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Murderer Monday – The “Co-Ed Killer”

I’ve decided to create a new series on my blog, something that i’ve been fascinated by for years. I religiously watch mystery videos on YouTube, which are so addictive, however they are always titled ‘WHAT HAPPENED TO ____’ or ‘WHERE IS _______’, but I haven’t seen many that focus on the perpetrators themselves. This is where this series comes in.

I have decided to start with a serial killer who I find extremely interesting a person, and who is still alive today. I first encountered this person when watching the Netflix series Mindhunter which explored whether criminals were born or formed that way. The portrayal of this guy was so intriguing and accurate that I had to find out more. I’m sorry if this is too gruesome for some, and I hope it is not just me that finds serial killers so fascinating.

This is the story of Edmund Kemper.

“When I see a pretty girl walking down the street, I think two things. One part wants to be real nice and sweet, and the other part wonders what her head would look like on a stick”

Early Life:

Ed Kemper was born in California on December 18th 1948, so has recently turned 69. He is the only child of his mother Clarnell and father Edmund, but has half siblings, and has always been tall for his age. As a child, he showed signs of animal cruelty, notably he once buried a cat alive and then decapitated it when he was 10. He stated in an interview that he was thrilled he successfully lied to his family and got away with this crime. He always reenacted dark fantasies of his with dolls as a child, and confessed to spying on his teacher’s houses. His older sister was horrible to him, once trying to push him in front of a train and once into the deep end of a swimming pool, which contributed to his hatred of women in later life. Devastatingly for him, his parents separated when he was 9 and had to stay living with his mother. He openly talked about how his mother would belittle and humiliate him as he grew up, and they had a turbulent relationship, each blaming the other for the divorce. His mother seemingly knew he had the potential to be dangerous, often making him sleep in the basement so he wouldn’t harm his sisters. He stood at 6 foot 4 at this age so could have easily overpowered her, but her constantly telling him that he was weird and reminded her of his father, that no girl would ever love him, and that she didn’t want to ‘turn him gay’ meant he was bullied into complying. He grew up playing games such as ‘gas chamber’ and ‘electric chair’, where he would pretend to be killed. He ran away at age 14 to join his father, but upon learning that he had remarried and had other children, could not reconcile the relationship and was eventually passed to his paternal grandparents. This is where his murdering spree began.

First Victims:

He has said that his grandmother was constantly ’emasculating’ him and his grandfather, so had a deep hatred for her. After an argument on August 27 1964, he fatally shot her in the head and back after she told him ‘not to shoot any birds’ with his gun. Some accounts allege that she suffered post-mortem stab wounds after this also. When his grandfather returned from food shopping, he shot him in the driveway before he even reached the house. He stated that this was so he didn’t have to find out his wife was dead. This suggests he has a level of remorse towards males. Unsure what to do next as he was only 15, he rang Clarnell who told him to contact the police. He did so, then proceeded to sit in the house and wait for them, with his first two victims. When questioned by authorities, he said he “just wanted to see what it felt like to kill Grandma”. I know, sick right? Psychiatrists diagnosed him as a paranoid schizophrenic before sending him to the criminally insane unit of the Atascadero State Hospital, where psychiatrists there strongly disagreed with this diagnosis. He was found to have an IQ of 136, the average being 85-115 for all ages. He later tested higher at 145. During his time in incarceration, he became a model prisoner, working and administering tests to others. This allowed him to learn how to manipulate these psychiatric tests, which ultimately lead to his release in December 1969 aged 21.

He was sent to live with his mother again, despite doctors recommendations against this. After attending community college, he managed to gain a job at the Department of Transportation in 1971. He gained a reputation as being a “friendly nuisance” amongst police officers. He was rejected from being a state trooper because of his size, (6 ft 9 by now) so gained the nickname ‘Big Ed’. During this time, he was engaged to a 16 year old girl. He received $15,000 in a settlement because of a road accident, so gave up his work to focus on what interested him. Women. Whilst driving around, he noticed the amount of women hitchhiked, so bought supplies that he stored in his car such as rope, guns, handcuffs, knives, and began killing.

