed his grandfather so that the man wouldn't have to find out that his wife had been murdered. For his crimes, Kemper was handed over to the California Youth Authority. He underwent a variety of tests, which determined that he had a very high IQ and suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.
Kemper was eventually sent to Atascadero State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
In 1969, Kemper was released. He was 21 years old. He was advised not to live with his mother because of her past abuse and his psychological issues involving her. Ignoring this recommendation, Kemper eventually joined his mother in California. Clarnell Kemper had moved there after ending her third marriage and took a job with the University of California at Santa Cruz.
Kemper attended community college for a time and worked a variety of jobs. He eventually went to work for the California Highway Department in 1971. Kemper applied to become a state trooper, but he was rejected because of his size—he weighed around 300 pounds and was 6 feet 9 inches tall, which led to his nickname “Big Ed.” He did, however, hang around some of the Santa Cruz police officers. One gave him a training-school badge and handcuffs, while another let him borrow a gun, according to Whoever Fights Monsters by Robert K. Ressler and Tom Shachtman. Kemper even had a car that resembled a police cruiser.
The same year he began working for the highway department, Kemper was hit by a car while out on his motorcycle. His arm was badly injured, and he received a $15,000 settlement in the civil suit he filed against the car’s driver. Unable to work, Kemper turned his mind toward other pursuits. He noticed a large number of young women hitchhiking in the area. In the new car he bought with some of his settlement money, Kemper began storing the tools he thought he might need to fulfill his murderous desires, including a gun, a knife, and handcuffs.
At first, Kemper picked up female hitchhikers and let them go. He offered two Fresno State College students—Mary Ann Pesce and Anita Luchessa—a ride on May 7th, 1972, but they never made it to their destination. Their families reported them missing, but nothing was known of their fates until August 15th, when a female head was discovered in the woods that was later identified as Pesce’s. Luchessa’s remains, however, were never found. Kemper later explained that he stabbed and strangled one of the women and stabbed the other. After the murders, he brought the bodies back to his apartment and removed their heads and hands. Kemper also reportedly engaged in sexual activity with their corpses.
In January of 1973, Kemper continued to act on his murderous impulses. He picked up hitchhiker Cindy Schall and shot her. While his mother was out, Kemper went to her home and hid Schall’s body in his room there. He dismembered her corpse the following day, and threw the parts into the ocean. Several parts were later discovered when they washed up on shore.
Kemper’s mother got him a campus parking sticker so that he could pick her up at the university. On February 5th, 1973, he used that sticker to facilitate a double-murder. Kemper drove to the campus after a fight with his mother and gave a ride to two students, Rosalind Thorpe and Alice Liu.
Shortly after picking them up, he shot the two young women. Kemper drove past campus security at the gates with two mortally wounded women in his car.
After the murders, Kemper decapitated his two victims and further dismembered the bodies, removed the bullets from their heads, and disposed of their parts in different locations. In March, some of Thorpe’s and Liu’s remains were discovered by hikers near Highway 1 in San Mateo County.
Kemper’s last two killings took place in April of 1973. On Good Friday, he went to his mother’s home, where the two had an unpleasant exchange. Kemper attacked his mother after she went to sleep, first striking her in the head with a hammer and then cutting her throat with a knife. After removing her larynx, he put it into the garbage disposal in the kitchen. Kemper then hid her body and went out to a bar frequented by his police officer friends.
In another odd twist, he invited over a friend of his mother’s, Sara “Sally” Hallett. (One source says he invited her to dinner and a movie while another says that he wanted her help with a surprise party for his mother.) Kemper killed Hallett shortly after she arrived at the house, and hid her body in a closet. He fled the area the next day.
After driving for several days, Kemper reached Pueblo, Colorado, where he made a call to the Santa Cruz police to confess his crimes. At first, the police could not believe that the guy they knew as “Big Ed” was a killer. But he soon led them to all the evidence they would need to prove that he was the infamous "Coed Killer."
Trial and Imprisonment
Charged with eight counts of first-degree murder, Kemper went on trial for his crimes in October of 1973. He was found guilty of all of the charges in early November. When asked by the judge what he thought his punishment should be, Kemper said that he should be tortured to death. He instead received eight concurrent life sentences.
At present, Kemper is serving his time at California Medical Facility in Vacaville. He was up for parole in 2007, but the state parole board denied his request. The next time that Kemper will be eligible for parole is in 2012.