Victim Studies 018: Edmund Kemper

on May 2, 2012 in Serial Killers, Victim Studies by

Edmund Kemper, otherwise known as the Co-ed Killer, was found guilty for the murders of eight people in the Santa Cruz area of the United States. Kemper’s murder series is believed to have started in early May of 1972, at the age of 24, and continued until April 20, 1973.

In Kemper’s youth he was seen as bright in school, but also began to show signs of being sociopathic. He had a terrible relationship with his controlling mother and after his father left the family, at the age of 9, his mother would lock him in the basement and claimed that she was afraid of what he would do to his sisters. He began to act out by killing the family cats by burying them alive or stabbing them to death and torturing other animals. Kemper claimed that his mother would constantly belittle him and made him feel like he wasn’t good enough. Kemper felt out of place at school, because of his size and his low self-esteem. It is believed that Kemper’s mother was an alcoholic, violent and may have had borderline personality disorder.

Around 1961, Kemper ran away from home to live with his father, as he was sure that he would have a better life, however his father had remarried and Kemper did not like sharing attention. He was told to go back to his mother only a month after moving out. His mother had just married her third husband and no longer wanted Kemper to live at home, and so he went to live with his grandparents on his father’s side. Kemper felt ignored and pushed around, and so he became more violent.

Before Kemper’s murder series began, on August 27, 1964, at the age of 15, Kemper shot both of his grandparents to death. The murder occurred after Kemper got into an argument with his grandmother, which caused him to shoot her. He then waited for his grandfather to return home from grocery shopping and shot him to death. When the police were questioning Kemper, he allegedly stated that he wanted to see what it felt like to kill his grandmother. He was sent to Atascadero State Hospital and was found to have a very high I.Q. He became friends with his psychologist and was able to become his assistant, which gave him access to some assessment devices. It was here that Kemper memorized 28 assessment devices to ensure that he could tell psychologists what they wanted to hear, not what he was actually feeling, in order to convince them that he could be released. Unfortunately, it worked and Kemper was released after serving only 5 years for murdering his grandparents. Despite psychologists wanting Kemper to not go back to his mother he was released into her custody at the age of 21.

In 1970, Kemper began to pick up female hitchhikers in an attempt to learn how to make them feel more comfortable around him. Kemper believed that he was so socially inept that this was the only way he could learn to not be intimidating. He was not doing this to better himself, but instead was merely building up to begin his murder series. Kemper would watch cop shows to learn tips about how to trap his victims. One tip was to make it impossible to open the door on the passenger’s side, so that the only way out would be to go over the 6”9, 300 pound Kemper. As time went on just giving a hitchhiker a ride wasn’t enough, especially when he knew there was a gun beneath his seat. When Kemper was not picking up hitchhikers, he was at the local bar called “The Jury Room”, which often served off-duty police officers. He befriended officers and would later learn what they knew or suspected about the murderer.

On May 7, 1972, Kemper began his murder series. All of his victims during his murder series were females between the ages of 15 and 72. The first 6 victims were hitchhikers who were murdered after accepting a ride from Kemper. He considered the hitchhikers to be naïve and stupid to trust a stranger, he also considered them to be dead before he murdered them. The victims were either Caucasian or Asian. Some of the victims were raped prior to their murder and the others were raped afterwards. Kemper’s method of murder was to stab with a knife, strangle, shoot or bludgeon his victims to death. The method of murder varied depending on what he felt like using or what he brought to the scene of the crime.

After Kemper murdered his first 6 victims, he brought the remains back to where he was living and would take pictures of the bodies. All of Kemper’s victims were decapitated after their murder and then he would have oral sex with the decapitated heads. Kemper went on to dissect and dismember the bodies of his victims.
Each time Kemper disposed of the bodies he would do it differently and in separate locations. The dismembered body parts of the first two victims were placed into plastic bags and left in the woods and their heads were thrown into a ravine. The third victim had her head buried in his mother’s garden because his mother always wanted people to look up at her. The head of the fourth victim was placed in the garden as well, while her body was put into a ravine. The fifth and sixth victims were dismembered and thrown off a cliff. The last two victims were murdered, decapitated and then left in the family home.

On April 20, 1973, Kemper committed the murders that made him confess to his crimes, the murder of his mother and her best friend. Kemper murdered his mother with a claw hammer while she slept. Kemper claimed that he had been planning on murdering her for a week before actually doing it. He decapitated her, had oral sex with her head and then used it as a dartboard. Kemper was also known to have taken out her vocal cords and attempted to put them down the garbage disposal, however the blades could not cut through them. After this murder Kemper called his mother’s best friend, Sara Hallett, and invited her for dinner. When she entered the house he murdered her, decapitated the head and later had sex with the body.

After staying with the bodies for a number of hours, Kemper decided to flee the state in Sara’s car. He later switched cars and kept driving. No one had reported the murder during this time and Kemper became tired from driving. He pulled over and called the Santa Cruz Police Department, where he knew a number of officers, to confess to his crimes. At first, the officers did not believe him and told him to call back later, which Kemper did. He was arrested on April 21, 1973.

Many investigators, and Kemper himself, believe that he would go out and search for his victims after having a fight with his mother. Kemper actively searched out female co-eds because his mother was a female and she worked at the school where most his victims attended. Kemper wanted to destroy anything his mother cared about or was involved in. He later claimed that he murdered out of frustration because his inability to communicate with people normally. Many investigators think that they did not suspect Kemper because they knew him from the bar, The Jury Room, and he did nothing to arouse suspicion, which is exactly what Kemper had intended to happen.

On November 8, 1973, Kemper was found to be sane and guilty on all eight charges of first-degree murder. The jury only needed 5 hours to decide on his guilt. Kemper had wanted to receive the death penalty, however at this time there was a moratorium on capital punishment. Kemper was sentenced to life in prison, where he is still serving out his sentence.

Sources:
Edmund Kemper: The Coed Butcher by Katherine Ramsland on TruTV.com
Edmund Kemper: The Co-Ed Killer on the Crime & Investigation Network
Edmund Kemper on Wikipedia
Ed Kemper Interview 1984 1/2 on Youtube
Ed Kemper Interview 1984 2/2 on Youtube

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