Edmund Kemper was dubbed “The Co-ed Killer” because the majority of his victims were students at co-educational colleges. He  murdered ten people, including his own mother. Edmund Kemper (a.k.a. Ed Kemper or Gentle Giant) stands 6 feet 9 inches tall and has an IQ of 145. He is often overlooked in the history of serial killers in America.

Ed Kemper
Edmund Ed Kemper, Credit: thedamselbook

At the age of 10, Edmund Kemper buried a cat alive. Once the cat died, he dug it up, decapitated it, and mounted its head on a spike. At 15, he shot his grandparents, and when asked why, he replied, “just wanted to see what it felt like to kill Grandma”

Early life of Edmund Kemper

Ed Kemper was born in 1948 in Burbank, California. Ed grew up in a troubled household as the middle child and only son of Clarnell Elizabeth Kemper and Edmund Emil Kemper II. His father was a World War II soldier who tested nuclear bombs in the Pacific Proving Grounds after the war.

Edmund Kemper's family | ed kemper's mother
Ed Kemper’s family, His mother(Left), and paternal grandparents Edmund and Maude Kemper.

Kemper’s mother was an alcoholic, possibly suffering from a borderline personality disorder. Kemper’s father once said: “suicide missions in wartime and the later atomic bomb testings were nothing compared to living with Carnell.” Carnell complained about his low paying work job and refused to treat Ed Kemper nicely as it would “turn him gay.”

Kemper began to display dark fantasies relating to sexuality and death at an early age, He would stalk his second-grade teacher outside her house, carrying his father’s bayonet.

It all started when Ed was 10 years old, when he buried a pet cat alive, then dug it up, decapitated it, and mounted its head on a spike. Three years later, he killed another cat, this time hiding it in his closet until his mother discovered it.

His mother was left with him and his two sisters after his father abandoned the family. Carnell dreaded Kemper, who stood 6’4″ at the age of 15, and forced him to sleep in a closed cellar for fear of him harming his sisters.

Kemper was 6 feet 9 inches tall, that's why he gained the name Big Ed and Gentle Giant
Kemper was 6 feet 9 inches tall, that’s why he gained the name Big Ed and Gentle Giant

At the age of 14, Kemper ran away from his mother’s house to live with his father in California, as Carnell would regularly berate and insult him, telling the boy that no woman would ever love him.

His father remarried and Kemper was sent to live with his grandparents.

The Beginning Of Ed Kemper

Kemper had anger issues; he would argue with his parents and grandparents at night, and one such altercation led to his grandmother’s death; Kemper shot her in the head. Kemper used his grandfather’s rifle, which he had received as a gift, while hunting.

Kemper didn’t stop there; when his grandfather, Edmund Emil Kemper, got home from grocery shopping, Kemper rushed outside and shot him in the driveway. He didn’t know what to do next, so he called his mother, who advised him to call the police. Kemper then dialed 911 and waited for cops to arrive.

Kemper Victims
Kemper Victims

Kemper was 15 at the time of the crime, and when questioned by officials, he stated that he “simply wanted to see what it felt like to kill Grandma,” and that he killed his grandfather so he wouldn’t have to learn about his dead wife.

According to psychiatrist Donald Lunde, who questioned Kemper, “the death of his grandparents avenged the rejection of both his father and his mother.” Kemper, on the other hand, was taken to Atascadero State Hospital’s criminally insane ward, where he took his first IQ test and scored 145.

Ed Kemper was released from Atascadero on his 21st birthday in 1969 and returned to the care of his mother, who worked at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Kemper still had to check in with probation psychologists, but he knew what to say because of his experience at Atascadero, and he was deemed low risk.

The last report from his probation psychiatrists read:
If I were to see this patient without having any history available or getting any history from him, I would think that we’re dealing with a very well adjusted young man who had initiative, intelligence and who was free of any psychiatric illnesses … It is my opinion that he has made a very excellent response to the years of treatment and rehabilitation and I would see no psychiatric reason to consider him to be of any danger to himself or to any member of society … [and] since it may allow him more freedom as an adult to develop his potential, I would consider it reasonable to have a permanent expunction of his juvenile records.

When Ed Camper had enough money, he would live with a friend in Alameda, but he constantly moaned about not being able to get away from his mother, who would phone him and pay him surprise visits on a regular basis. When he ran out of money, he’d go back to his mother.

Ed Kemper Victims

Ed Kemper wanted to experience freedom after spending 5 years in prison, so he drove his mother’s automobile around. He picked up roughly 150 hitchhikers, yet he never did anything wrong because he always left them off quietly.

Ed Kemper momnetos
Ed Kemper mementos from the victims

Kemper’s killing spree began with the murders of Mary Ann Pesce and Anita Luchessa, two 18-year-old Fresno State students hitchhiking. Kemper drove the women for an hour before bringing them to a nearby wooded area where he planned to rape them but panicked and stabbed both of them to death.

Kemper returned to his apartment after placing their remains in the trunk of his Ford Galaxie. On his drive home, he was pulled over by an officer for a broken taillight, but the officer was unaware of the corpses in the trunk.

Kemper was alone that day and chose to bring the remains inside his flat, where he photographed them and had sexual relations with the naked corpses before dismembering them. He then placed the body parts in a garbage bag and dumped them near Loma Prieta Mountain in a ravine.

The Death of Aiko Koo

Kemper did the same to his next victim, 15-year-old Korean dance student Aiko Koo. During this encounter, he accidentally locked himself out of his car but was able to persuade Koo to let him back in.

Kemper loaded Koo’s body into the trunk of his car and proceeded to a neighboring bar for a couple drinks before returning to his apartment. He had done the same to her body as he had to all of his victims, and then disposed of the remnants in the same manner.