CO-ED Victims:

He first picked up two college students and let them go because he got too nervous. According to himself, he picked up around 150 girls before he began his murderous desires, which he called his “little zapples”. His first non-related victims were Mary Ann Pesce and Anita Mary Luchessa, on May 7 1972. They had been hitchhiking to get to Stanford University. He drove them to a secluded wooded area where he handcuffed Mary and locked Anita in the boot, before stabbing Mary to death and killing Luchessa in a similar manner. He is very open in interviews about the details in which this happened. He then put both of the women’s bodies in his boot and returned home, remaining undetected despite a police officer stopping him for a broken taillight. Once inside, he took pornographic photographs of, and had sex with, the corpses before dismembering them. He then engaged in irrumatio with their heads, before disposing of them into a ravine.

“The head trip fantasies were a bit like a trophy. You know, the head is where everything is at, the brain, eyes, mouth. That’s the person. I remember being told as a kid, you cut off the head and the body dies. The body is nothing after the head is cut off … well, that’s not quite true, there’s a lot left in the girl’s body without the head.”

I don’t want to spend all day going into the gruesome detail of each individual murder that occurred after these, so i’ll just do an overview. During an 11 month killing spree, he murdered 8 people. 5 of these women were co-ed students, gaining him the notorious nickname. He murdered 15 year old Aiko Koo who was hitchhiking to her dance lesson after missing her bus. Ed had to regain her trust after he locked himself out of his own car with her inside, and unfortunately she let him back in. 18 year old Cindy Shall who’s remains he decapitated in his mother’s bathtub and threw over a cliff and who’s head he buried in his back garden, (see quote below). Rosalind Thorpe and Allison Liu who were both in their early twenties. Just before these two girls, students were warned not to get into cars with anybody that didn’t have a University sticker on their window. Sadly for these women, Kemper’s mother worked at the University of California so he possessed such a sticker which allowed him to facilitate this double murder. All of these murders took place in remote areas. At the time of these murders, two other serial killers, John Linley Frazier and Herbert Mullins, were also killing in the area, resulting in Santa Cruz being nicknamed the “Murder Capital of the World” in the press.

“My mother, ‘always wanted people to look up to her’”

Final Murders:

In April 1973, Ed would commit his last double murder. After an argument in his mother’s bedroom in which she claimed “I suppose you’ll want to stay up all night talking now”, he lay on his bed until the early hours of the morning, infuriated, and knowing he was going to kill her. He bludgeoned her to death with a hammer and slit her throat, decapitating her and again performing sex acts on her severed head. He used it as a dartboard, then cut out her vocal chords and put them in the garbage disposal in an effort to “silence her”. He hid her body in a wardrobe, went out for a drink, then called her friend Sally over for dinner and a film. Shortly after she arrived, he strangled her and put her body also in the wardrobe.

His ultimate goal was to kill his own mother, and he has said himself that his killing had to end after that point. Ed left a note on the table for the police to find, as he expected they would, which stated: “Appx. 5:15 A.M. Saturday. No need for her to suffer any more at the hands of this horrible “murderous Butcher”. It was quick—asleep—the way I wanted it. Not sloppy and incomplete, gents. Just a “lack of time”. I got things to do!!”

After a day and still nothing from the police, he phoned them and confessed to his crimes. As they all knew him, they did not believe that ‘Big Ed’ was capable of such things, so his call was not taken seriously. After asking to speak to an officer he knew, he provided them with enough information for them to confirm that he was the “Co-Ed Killer”. He then waited in his car for the police to come and arrest him.

“I certainly wanted for my mother a nice, quiet easy death like everyone else wants.”

Trial and Imprisonment:

He was put on trial in October 1973, and found guilty in November, of 8 counts of first degree murder. When the judge asked him what punishment he thought he should receive, he stated calmly that he should be tortured to death. He received 8 concurrent life sentences (to be served one after the other), and is currently held in California Medical Facility.

Personality:

After watching numerous documentaries and interviews on Edmund Kemper, he seems like the least likely serial killer I have ever seen. Yes, his size is somewhat terrifying, but he comes across as so placid and intelligent, almost likeable had you not just read what he did to these poor women. He seems to truly understand his own psychology and can eloquently explain his actions and thought processes, however his IQ is so high that this could be him manipulating his interviewers. Edmund is so complex and fascinating that he had to be the first case of this series.

I hope this was enjoyable and interesting to read, for some at least. I would also thoroughly recommend Mindhunter on Netflix after this, as the actor’s portrayal of Kemper is so accurate and captivating, it’s scary.

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