Documenting the Co-Ed Killer case

Month: April 2021

Passing of Harold Cartwright (1940-2021)

We are saddened to hear that Harold Cartwright passed away a few days ago at the age of 80. Mr. Cartwright worked on Ed Kemper’s defense team. He was an investigator for Kemper’s lawyer, Jim Jackson. Thanks to @8folddharma on Instagram for letting us know.

During the 2018 two-hour special “Kemper on Kemper: Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer,” former investigator with the Santa Cruz Public Defender’s Office Harold Cartwright opened up about what it was like working on “Co-Ed Killer” Ed Kemper’s defense team.

“Tell you a little bit about my interaction with Eddy, with Ed Kemper,” said Cartwright. “One day, I had a really stiff neck — I couldn’t move my head hardly at all.”

Cartwright continued, “[Kemper] said, ‘I know a lot about anatomy. I can make your neck feel better.’ So, I went around, and he worked on my neck for maybe, I don’t know, five minutes. And you know? It worked.”

Cartwright said that even though the 6-foot-9-inch, 285-pound Kemper “could have probably killed [him] with one hand,” he “never felt unsafe in his presence.”

“I felt that if somebody had attacked me, he would have come to my aid,” Cartwright told “Kemper on Kemper: Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer.”

The two spent “a lot of time together,” and Cartwright said he and Kemper were “friendly.” While Kemper was in jail awaiting trial for murdering eight women — including his own mother and her best friend — many members of law enforcement also described him as “friendly,” “cooperative” and a model prisoner.

Still, defending an admitted serial killer took “a horrible toll” on all those involved in the investigation.

Cartwright said, “If I could change things in my life, I would definitely not have participated in these mass murders. I had a wife and two little kids; I worked 13 months without a day off. Within five years after these trials were completed, the district attorney was divorced, I was divorced, several of the police officers involved were divorced. … It was difficult, difficult time [sic], and it’s always a part of you.”

Mr. Cartwright’s obituary is available here.

Source: “Kemper on Kemper: Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer” from Oxygen, 2018

“I’d love to take credit for more [victims]”

Aluffi (left), Kemper (right)

The following is from a taped interview between suspect Edmund Emil Kemper III and investigator Michael Aluffi, held at the Santa Cruz Jail on April 28, 1973. 

Aluffi: Ed, you’ve admitted to the deaths of six coeds, your mother and Mrs. Hallett, are there any other homicides that you’ve committed other than your grandmother and your grandfather?

Kemper: No.

Aluffi: None whatsoever?

Kemper: None whatsoever.

Aluffi: What about in Santa Rosa?

Kemper: No. There almost was a victim there, but I guess pretty much for the same reason I didn’t kill so many others, it was a surprise pickup and quite a lovely young lady, and I just psychologically was not prepared for it. But when I was psychologically in the mood for it and everything worked out right, the person didn’t have a chance, when I knew ahead of time. 

Aluffi: But you did pick up a hitchhiker in Santa Rosa?

Kemper: Yes, the deposited her safely. She was probably 16 or 17 years old.

Aluffi: What about Los Angeles?

Kemper: No, I picked up people up and down there for the same reason, only on one occasion, two girls, and I released them at their destination and picked up one girl in Santa Barbara that was headed for Santa Cruz. But at that time, all I had was my knife and I didn’t really see an opportunity to use it. 

Aluffi: Did you ever pick up any hitchhikers in Las Vegas?

Kemper: No.

Aluffi: Have you ever been to Las Vegas?

Kemper: Yes, long, long ago and only by bus.

Aluffi: So in essence, the killings that you have admitted, those are the only ones that you’ve ever completed. 

Kemper: I’d love to take credit for more, not because I’m looking for a big score, but that I wouldn’t take credit for any that I didn’t do because, well, there’s partially the guilt factor involved and there also is the uh, well I didn’t do it, so I didn’t get any pleasure out of it or any guilt out of it and why take somebody else off the hook who did do it. Obviously, whoever did these other crimes that haven’t been solved doesn’t have too many clues against him. I’m not trying to pat anybody on the back or help anybody else get away with anything, but I figure I can’t even cop out to these crimes because they’re gonna find out that I didn’t do them and I wouldn’t be able to give you any details, not even under a lie detector test. 

Aluffi: Would you be willing to submit to a lie detector test?

Kemper: Sure, as long as it only pertained to any cases that I didn’t involve myself in. You know, there’s always questions people don’t like to sit there and have a lie detector test on concerning other parts in their lives. 

Aluffi: But you would be willing to submit to a lie detector test in reference to…

Kemper: Any unsolved murders that you might think I had something to do with, or to verify certain statements I have made concerning the crimes I did commit. 

Aluffi: You would submit to the subjects of these coeds deaths?

Kemper: Certainly.

Aluffi: Do you think you could remember anything else that might be of any consequence in these investigations?

Kemper: Not at this time I don’t.

Aluffi: Would you be willing to talk to me at a later time if you did remember something like that?

Kemper: Yes.

Sources: Ed Kemper’s official jailhouse confessions in April 1973 / Photos are from the Santa Cruz Sentinel (for Aluffi) and another unknown newspaper (for Kemper) / Kemper photo by W. H. Hawkins found on Reddit and first published by the Facebook Ed Kemper Discussion page

After 41 years in law enforcement, Aluffi retires

Michael Aluffi became homicide detective in 1972, just as the United States’ attention was about to fix on Santa Cruz, where three different serial killers, John Linley Frazier, Edmund Kemper and Herbert Mullin, would send the country into a panic.

As new detective, Aluffi had to manage the paperwork from registered firearm sales. One day, a record of sale landed on his desk for a .44 caliber magnum pistol bought by Kemper, who had a sealed juvenile record. Suspicious, Aluffi went to Kemper’s house with his partner Don Smythe to confiscate the gun until they could find out more about Kemper’s past.

“There was something about Kemper that made me uneasy when we visited his house,” Aluffi said about the 6-foot-9-inch behemoth of a man who would later be convicted of eight murders. “When he went to the trunk of his car to get the gun, Don and I instinctively put our hands on our guns and went to either side of the car. Kemper later told me that if we hadn’t been watching him so closely, he planned to kill us.”

Aluffi and Smythe’s visit to his house made Kemper nervous that the cops were closing in on him, and he killed and beheaded his mother and her best friend before fleeing. He made it to Pueblo, Colorado, before he decided to call Santa Cruz to confess. Aluffi, along with other law enforcement, was sent to Colorado to accompany the serial killer on the long ride back.

“After that I was more confident as an officer, absolutely,” Aluffi said. “I felt like there wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle at that point.”

Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel, November 20, 2010

“I’m going to murder my mother”

“I said, ‘It’s not going to happen to anymore girls. It’s gotta stay between me and my mother.’ … I said, ‘She’s gotta die, and I’ve gotta die, or girls are gonna die.’ And that’s when I decided, ‘I’m going to murder my mother.’ … I knew a week before she died I was going to kill her.”

Kemper explained in a 1984 interview that, by April 1973, he wanted to end the life of the person who he believed fueled his violent, murderous rage — Kemper’s abusive, alcoholic mother, Clarnell Strandberg, after having murdered six female students from various colleges and universities scattered along the coast of Northern California.

Source: Documentary Murder: No Apparent Motive (1984)