Documenting the Co-Ed Killer case

Category: Aiko Koo

1988 – Ed Kemper parole hearing

Convicted killer Edmund Kemper, left, testifies at his parole hearing on June 15, 1988. With him is his attorney, Richard Shore.

Vacaville – A parole date was denied on June 15, 1988 for serial killer Edmund Kemper, even though a prison psychiatric evaluation termed Kemper suitable for release.

Kemper, 40, is serving a life sentence at the California Medical Facility for murdering eight women, including his mother, in 1972-73. The law at the time provided for the possibility of parole on life sentences.

A three-member panel from the Board of Prison Terms rejected the psychiatric evaluation by Dr. Jack Fleming. Board member David Brown said Kemper poses an unreasonable risk to society.

Brown told Kemper his crimes “shock the public conscience.”

During an almost three-hour hearing, Kemper told the panel he did not practice cannibalism or perform sex acts on his victims when they were dead or dying. He said he made those confessions to police when he was tired and confused.

He did acknowledge that he beheaded seven of his victims, including his mother, Clarnell Strandberg, because of a childhood fascination with decapitation. And, he put his mother’s head on a mantle and threw darts at it.

Kemper buried the head of one of his young victims in the backyard of the house he shared with his mother in Seacliff. He pointed the face toward his bedroom, according to testimony at his trial in 1973.

He appeared surprised during the hearing by a letter written by a cousin, Patricia Kemper, urging the panel deny Kemper a parole date. Kemper said he had not known of such a letter.

In the letter, the woman said that as a child, Kemper mutilated the family cat. And, she said she watched him one day wait for hours with a rifle over a squirrel’s hole to blow its head off when it peeked out. He went on to kill his grandparents and then the seven women and his mother, she wrote.

She said Kemper was and still is a deeply disturbed person who will kill again if he’s ever released.

District Attorney Art Danner said he was shocked, but not surprised by the latest psychiatric evaluation of Kemper. Danner said Fleming’s report “flies in the face of everything known about Kemper.”

Danner told the parole board Kemper’s greatest danger is that he may some day con his way back out on the street.

He pointed out that Kemper had led psychiatrists and psychologists to believe he was no threat after a five-year commitment for killing his grandparents.

Even Kemper testified that he was shocked in the 1970s when two doctors would rule him sane and no danger to society, even after he had begun killing again.

He explained that he was sent to be interviewed by two doctors in Merced County in 1972 when he was seeking to have his conviction for killing his grandparents sealed from public view.

After meeting with the first psychiatrist, Kemper said, he went out and got drunk. “He thought I was Mr. Wonderful or something,” Kemper said. He knew after the first interview that he would be judged sane.

He said he went to the second interview, later in the day, “blasted off my tail on beer,” but the doctor didn’t notice.

The two psychiatrists wrote that Kemper posed no danger to himself or others.

Kemper hadn’t told them he had already begun killing again, just two days before and had driven to his interviews with a woman’s head in the trunk of the car.

He told the parole board he picked up more than 1,000 hitchhikers during his year-long murder spree. He did not say why he selected the victims he did, other than say the selection was random.

He said he only murdered the women hitchhikers because the women in his life, especially his mother, had caused his only grief.

Kemper talked at length about his mother and drunken fights he said they had after his release from custody after killing his grandparents.

Kemper said he returned from the California Youth Authority at age 20 with great hope for the future. He said his mother fought him every step of the way. “She was 6 feet tall and 220 pounds at the time of her death,” Kemper said, adding, “she was not intimidated by anybody.”

Kemper said he can’t simply explain why he murdered his mother to spare her from finding out that he was responsible for all the co-ed killings in Santa Cruz.

“There was love and there was hate,” Kemper said of his relationship with his mother.

“I didn’t want to put her through what I created,” he said. And even though he said she helped create what he was, “she was a victim and not a perpetrator.”

Kemper fled Santa Cruz County after killing his mother. He said he drove for four days, listening to the radio for news that police had a break in the case.

He said he had three guns and a knife in the car. “When I heard on the news there was a break in the case it would mean in a few hours I’d be dead,” Kemper explained.

