Edmund Emil Kemper III (born December 18 1948 in Burbank, California, also known as The Co-ed Killer, is an American serial killer who was active in the early 1970s. Kemper killed and dismembered six female hitchhikers in the Santa Cruz, California, area. He then murdered his mother and one of her friends before turning himself in to the authorities. He had previously been incarcerated as a teenager for shooting both his grandparents while staying on their farm in North Fork, California.
Kemper displayed sociopathic behavior from a young age: he tortured and killed animals, acted out bizarre sexual rituals with his sisters' dolls, and once said that, in order to kiss a teacher he had a crush on, he would have to kill her. Worsening the situation was Kemper's mother, who constantly berated and humiliated her son, and often made him sleep in a locked basement for fear that he would molest his sisters.
On August 27 1964, Kemper shot his grandmother while she sat at the kitchen table putting the finishing touches on 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 Grandpa." Kemper was just 15 at the time.
Kemper was committed at Atascadero State Hospital. He was eventually released into his mother's care in Santa Cruz, California, against the wishes of several doctors at the hospital. Kemper later demonstrated to further psychologists that he was well; he did so during his subsequent murderous rampage and managed to have his juvenile records sealed forever.
Kemper worked a series of odd jobs before securing work with the Division of Highways. By that time, his height had reached 6 feet 9 inches and he weighed over 300 pounds (136 kg).
Between May 1972 and February 1973, Kemper embarked on a spree of murders, picking up female students hitch-hiking, 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 them and then dissect them. He would often dump the bodies in ravines or bury them in fields, although on one occasion he buried the severed head of a 15-year-old girl in his mother's garden as a kind of sick joke, later remarking that his mother "always wanted people to look up to her." He killed six college girls in this way, and would often go hunting for victims after arguing with his mother, a domineering woman who had emotionally abused him since childhood.
In April 1973, Kemper battered his mother to death with a pick hammer as she slept. He decapitated her, raped her headless body, and used her head as a dartboard after putting her vocal cords in the garbage disposal. His murderous urges not yet sated, he then invited his mother's friend over and killed her too, strangling her. He then drove eastward, but when no word of his crimes hit the radio airwaves he became discouraged, stopped the car, called the police and confessed to being the Co-ed Killer. He told them what he had done and waited for them to pick him up, seemingly unashamed as he confessed to necrophilia and cannibalism. At his trial he pleaded insanity, but he was found guilty on 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." Kemper and Mullin were briefly held in adjoining cells, with the former angrily accusing the latter of stealing his body-dumping sites.
Kemper is currently incarcerated in California Medical Facility.
Victims of Ed Kemper
- Maude Kemper August 27, 1964
- Ed Emil Kemper August 27, 1964
- Mary Anne Pisce May 5, 1972
- Anita Luchese May 5, 1972
- Aiko Koo September 14, 1972
- Cindy Schall January 8, 1973
- Rosalind Thorpe February 5, 1973
- Alice Lui February 5, 1973
- Clarnell Strandberg April 21, 1973
- Sally Hallett April 21, 1973
- The Berzerker's song "Forever" from the self titled album contains samples from Ed Kemper's testament, including "As I'm sitting there with a severed head in my hand, talking to it, or looking at it, and I'm about to go crazy, literally I'm about to go completely... Flywheel loose and just fall apart". It also contains samples such as "At the age of 24, he murderered his mother, then called police and confessed to having dismembered college co-eds for two years, as well as cannibalizing and raping their headless bodies" and "put her vocal chords in a garbage disposal, then threw darts at her severed head". These are all references to Kemper's murders
- Church of Misery's song "Killfornia" contains a long testament by Kemper, also featuring the line "As I'm sitting there with a severed head in my hand..."
- Optimum Wound Profile also use long segments of Kemper's testimony on the song "Crave", once more including the "severed head" line.
- American death-grind metal band Macabre wrote a song about Edmund Kemper on their 1993 album "Sinister Slaughter" entitled "Edmund Kemper Had a Horrible Temper."
- He was once quoted as saying, When I see a pretty girl walking down the street, I think two things: One part of me wants to take her home, be real nice and treat her right; the other part wonders what her head would look like on a stick. In Bret Easton Ellis' book American Psycho, main character Patrick Bateman, himself a serial killer, uses this quote when asked about women, although he mistakenly attributes it to Ed Gein.
- Author Thomas Harris based the character of Buffalo Bill in his book The Silence of the Lambs in part upon Kemper. In the book, Buffalo Bill was a serial killer who, like Kemper, had begun his "career" by impulsively killing his grandparents as a teenager.
- System of a Down's song "Forever" (aka "Fortress" or "Outer Space") from the leaked album "Toxicity II" contains lyrics referencing Kemper including "Edmund Kemper solved it all, He fooled the shrinks." The song was later dropped from the released "Steal This Album!"
- Margaret Cheney, Why: The Serial Killer in America. R& E Publishers: Saratoga, California, CA 1992. (Reprinting of the author's The Co-Ed Killer. Walker and Company:New York, NY 1976). ISBN 0-8027-0514-6.
- Ward Damio, Urge to Kill. Pinnacle Books:New York, NY 1974. ISBN 0-523-00380-3. (Discusses Kemper plus two contemporary Santa Cruz killers: John Linley Frazer and Herbert W. Mullin)
- Elliott Leyton, Hunting Humans: The Rise Of The Modern Multiple Murderer. McClelland & Stewart 2005. ISBN 0-7710-5025-9. (Full chapter on Kemper)
- Robert Ressler, Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for The FBI. (approx. 20 pages on Kemper).
- Don West, Sacrifice Unto Me. Pinnacle Books:New York, NY 1974. ISBN 0-515-03335-9. (Story of Kemper and Herbert W. Mullin)
- John Douglas, Mind Hunter. Pocket Books:New York, NY 1995. ISBN 0-671-52890-4.
- Murder Capital of the World
- Crime Library feature on Ed Kemper
- Archived interview with Kemper from Front Page Detective, 1974