On May 7, 1972, Ed Kemper struck. He picked up two college girls, Mary Anne Pesce and Anita Luchessa, hitchhiking on a freeway ramp. Knowing the area well, Kemper managed to drive around without them realizing that he had changed directions from where they wanted to go. “I asked them a few questions and determined to my satisfaction that they were not familiar with the area,” he began. “I didn’t really make much of an effort to deceive them because they were terribly naive.”
He then stopped his car in a remote area he was familiar with from his work with the highway department. Kemper first handcuffed Pesce in the backseat of the car. He later confessed, “I was really quite struck by her personality and her looks, and there was just almost a reverence there. I think once I accidentally—this bothers me too, personally—I brushed, I think the back of my hand when I was handcuffing her, against one of her breasts, and it embarrassed me. I even said, ‘whoops, I’m sorry’ or something like that.”
Kemper then took Luchessa out of the car and locked her in the trunk. Within thirty seconds of apologizing to Pesce for accidentally brushing against her breast, he threw a plastic bag over her head and wrapped a bathrobe belt around her neck. But as he pulled on the belt, it snapped; meanwhile Pesce had bitten through the plastic bag. Kemper then drew his knife and began to stab Pesce in the back, but the blows did not seem to have any effect and she began to twist around, facing Kemper. “I stabbed her all over her back, she turned around and I stabbed her on the side and the stomach once. As she turned around I could of stabbed her through the heart, but her breasts were there. Her breasts actually deflected me. I couldn’t see myself stabbing a young woman in her breasts. That’s embarrassing.”
He then grabbed Pesce by the chin, pulled back her head, and slit her throat.
Kemper then went to the back of the car, opened the trunk, pulled Luchessa out, and began to stab her repeatedly in the throat, eyes, heart, and forearms. He recalled being surprised by how many heavy blows she took before losing consciousness.
Once the women were dead, he drove their corpses back to his apartment and carried them inside. In his apartment he dissected their bodies, handled their various internal organs, snapped Polaroid photographs of them, and cut their heads off. Kemper confessed, “I remember there was actually a sexual thrill. You hear that little ‘pop’ and pull their heads off and hold their heads up by the hair. Whipping their heads off, their body sitting there. That’d get me off!” But Kemper insisted, “There was absolutely no contact with improper areas.”
Kemper said, “I would sit there looking at the heads on an overstuffed chair, tripping on them on my bed, looking at them [when] one of them somehow becomes unsettled, comes rolling down the chair, very grisly. Tumbling down the chair, rolls across the cushion and hits the rug—‘bonk.’ The neighbor downstairs hates my guts. I’m always making noise late at night. He gets a broom and whacks on the ceiling. ‘Buddy,’ I say, ‘I’m sorry for that, dropped my head, sorry.’ That helped bring me out of the depression. I would trip on that.”
Afterward Kemper put what remained of the two women into plastic bags and buried them in the Santa Cruz hills, their torsos and limbs in one location, their hands in another, disguising the burial ground using techniques he had learned in the Boy Scouts. He kept the heads a few days longer before throwing them into a ravine. Kemper also visited the grave of one of the coeds, Mary Anne Pesce, because he wanted to be near her and talk to her. “I loved her and I wanted her,” he said. “I heard one news comment that she was a Camarillo girl, so I went down to Los Angeles (after the slaying) and checked out Camarillo and only found one Pesce in the phone hook and that was a Gabriel Pesce. So I went up by that neighborhood, in fact right by the house.”
Kemper said, “I didn’t even touch her [Pesce] too much after that, that is, other than to get rid of physical evidence such as clothing and later the body.” Kemper indicated the murders of Miss Pesce and Miss Luchessa weighed heavily on him. He said, “the whole experience is the most inlaid in my mind, imprinted and actually, you might say, it had a very strong influence on the fact I did continue doing these things.”
“I think, personally, deep down, that I continued to do these things to try to get that out of my mind, to cover it up… other young ladies, trying to get them out.”
“I think possibly because of the way they died (Kemper stabbed them to death) and I had been very struck by Mary Anne Pesce and I had never really taken a chance on getting to know her at all, forcibly, I mean, getting to know her, not so much by rape but even talking with her. I’ve had a lot of dreams about that and been very depressed about it.”
Kemper said that just before he began killing, his fantasies of making love to women became dissatisfying because he came to believe he could never realize them. If he killed them, then they would not reject him as a man, he explained. He characterized his crimes as “making dolls” out of human beings.
Sources: “Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters”, by Peter Vronksy, Berkley, 2004; “Kemper under questioning tells why!,” Register-Pajaronian, October 25, 1973, by Marj von B; “Gruesome Details on Tape at Trial”, Santa Cruz Sentinel, October 25th, 1973