He said he planned to stop the car as soon as he heard the bulletin. “I was going to get my weapons and go to high ground and attack authorities when they came for me,” Kemper said.

He said he believed at the time that he would have to be killed or he would keep on killing.

As it turns out, a showdown never happened. The bodies of his mother and her friend had not been found, and a panicked Kemper finally telephoned Santa Cruz police from Pueblo, Colorado, and confessed. Police there arrested him at a telephone booth.

Kemper’s last appearance before the parole board was in 1982. At the time, he had lost weight and looked noticeably different that at the time of his trial.

Now, he appeared to look more like the 6-foot-9, 280-pound giant of a man Santa Cruz residents remember.

In 1985, Kemper waived his right for a hearing, saying he was unsuitable for release. He did not say that this time, but did concede he does not expect to be released from prison anytime soon.

His next parole consideration will be in 1991.

Source: “Kemper parole denied – Psychiatrist says killer suitable for release”, by Mark Bergstrom, Santa Cruz Sentinel, June 16, 1988

“I just wanted to touch her body… just out of curiosity.”

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

Early in September 1972, Ed Kemper’s urges start up again, the effect of his previous victims’ photos having faded. He gets back into hunt mode. On September 14, he is driving along University Avenue in Berkeley when he sees this eastern girl hitchhiking near a bus stop. Aiko Koo is just fifteen years old and she is heading to a dance class in San Francisco. She seems older than her fifteen years and is anxiously waiting for a bus that is not coming; she is afraid of being late for her class. For her, dancing is something very serious, a vocation. Her Lithuanian mother, who lives modestly, deprives herself in order to pay for lessons for her daughter, who has already performed professionally, both in classical ballet and in traditional Korean styles. Aiko never knew her Korean father who abandoned them before she was born. Her mother works at the University of California Library.

Aiko is not used to hitchhiking and she doesn’t hesitate for a second to board the Ford Galaxie and sit in the front seat, next to the imposing driver. As for Mary Anne Pesce and Anita Luchessa, Kemper takes advantage of the complicated system of highway interchanges to disorient his passenger, before heading south along the coastal highway. When she realizes Kemper’s maneuvers, Aiko starts to scream and beg. He takes out a new model of firearm, a .357 Magnum, which he borrowed again from a friend, and presses the barrel in the teenager’s ribs. Kemper, who is left-handed, drives with this hand and uses the other to threaten Aiko with his weapon. He tries to calm her by swearing that he doesn’t want to harm her; in fact, he explains, he wants to kill himself and he’s just looking for someone to talk to. He leaves the highway for small mountain roads that he knows very well and drives on Bonny Doon Road, near Santa Cruz. He somehow manages to convince her to be tied and gagged.

“I just want a quiet place where we can tie you up and then we’ll go to my place,” he says. He turns off on Smith Grade Road, going slowly until he finds a turnoff where he can get away behind a tree, sheltered from the road and any traffic. He shuts off the lights and then the engine. He shoves the gun back under the front seat.

“There’s a roll of medical tape in my glove compartment. Hand it to me,” he says. She complies, handing him the small cardboard box. His hands shake as he tries to find the end of the roll.

“Now who’s nervous?” she says, laughing. He tears off a big chunk and holds it up. “My mouth’s not that big,” she says, so he tears off part of it and throws it aside before placing a patch over her mouth. “Move your jaws. See if you can loosen it,” he says, noting that it did not come unstuck. He presses the tape again to make certain.

“Hop in the back seat,” he instructs. She flips her leg up and rolls over the back of the seat and sits awaiting his next command. He pulls the rest of the tape off his fingers and gets out of the car and walks around to the passenger side. The door is locked.

He remembers the gun still under the front seat. She has him locked out and that gun within easy reach. He is dead. He begins frantically fishing in his pocket for his keys. Damn. Where are they?

The girl peers out at him through the window, shakes her head knowingly and reaches up and unlocks the door for him. He smiles weakly and flips the seat back forward and sits on it a moment.

