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Edmund Kemper

Kemper's mugshot
Background information
Birth name: Edmund Emil Kemper III
Also known as: The Co-ed Killer
Born: December 18, 1948 (1948-12-18) (age 61)
Burbank, California
Conviction: Murder
Sentence: Life imprisonment
Number of 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), also known as "The Co-ed Killer",[1] is an American serial killer who was active in California in the early 1970s. He started his criminal life by shooting both his grandparents when he was 15 years old.[1] 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 hours later.


Early life

Kemper's grandmother, his first victim
Kemper's grandfather, his second victim

Kemper was the middle child and only son born to Edmund Emil Kemper, Jr. (1919-1985) and Clarnell E. Strandberg (1921-1973). As a child he was extremely bright, but displayed sociopathic behavior from a young age: he tortured and killed animals, purportedly having fatally stabbed a cat. He acted out bizarre sexual rituals with his sisters' dolls, was a pyromaniac, and showed signs of necrophilia; once, when his sister asked him to kiss a teacher he had a crush on, he replied, "if I kiss her I would have to kill her first."[citation needed]

Kemper had a close relationship with his father, and was devastated when his parents divorced in 1957, and had to be raised by his mother in Helena, Montana. He had a horrible relationship with his mother Clarnell, a violent woman who would constantly belittle and humiliate him. Clarnell often made her son sleep in a locked basement, because she feared that he would rape his younger sister.[2] It is alleged that she had borderline personality disorder. [3]

In the summer of 1963, Kemper ran away from home and hoped to seek his father in California. Once there, he learned that his father had remarried, and did not want anything to do with his son; the senior Kemper placed his son in the care of his paternal grandparents – Edmund and Maude Kemper. His grandparents lived on a 17-acre (69,000 m2) ranch in the mountains of North Fork, California. Kemper had found it unpleasant living in North Fork, especially because he disliked his grandmother.[citation needed]

On August 27, 1964, Kemper shot his grandmother while she sat at the kitchen table writing the finishing pages of her latest children's book. When his grandfather came home from grocery shopping, Kemper shot him as well. Then he called his mother, who urged him to call the police. 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. As a result of testing conducted on him, he was revealed to possess an I.Q. of 136, and was intelligent enough to gain the doctor's trust to the extent of being allowed access to prisoners' tests. With the knowledge he gained from his "apprenticeship" he eventually was able to impress his doctor at the hospital enough to let him go. Kemper was released from prison in 1969, after serving less than five years. 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 to have his juvenile records 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, his height had reached 6 feet 9 inches (2.06 m) and he weighed about 360 pounds (160 kg).


Between May 1972 and February 1973, Kemper embarked on a spree of murders, picking up female students hitchhiking, taking them to isolated rural areas and killing them. He would stab, shoot or smother the victims and afterwards take the bodies back to his apartment where he would have sex with their bodies and then dissect them. He killed five college girls (four students from UC Santa Cruz and one from Cabrillo College). He would often go hunting for victims after arguing with his mother.

Mary Anne Pesce and Anita Luchessa

On May 7, 1972, Kemper was driving around UC Santa Cruz campus, where he picked up two 18-year-old college students named Mary Anne Pesce and Anita Luchessa, who were hitch-hiking to Stanford University. After driving for about one hour, he drove on to a rural area in Alameda, California, where he stopped the car and thumbcuffed both girls. He then fatally stabbed both Pesce and Luchessa.

Kemper drove the bodies to his mother's house, where he brought the bodies to his room and took photographs of them for sexual pleasure. That night, Kemper dismembered the bodies and placed Pesce's dismemberments in a duffel bag, which was discarded on a mountain side road. He used Luchessa's severed head for oral sex, before he dumped her remains in a ravine.

Aiko Koo

On the night of September 14, 1972, Kemper had picked up 15-year-old Aiko Koo, who had decided to hitchhike home instead of waiting for a bus. While keeping her at gun point, he stopped his car at the side of a road and strangled her to death. He placed her body in the trunk of his car and drove back to his mother's house. In his room, he proceeded to rape and dissect her body, as well as conduct several experiments on her corpse. 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 buried the rest of her remains in the backyard of his mother's house.

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 stopped his car in a secluded area by woods, 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 beheaded her, burying her severed head in his mother's garden. He later proceeded to dismember the rest of her body and discarded the rest of her remains in a ravine.

Rosalind Thorpe and Allison Liu

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 Allison 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 backseats of his car. He drove back to his mother's house where he beheaded them, while his mother was in the backyard. He then performed sexual activities with their bodies. The next morning, he dismembered the bodies of Thorpe and Liu, and discarded the remains off a seaside cliff.

Clarnell Strandberg Kemper and Sally Hallett

On Good Friday of 1973, Kemper battered his sleeping mother to death with a claw hammer. He then beheaded her, and used her decapitated head for oral sex before using it as a dartboard. He also cut out her vocal cords and put them in the garbage disposal, but the machine could not break the tough tissue down and regurgitated it back into the sink. "That seemed appropriate," he said after his arrest, "as much as she'd bitched and screamed and yelled at me over so many years". His murderous urges not yet satiated, he then invited over his mother's best friend 59-year-old Sally Hallett. When she entered the house, he strangled her to death and then left the house.

Kemper was driving eastward trying to leave California, but when word of his crimes hit the radio airwaves he became discouraged, stopped the car, called the police and confessed to murdering his mother. By this time, he did not speak of his crimes as the "Co-ed killer", and waited inside his car until he was arrested.


At his trial he pleaded insanity, but he was found guilty of eight counts of murder. He asked for the death penalty, but with capital punishment suspended at that time, he instead received life imprisonment.

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. Kemper and Mullin were briefly held in adjoining cells, with the former angrily accusing the latter of stealing his body-dumping sites.

Edmund Kemper remains among the general prison population and is incarcerated at California State Prison, Solano, in Vacaville, California.


  1. ^ a b "THE_COED_BUTCHER". Retrieved 2008-03-05. 
  2. ^ Lawson, Christine Ann (July 2002). Understanding the Borderline Mother -- Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship. Jason Aronson. pp. 129–131,136. ISBN 0765703319. 
  3. ^ Lawson, Christine Ann (July 2002). Understanding the Borderline Mother -- Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship. Jason Aronson. pp. 129–131,136,139,141,144,278


  • Cheney, Margaret (1992). Why: The Serial Killer in America. R&E Publishers. ISBN 0-8027-0514-6. . Reprinting of The Co-Ed Killer. Walker and Company. 1976. ISBN 0-8027-0514-6. 
  • Damio, Ward (1974). Urge to Kill. Pinnacle Books. ISBN 0-523-00380-3. . (Discusses Kemper plus two contemporary Santa Cruz killers: John Linley Frazer and Herbert W. Mullin)
  • Douglas, John E. (1995). Mind Hunter. Pocket Books:. ISBN 0-671-52890-4. .
  • Lawson, Christine Ann (July 2002). Understanding the Borderline Mother -- Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship. Jason Aronson. pp. 129–131,136,139,141,144,278. ISBN 0765703319. 
  • Leyton, Elliott (2005). Hunting Humans: The Rise Of The Modern Multiple Murderer. McClelland & Stewart. ISBN ISBN 0-7710-5025-9. . (Full chapter on Kemper)
  • Ressler, Robert. Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for The FBI. ISBN 0-7710-5025-9.  (approx. 20 pages on Kemper).
  • 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. .
  • West, Don (1974). Sacrifice Unto Me. Pinnacle Books. ISBN 0-515-03335-9. . (Story of Kemper and Herbert W. Mullin)

External links

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