After he was arrested in 1973 for the murder of eight women, Ed Kemper was asked by police to provide a handwriting sample by copying the note he left at his mother’s and her friend Sally Hallett’s murder scene. The document is signed by Kemper, detective Terry Medina and inspector with the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office, Richard F. Verbrugge.
Source: Murder Capital of the World by Emerson Murray, 2021
Edward George, former administrator at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, recalled his many interactions with Ed Kemper:
“Big Ed and I used to chat occasionally about his life on the street. I discovered that he actually lived in Alameda in an apartment two blocks from where I lived. Scary. He worked at a gas station where I used to buy gas. Very scary. One day I asked him, tongue in cheek, what did he consider his greatest contribution to society. He didn’t miss a beat. With a gleeful smile, he cracked ‘I taught women not to hitchhike.’”
Source: Ed Kemper – Conversations with a killer, by Dary Matera, Sterling Publishing, 2021/ Photo: Pete Amos, Murder Capital of the World, by Emerson Murray, 2021
As Ed Kemper celebrates his 73rd birthday today (he was born on December 18, 1948), we revisit his 1973 trial for the murder of six coeds, his mother and her best friend, during his cross examination by District Attorney Peter Chang, where Kemper reflected on his psychiatric diagnosis:
Peter Chang: How would you diagnose yourself, Mr. Kemper?
Ed Kemper: I believe very dearly and honestly there are two people inside of me and at times one of them takes over.
Peter Chang: You disagree with the court-appointed psychiatrist who diagnosed you as a sex maniac?
Ed Kemper: I don’t believe I am.
Peter Chang: Why do you tend to blame others for what you have done?
Ed Kemper: I feel there are others involved. I don’t believe I was born to be this way.
Peter Chang: Do you think society thinks what you’ve done is grossly evil?
Ed Kemper: Right now, yes.
Peter Chang: Horrendous?
Ed Kemper: Yes, but there are times those things don’t even enter my mind.
Source photo and text: Murder Capital of the World by Emerson Murray, 2021 / Photo by Pete Amos
“We got back to Santa Cruz, and we took him in to book him, and as we pull into the Sheriff’s Office, there must have been a hundred to two hundred members of the press waiting there. Keep in mind that I’m supposed to stay out of the press. So, we get around and go in the back and take him upstairs and book him.”
“Jesse Valdez was the booking officer. It gets to the point and Jesse said, “So who do you want to notify in case of emergency? Ed looked at me. He said, “Can I put you down because I don’t have anybody left?”
investigator Michael aluffi, in 2019-2020
Source: Murder Capital of the World by Emerson Murray, 2021
April 1973 – Ray Belgard from the District Attorney’s office with the arsenal Kemper left Santa Cruz with, after killing his mother and her best friend. Kemper surrendered and was arrested in Pueblo, Colorado, where he could have done a lot of damage with these weapons.
Source: Murder Capital of the World, by Emerson Murray, 2021, https://www.emersonmurray.com/murder-capital-of-the-world / Photo: Pete Amos
From a 1973 interview with Susan Swanson, Ed Kemper’s oldest sister, where she recalled his mood in 1964, after their father left him with his parents at their ranch in the mountains in North Fork, California:
“So, after that school year, while he was fifteen, he came home to Montana for summer vacations. I spent time with him, I was living back in Helena then, I was still married – in fact, I was three weeks away from having my third child. We spent a lot of time together. He seemed, oh, I don’t know, he was… He could have fun, he could laugh, he could play and be silly and visit and stuff like that, but deep down he seemed awfully hurt. Like you know, it really sunk in that his dad didn’t want him and this still intensified his love for his father. He just kept reaching and grabbing for him. So, we took him fishing and all kinds of things and then he went back down to Madera and it was just, oh, a matter of a couple of weeks later that he killed his grandparents.”
Source: Murder Capital of the World, by Emerson Murray, 2021 https://www.emersonmurray.com/murder-capital-of-the-world / Photo: Pete Amos
Sara “Sally” Taylor Hallett was Ed Kemper’s last victim. She was Kemper’s mother’s best friend and a colleague of Clarnell’s at UCSC. Born on October 19, 1913 in Washington, Hallett had two sons, Edward and Christopher Hallett. Kemper murdered Hallett in his mother’s apartment on Easter weekend in 1973. She was 59 years old.
After killing and decapitating his mother, Clarnell Strandberg, early on the Saturday morning before Easter, Ed Kemper spent much of the day drinking. That evening, he telephoned his mother’s close friend, Sara Taylor Hallett, saying he wanted to surprise his mother and take her and Ms. Hallett to dinner that night.