She starts to resist when Kemper throws himself on her with all his weight, covering her mouth and nose with his hand. Aiko struggles with the energy of desperation, she even manages to grab his testicles, but he is too strong. He ends up strangling her before releasing his grip. To his surprise, Aiko is not dead and continues to fight. This time, he makes sure that she loses consciousness completely. Kemper takes her out of the car to rape her: “It didn’t take more than fifteen or twenty seconds before I had an orgasm.” He strangles her again with a scarf. The body is wrapped in a sheet and then stored in the trunk. Further down on Bonny Doon Road, he spots a small bar where he stops to drink two or three beers. Before entering the bar, he opens the trunk to examine Aiko Koo. He does it again after leaving the bar: “Both to check that she was really dead and also to savor my triumph, to admire my work and her beauty, a little like a fisherman happy with his catch.”

“First, I try to suffocate Aiko Koo by pinching her nostrils, but she struggles violently. I think I’ve managed to do it when she regains consciousness and realizes what’s going on. She panics. Finally, I strangle her with her neck warmer. After the murder, I’m exhausted, I’m hot and very thirsty. I stop at a bar to drink a few beers, while the body is still in the trunk of my car. I almost got caught by neighbors when I carried the corpse to my apartment. Dismembering the body required a meticulous job with a knife and an ax. It took me about four hours of work. Slicing limbs, getting rid of the blood, completely washing the bathtub and the bathroom.”

“I kill her on a Thursday night. The next morning, I call in sick at work. I dismember her body. On Friday night, I get rid of the corpse, keeping the head and hands, which are easily identifiable. Saturday morning, I leave home taking them with me. I’m looking for a safe place to bury them. It’s not easy to get rid of these things.” (This statement is crucial. Kemper doesn’t even realize what he just said. “It’s not easy to get rid of these things.” He talks about human beings by depersonalizing them. For him, and for the vast majority of serial killers, the victim is only an object. He has no remorse. Killing, maiming, cutting up a woman is a “normal” thing for Kemper.) Many times, I came close to getting caught burying bodies, and if a corpse is discovered, the witnesses can remember a car parked nearby. Saturday morning, I visit my psychiatrist in Fresno, and in the afternoon, I see the other one. Saturday night, I’m with my fiancee and her family in Turlock, and Sunday night I return home.”

After leaving the bar where he quenched his thirst, Kemper visited his mother at her home in Aptos to test himself and to enjoy the feeling of power he felt: “I talked to her for half an hour of things and stuff, just to pass the time, and to tell her what I had done in San Francisco. I wanted to see if she suspected anything by my facial expressions, involuntary gestures or words that would have escaped me. She suspected nothing and didn’t ask me any questions.” When he left, Kemper looked for the third time at Aiko Koo’s body in the trunk of the Ford Galaxy. “It was around 9:30 pm and I knew she was dead. I just wanted to touch her body to see which parts were still warm, and also just out of curiosity.”

It is 11 pm when he arrives at his apartment in Alameda. He drops Aiko’s body on his bed and searches her bag to get an idea of the life to which he has just put an end. He is disturbed by the fact that Aiko Koo doesn’t belong to this caste of “rich and haughty” California girls, which he claims to be attacking. To make sure of this, some time later, he drives past her modest family home. His disappointment is mitigated when he learns with surprise that Aiko Koo belongs to a family that has ancestry in the nobility. A little later in the night, he dissects her corpse. As Kemper says in his statements, he later goes to two Fresno psychiatrists to try to have his criminal record cleared, if he succeeds in passing the tests. Along the way, he throws pieces of Aiko Koo’s corpse into the mountains of Santa Cruz and, a little further away, her hands disappear into the wild. But he keeps her head in the trunk of his car. It’s still there when he shows up to his appointments with the two psychiatrists. The very idea excites him a lot, to the point that he opens the trunk to look at her head just before his appointments.