Cynthia Ann Schall

Kemper had to move back in with his mother since he had run out of money.
He picked up an 18-year-old student named Cynthia Ann “Cindy” Schall, murdered her, and then hid her body in a closet in his room overnight. When his mother departed for work the next morning, he had sexual relations with Cindy’s corpse and retrieved the bullet before dismembering and decapitating her in his mother’s bathtub.

Cops investigating the buried skull, in her mother's front yard. Credits; Getty
Cops investigating the buried skull, in her mother’s front yard. Credits; Getty

Kemper kept her head for several days, engaging in sexual acts with it on a daily basis, before burying it in his mother’s garden, facing up towards her bedroom. He did this because his mother “always wanted people to look up to her,” he says.

Edmund Kemper’s Killing Spree

Kemper left his house one night following a fierce disagreement with his mother in search of potential victims. He eventually got lucky because, due to growing suspicions of a serial killer preying on hitchhikers in the Santa Cruz area, students were urged to only accept rides from automobiles bearing University stickers. Kemper’s mother worked at the university, thus his automobile was inscribed with the university’s logo.

The same night he picked up two young women, who unfortunately had to face the same result as the rest of the victims. When asked in an interview as to why he decapitated his victim, he explained:  “The head trip fantasies and 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.”

Ed Kemper Mother

Kemper revealed in an interview that he had plotted to murder his mother a week before. “I haven’t had sex with a man because of you, my murderous son,” his mother told him over and over for seven years.

Ed kemper in news
Ed Kemper

On April 20, 1973, after coming home from a party, 52-year-old Clarnell Elizabeth, Kemper’s mother, awakened her son with her arrival. Ed walked up to her room while she was sitting and reading a book, she noticed Kemper enter the room, and she said to him “I suppose you’re going to want to sit up all night and talk now,” on which Kemper replied, “No, good night.” He then waited for her to fall asleep before returning to bludgeon her with a claw hammer and slit her throat with a knife.

Kemper stated that he “put [her head] on a shelf and screamed at it for an hour… threw darts at it,” and, ultimately, “smashed her face in. He also cut out her tongue and larynx and put them in the garbage disposal. However, the garbage disposal could not break down the tough vocal cords and ejected the tissue back into the sink. “That seemed appropriate,” Kemper later said: “as much as she’d bitched and screamed and yelled at me over so many years.”

Kemper then asked his mother’s best friend to dinner before murdering her and stealing her car. He drove to Colorado and ended up confessing to murdering his mother from a phone booth. The police, on the other hand, did not take the call seriously and told him to contact him again later.

Ed Kemper’s Trial

When asked in a later interview why he turned himself in, Kemper said: “The original purpose was gone … It wasn’t serving any physical or real emotional purpose. It was just a pure waste of time … Emotionally, I couldn’t handle it much longer. Toward the end there, I started feeling the folly of the whole damn thing, and at the point of near exhaustion, near collapse, I just said to hell with it and called it all off.

Kemper Enjoyed his life in prison and says that he doesn't want to get out.
Kemper Enjoyed his life in prison and says that he doesn’t want to get out.

Edmund Kemper was eventually arrested and convicted of eight counts of first-degree murder. Kemper’s counsel’s only alternative, given his comprehensive confession, was to plead not guilty by reason of insanity to the charges. Kemper tried to commit suicide while imprisoned. On October 23, 1973, his trial began.

He asked for the death penalty, requesting “death by torture,” but failed on all accounts and was given seven consecutive life sentences instead.

Ed Kemper was first eligible for parole in 1979, he was denied parole that year as well as in the upcoming years. In 1988, he denied parole where he said: “society is not ready in any shape or form for me. I can’t fault them for that.” Kemper was denied his latest parole in 2017 and is next eligible in 2024.

Kemper was featured in season one of Netflix’s true-crime series, Mindhunter.

Edmund became a model prisoner at the California Medical Facility, where he is in charge of scheduling other inmates’ appointments with psychiatrists and has spent over 5,000 hours narrating books on tape for the blind.

Ed Kemper Now

Edmund Kemper is currently incarcerated at California Medical Facility state prison in Vacaville, California. Charles Manson, Manon Family killer Bobby Beausoleil and Juan Corona have been prisoned in this same facility at some points over the years. Edmund Kemper is considered as one of the model inmates and his incarceration is among the general population.

Ed Kemper Today
Ed Kemper 2019

Edmund Kemper led a program for blinds called “The Blind Project”, in which inmates created books on tape for the, he also has read several hundred books to his credit according to an article in the Lost Angeles Times. He also enjoys making ceramic mugs, some of which even appeared in the market. Kemper, now aged 71 (2020), has waived his right to a parole hearing since 1985. According to an attorney Scott Currey, “He’s just a happy going about his life in prison”.

Ed Kemper sat down for numerous interviews with police, psychiatrists and spoken about his crimes candidly. One of his interview with FBI Special Agent John E. Douglas was featured in the book “Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit.”

Edmund Kemper Mindhunter

Netflix series Mindhunter, which is based on real life interviews between FBI agents and criminals, has shown Ed Kemper in one of the episodes.

Cameron Britton who played Ed Kemper on Mindhunter said that “I could tell this was a real person, you are expecting a maniac, and he comes in very polite, in a chilling way… I think it’s easy to say that all of us have some darkness and as an actor, you have to be willing to go to the darkest corner.”

Edmund Kemper Interview

If you liked reading about Ed Kemper, you would also like 10 Chilling Messages Sent Moments Before Death. You might also like reading about the “10 Most Mysterious Deaths in Hollywood, that are still unexplained

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