Kemper prepared for Ms. Hallett’s murder by distributing weapons around the apartment but in the end, none of them would be necessary. Soon after the phone call, Ms. Hallett arrived: “I came up behind her and crooked my arm around her neck, like this,” Kemper said, bending his powerful arm in front of himself at chin level. “I squeezed and just lifted her off the floor. She just hung there and, for a moment, I didn’t realize she was dead … I had broken her neck and her head was just wobbling around with the bones of her neck disconnected in the skin sack of her neck.”
Later that night, Kemper attempted to have intercourse with Ms. Hallett’s body.
He fled the next day in her car.
Kemper said he had to kill a friend of his mother’s “as an excuse.” In other words, Kemper said he had to provide a reasonable story for friends of his mother’s to explain her absence. If she were away on a trip with a friend, Kemper reasoned, nobody would be concerned about her absence.
At his 2017 parole hearing, Kemper gave an alternate explanation as to why he murdered Sally Hallett. He said it was revenge for ruining his mother’s holiday. The two women were supposed to go to Europe together for four weeks, but Hallett backed out at the last minute. Clarnell went on the trip by herself. At some point, during the hearing, Kemper referred to Hallett as his mother’s “lover”, but: “When [my mother] got back, she tried sharing those vacation moments with Sally, and Sally got very loud with her and rude, and told her ‘I don’t want to hear about that. I didn’t even go on that vacation, why are you bringing this up?’ So, she – that cut off that release. So, here I am at the house having heard this from my mother and she’s frustrated and I said ‘I’d like to know, I’d like you to share with me.’ So, she went and got all of her travel logs and the papers and stuff from the places that she went and she started systematically sharing this stuff with me, and then all of a sudden, she stops and she looks at me in this strange way, and she said, ‘I’m not gonna let you pity me.’ And she just walked away from the whole thing. And I said, ‘Hey, I wanted to hear this stuff…’
“I had told myself that if my mother ever dies over this stuff that I did, [Hallett]’s going with her. That’s one trip she’s not gonna miss. She’s not gonna back off on that one… I swore an oath to it. I was angry at the time… I haven’t sworn many oaths in my life and everyone that I have sworn I followed through with.”
Sources: “The Co-ed Killer” by Margaret Cheney, 1976 / “Gruesome Details on Tape at Trial”, Santa Cruz Sentinel, October 25th, 1973 / “Coed Sex Murders Detailed by Chang”, Register-Pajaronian, by Marj von Beroldingen, October 23rd, 1973 / Front Page Detective Magazine, by Marj von Beroldingen, March 1974 / Ed Kemper’s 2017 Parole hearing
There were moments, prior to her death, when Kemper felt like punishing his mother. Kemper told investigators he had killed his mother to spare her the suffering and shame that knowledge of his crimes would bring. He said: “There were times when she was bitching and yelling at me that I felt like retaliating and walking over to the telephone in her presence and calling the police, to say, ‘Hello, I’m the coed killer,’ just to lay it on her.”
Kemper’s testimony in court revealed his desire to punish his mother did not end with the fatal hammer blow. He cut off his mother’s head, “put it on a shelf and screamed at it for an hour … threw darts at it,” and ultimately, “smashed her face in,” he recalled for the horrified court. [Kemper supposedly performed irrumatio with his mother’s head, but that story is not verified.]
He went even further and cut her tongue out, as well as her larynx, and placed 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. Kemper found it rather ironic: “That seemed appropriate. As much as she’d bitched and screamed and yelled at me over so many years.”
Sources: “I was the hunter and they were the victims”: Interview with Edmund Kemper, Front Page Detective, by Marj von Beroldingen, March 1974 / Serial Homicide – Book 1 by RJ Parker, 2016 / Intercorpse – Necrophilia: sexual attraction towards corpses including sexual intercourse, by RJ Parker, 2019
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: This interview will be based around the incidents that occurred at your home last Saturday [April 21, 1973]. Is there anything that you want to tell me that led up to this incident?
Kemper: Not really.
Aluffi: Well, let’s start with the reason for it.
Kemper: That’s rather involved. The reason for it is these murders were coming to a head I felt, that I was going to be caught pretty soon for the killing of these girls, or I was going to blow up and do something very open and get myself caught, and so I did not want my mother… A long time ago I had thought about what I was going to do in the event of being caught for the crimes and the only choices I seen open is being that I could just accept it and go to jail and let my mother carry the load, and let the whole thing fall in her hands like happened last time with my grand-parents. Or, I could take her life. Well, I guess that leaves me two choices, I could either do it in the open with her knowing what was happening or I could do it when she didn’t know what was happening. Last Friday night, whatever date that was, I had decided it was the night before the killing, or the day before the killing really, I had been thinking about it for quite a while and I just started working myself up towards the act of killing her. I guess that answers the reason.
Aluffi: All right, you want to get into the actual crime?