“The media made a big case about the stories of chopped heads in the trunk of my car. This happened to me only once, and even if I wanted to, it wasn’t possible. You know why? It was almost forty degrees in the valley, a real furnace and my car is not air-conditioned. I won’t ride with a severed head that will stink. As soon as I park, all the dogs and cats from the neighborhood will come to sniff my trunk. That day I took it with me because the owner of my apartment is always looking for trouble. So, when I leave for two or three days to stay at my mother’s or a friend’s house, what can I do? I can’t help but think she’s going to show up at my place to see if I don’t have any hash hiding somewhere. She’s going to open the fridge to see what’s in this paper bag, and come face to face with this severed head! (Kemper laughs.) But she’s not going to think of poking behind this large armchair in one of the corners of the living room, where I hide it for two days. Of course, I would have preferred to store it in the fridge to avoid bad smells. The kraft paper bag is hermetically sealed. Nobody found anything. Sunday night, it (the head) is already ripe. That same evening, my former probation officer comes to pay me a visit and the head is just behind him. (He hesitates a long time before speaking.) I did eat part of my third victim. I had cut pieces of flesh that I put in the freezer. Twenty-four hours after having dissected it, I cooked the flesh in a pan of macaroni with onions and cheese, like a carrion. A vulture or a bear. You know black blood? It’s non-oxygenated blood, we see it for a moment before it comes into contact with the air. After, the blood turns red. When in the body, the blood is black like tar. I ate a piece of leg that I had soaked in black blood for almost a day. And why did I do that? Having hunted animals in Montana, I was just pursuing an experiment in cannibalism. When you were a child, I’m sure you asked yourself this question: how would I react on a desert island, with three other people and without any food? If one of us is sick? All these come from stories of the Second World War. I had heard about it from former Marines. And then, in a way, I own my victim once again by eating her.”

Sources: L’Ogre de Santa Cruz by Stéphane Bourgoin, 1998, and Sacrifice Unto Me by Don West, 1974 / Thanks to MIEP for the photo of Aiko Koo

A birthday dance for U.N.

Highlighting the United Nations’ birthday anniversary celebration on Saturday at Oakland’s Lakeside Park will be groups of Eastbay teenagers performing ethnic dances of the countries where their ancestors were born. (…)

[12-year-old] Aiko Koo, a Berkeley resident and student at the Anna Head School in Oakland, and Hazel Davidson of El Cerrito and a student at Portola Junior High, will present three dances of Korean origin to the audience at the celebration.

The Taryung will be performed by both girls in the traditional court dancers’ costumes, with flower crowns and white flowing gowns. The dance, dating back to the Ye dynasty of the 13th century, is ceremonial in form and was used at the beginning of all court functions. Dances of the stage and of a more recent origin will also be presented – a scarf dance and fan dance. The young dancers are students of the Korean Classical Dance Studio. (…)

Source: Oakland Tribune, Oct 22, 1969

Kemper conducts tour of graves

Edmund Emil Kemper III, a young giant who has confessed killing eight women, arrived home in Santa Cruz yesterday and immediately started taking investigators on a tour of grave sites.

Mass slayer Kemper led deputies with pinpoint accuracy to four remote sites where parts of bodies were recovered soon after he returned yesterday in custody from arrest at Pueblo, Colorado. Without the slightest hesitation, the hulking 280-pound, 6-foot-9 Kemper led officers along, off Summit Road, to a shallow grave, to the Lorna Prieta Mountain area, on Rodeo Gulch Road near Mountain View Road, and just above Boulder Creek. All four sites are within a 10-mile radius of Santa Cruz.

Officers said Kemper knew exactly where he was going yesterday. They didn’t have to look even an inch to one side of where Kemper directed them to dig. Kemper reportedly told deputies he knows the names of only five of the six victims. Since six have been found, there was speculation that one of those recovered might be Aiko Koo.

Driven from Pueblo, Colorado, where he was arrested Tuesday while confessing in a telephone booth to California authorities, he found 20 law enforcement officers waiting at the county line.

At the sight of all those police and their cars, a deputy said Kemper “just came unglued.”

“This is no circus to me, man,” Kemper said. “Get me the hell out of here.”

Kemper was transferred to a station wagon with four officers and proceeded to sites where bodies or parts of bodies could be found. Several of the victims had been carefully cut in parts or decapitated.

The first remains to be uncovered were believed those of Mary Anne Pesce, 18, Fresno, California, student, who disappeared last May. Her skull was discovered in a wooded area last August and Kemper indicated a point several miles away along the same mountain ridge where the torso lay in a shallow grave.

Anita Luchessa, 18, also of Fresno, was hitchhiking with Miss Pesce and the pair disappeared together. Kemper led the investigators to a ravine where he said he dumped her body. A pelvic bone was found, and a spokesman said animals might have carried off the rest of the body.

Kemper then showed the law enforcement officers a wooded area where he said he left parts of the body of Aiko Koo, 15, Berkeley, California. She disappeared September 15 on her way to a ballet lesson.

A handless arm was found, as well as a green plastic bag that had been ripped open. Kemper said he also left parts of Miss Koo’s body in another wooded area where investigators found pelvic bones and a rib cage.

Three months after Miss Pesce and Miss Luchessa disappeared, Kemper was found “normal” in an examination by two psychiatrists that led to a court order sealing his juvenile records.

Kemper spent five years in the Atascadero State Mental Hospital following his murders in 1964 of his grandparents at the age of 15. He was declared sane by the hospital, turned over to the California Youth Authority and eventually released.

From information given in the Tuesday phone call, Santa Cruz police found the nude and decapitated body of his mother, Mrs. Clarnell Strandberg, 52, in her apartment, and the body of a visitor, Sara Taylor Hallett, 59. Apparently, they were killed April 21.

Sources: The Press Democrat Sun, April 29, 1973 / San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle, April 29, 1973

“I still have their spirits.”

Public defender Jim Jackson asked Kemper what the “real reason” was that he disposed of the girls’ bodies in the manner he did cutting them up and keeping parts of the bodies for a time.

Kemper hesitantly replied, “Because they were rotting and I was losing them.”

He explained, “when the girls died I kept them a certain length of time, but couldn’t keep them any longer.”

However, he declared, “I still have their spirits.”

Source: “Kemper explains why he murdered coeds”, Register-Pajaronian, November 1, 1973, by Marj von B

1972 probation psychiatric report on Kemper

On September 14, 1972, Kemper picked up fifteen-year-old Aiko Koo hitchhiking to a dance class in San Francisco. He took her to a remote area, choked her into unconsciousness, raped her, and then finished killing her. He placed her body in the trunk of his car and on his way home stopped off for a beer. He took the corpse back to his apartment, dissected it, had sex with it, and cut off the head.

The next day Ed Kemper had a scheduled appointment with his probation psychiatrists. In the morning before heading out to the appointment, Kemper buried Koo’s body at one location and her hands at another, but kept her head. He then drove to the psychiatrists’ office with the head locked in the trunk of his car. Leaving his car in the parking lot, he went in for his interview.

The psychiatric report resulting from that day’s visit reads:

“If I were seeing this patient without having any history available or without getting the 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 illness . . . In effect, we are dealing with two different people when we talk of the 15 year old boy who committed the murders and of the 23 year old man we see before us now . . . 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.”

The second psychiatrist cheerfully added:

“He appears to have made a good recovery from such a tragic and violent split within himself. He appears to be functioning in one piece now directing his feelings towards verbalization, work, sports and not allowing neurotic buildup with himself. 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. I am glad he had recently “expunged” his motorcycle and I would hope that he would do that (“seal it”) permanently since this seemed more a threat to his life and health than any threat he is presently to anyone else.”

One can only wonder what the psychiatrists’ diagnoses would have been if either of them had looked into the trunk of Kemper’s car that morning.

On November 29, 1972, Kemper’s juvenile record was permanently sealed so that he could go on with his life. In the meantime, he had moved back home with his domineering mother.

Excerpt from “Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters” by Peter Vronsky (2004, Berkley Books)

Admiring his catch

After raping and killing 15-year-old Aiko Koo, Ed Kemper stopped at a country bar “for a few beers.”

Before going into the bar, he opened the trunk to make sure she was dead. He told investigators:

“I suppose as I was standing there looking, I was doing one of those triumphant things, too, admiring my work and admiring her beauty, and I might say admiring my catch like a fisherman.”

Source: Front Page Detective Magazine, March 1974, interview by Marj von Beroldingen