Kemper: OK. I got home Friday night, or I got back to her home from Alameda, where I’d been working early Friday in the afternoon and I sat around the house and took care of a few business problems, you know, calling and making a couple phone calls that were unrelated to the problem, and I called my mother at work and let her know I was in town and she told me that she was going out to a dinner, some faculty dinner or something, and she’d be home late. So, I sat around and drank some beer, watched television, stayed up as late as I could and I had wished to talk to her really, before anything had happened. It was my hopes that she would go on good terms and this was impossible because, well I guess it would be good terms because we hadn’t really argued or anything when we talked on the phone. I went to bed about midnight I guess and I woke up a couple hours later. Well, let me see, that doesn’t work out right. I think I went to bed around two and she still wasn’t home and I went to bed and went to sleep. I woke up a couple hours later, around four, and she had already come home, done whatever she does when she gets home late at night and had retired for the evening. This was after I had gone to bed around 2:00 AM Saturday morning. She was in bed, reading a book and I woke up about four o’clock in the morning, two hours after I went to sleep roughly. The lights were pretty much out in the house. I didn’t see any lights on. I hadn’t heard anything and I thought, gee, it’s four o’clock and she’s still not home. So, I got up and I walked out of my bedroom, noticed her small light was on and walked into her bedroom, just as she had taken off her glasses and turned the light off. Without her turning it back on, she commented that uh, I said oh, you’re home, and she says, you’re up, what are you doing up? I said well, I just wanted to see if you were home. I hadn’t heard anything. She said, oh I suppose you want to talk. This has happened several times before, when she’d come in late and I wanted to talk and we’d talk and then she’d go to sleep. She didn’t say it in an abusive manner, it was more or less just jive and I said no. She said well, we’ll talk in the morning. I said fine, good night. She left the light out and I walked out of the room and back to my bedroom, layed down and decided at that point, I was going to wait another hour or so, until she was asleep before it happened.
Kemper: I looked at my watch. It was about a quarter after four, something like that, and I layed there in bed thinking about it and it’s something hard to just up and do. It was the most insane of reasons for going and killing your mother. But I was pretty fixed on that issue because there were a lot of things involved. Someone just standing off on the side, watching something like that isn’t really going to see any kind of sense or rhyme or reason to anything. I had done some things and I felt that I had to carry the full weight of everything that happened. I certainly wanted for my mother a nice quiet, easy death like I guess everyone wants. The only way I saw this possible was for it to be in bed, while she was asleep. The next thing was to decide how to do it. The only possible answer to that I saw was to take a hammer and hit her with it, in her sleep, and then to cut her throat. So, I waited till about 5:15 AM, I went into the kitchen and got a hammer. We have a regular claw hammer at home, picked up my pocket knife, the same one I’d used to kill Mary Anne Pesce with, opened it up, and I carried that in my right hand and the hammer in my left, walked into the bedroom very quietly.
Kemper: She had been sound asleep. She moved around a little bit and I thought maybe she was waking up. I just waited and waited and she was just laying there. So, I approached her right side, to my right on the right side of the bed, on her side. I stood there for a couple of minutes and spent most of that day, and most of that week I suppose and most of that night, trying to get myself I guess you’d say hopped up to do something like that, thinking nothing but reasons to do it and the need to do it, trying to keep everything else out of my mind. I stood by her side for a couple of minutes I suppose and about 5:15 I struck and I hit her just above the temple on her right side of the head, the side that was up from the pillow. It was above and behind her temple on the right side of her head. I struck with a very hard blow and I believe I dropped the hammer, or I layed it down or something. Immediately after striking that blow, I looked for a reaction, and there really wasn’t one, blood started running down her face from the wound, and she was still breathing, I could hear the breathing and I heard blood running into her, I guess it was her windpipe. It was obvious I had done severe damage to her, because in other cases where I had shot people in the head, I heard the same, or it had the same effect, blood running into the breathing passages, and this all happened in a few moments.
Kemper: But after I struck, I moved her over in the bed on her back and with my right hand holding her chin up, I slashed her throat. She bled profusely all over and I guess it was an afterthought, I hadn’t really thought of it, but her being my mother, and me out doing those other things, and I knew right off if I had torn everything out in the open, and my plan which I didn’t mention earlier, had been to just, well everything’s getting to an end and I could either kill her and turn myself in or I could kill her and head out with everything I had, my arsenal. This was my choice at that time. So, I decided at that time, it’s a hell of a cliché to use, but I guess what was good for my victims was good for my mother. So, after I slashed her throat, I went ahead and slashed the rest of the way around her neck and took off her head, and I guess half as much of that was to make absolutely sure in my own mind that she was dead instantly and right then, so the whole attack took maybe, less than half a minute, possibly even as little as 20 seconds…
Sources: Ed Kemper’s official jailhouse confessions in April 1973 / Images from David Jouvent’s graphic novel Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer, 2020