Documenting the Co-Ed Killer case

Category: Atascadero

“They can’t see the things going on in my mind.”

The testimony by Ed Kemper yesterday was no exception from the preceding grim testimony. With questioning from his lawyer Jim Jackson, he recalled his childhood fantasies which started out innocently and wistfully, later to become daydreams of murder and sex.

He said his first fantasy was that his “mother and father would be loving together and caring for their children.”

According to Kemper, it was a fantasy that never came true. Instead, there was “much violence, hatred, yelling and screaming” between his father and mother who separated and were divorced when he was around seven years old.

Kemper said he felt rejected and unloved by his mother and his father as well, though he indicated he yearned for a good relationship with his father.

He spoke of his mother as “alcoholic,” and said she once had beaten him with a heavy belt and buckle when he was a small child and told him not to scream, “because the neighbors will think I’m beating you.”

This was at the age of nine, and Kemper said after that he was afraid of her and began to have a recurring fantasy about sneaking up on her and hitting her in the head with a hammer.

Later, in Atascadero [where he was incarcerated for five years after the murder of his grandparents], Kemper’s fantasies turned to sex as well as murder. He said his final fantasy was, “I killed someone, cut them up and ate them… and I kept the head on a shelf and talked to it… I said the same things I would have said had she been alive, in love with me, had she been caring of me.”

Asked by Jackson if he ever told anyone at Atascadero about the fantasies, Kemper replied, “No, I would never got out if I had told psychiatrists I was having fantasies of sex with dead bodies and in some cases eating them I would never have gotten out ever.”

He paused and then said, “Wow! That’s like condemning yourself to life imprisonment, and I don’t know many people who do that.”

The young defendant, who worked for psychologists testing other inmates at Atascadero, said, “I hid it from them. They can’t see the things going on in my mind. All I had to do to conceal it from them was not talk about it.”

Source: “Kemper explains why he murdered coeds”, Register-Pajaronian, by Marj von B, November 1st. 1973 / Images from trial: Bay Area TV Archive

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

Kemper’s High IQ

Photo: Joey Tranchina

“Ironically, I have a high IQ. I didn’t know that until I was locked up the first time for murder. I always thought I was little missin’ up here, a little short, because I was always called stupid, called slow.”

ed kemper (from his 1991 interview with Stéphane Bourgoin)

At Atascadero, California Youth Authority psychiatrists recorded that Kemper had an IQ of 136 when he first was imprisoned there in 1964 following the murder of his grandparents. Later on in his time at Atascadero, Kemper tested higher at an IQ of 145.

In an interview published in the Fall of 2017 in the Daily Mail UK, after the release of the Mindhunter series on Netflix, Ed Kemper’s half-brother, David Weber, had this to say about Kemper’s IQ: ”Susan [Kemper’s older sister] told me once that Guy’s IQ [Guy is Ed Kemper’s nickname in his family] is far higher than the reported 146, more like 180 plus. He faked his IQ tests so it would always come out showing he had an IQ in the upper 140s. He’s a demented super-genius of a sociopath. He is incapable of caring regardless of what he says or shows. He makes OJ Simpson look like a rank amateur at best.”

During his 2017 parole hearing, Kemper seems to take pride in the fact that he has a high IQ and that it somehow makes him better than other people, as in this excerpt where Presiding Commissioner Fritz and Kemper discuss this topic:

Presiding Commissioner (PC) Fritz: Do you think you’re better than other people?

Kemper: Well, some people, I am. I don’t know how…

PC Fritz: You do think you’re better than other people?

Kemper: No, there are some people that – I have a high IQ, they don’t.

PC Fritz: So?

Kemper: Uh, well, I’m saying.

PC Fritz: I mean, so what. Lot – Tons of people in this room have high IQs. That doesn’t make us better than anybody, right?

Kemper: Not in…

PC Fritz: Does it make you feel good about yourself to say oh I have a high IQ so I’m better than other people?

Kemper: No.

PC Fritz: Okay so then what do you mean by you are better than other people besides having a high IQ?

Kemper: Some people, some of my acquaintances, uh, speak in, uh, a fashion that, uh, tells me they’re happy with much simpler accomplishments moment to moment, day to day, and I might put a lot more energy into that; a lot more effort into that than to so simply speak up to something. In that sense.

PC Fritz: Okay, all right. So you can’t empathize or be happy with the accomplishments they have cause you think they’re simple accomplishments versus your accomplishments.

“I never promised you a rose garden.”

Several years after Edmund Kemper had been incarcerated (at Atascadero), a parcel arrived at the home of psychiatrist Dr. William Schanberger, who’d been friendly with teenage Edmund. 

“I received in the mail this cup from Ed Kemper. Ed said that it took him about a year to make, and it’s very, very complex. It’s like a battered cup. And on the cup is written also: “I beg your pardon,” and on the bottom: “I never promised you a rose garden.” Meaning to be, I think, a very serious apology.”

Images from the documentary Born to Kill – The Coed Killer

The Hand of God

A wave of panic seizes him. The events of the last hours are jostling in his head. He thinks of his mother. The fact of having cut off her head does not disturb him more than that; after all, she is not the first to whom it happened! And, besides, she was already dead. He who read the Bible so much during his imprisonment [at Atascadero], to the point of identifying himself very much with the character of Job, he sees in the destiny of his mother, the hand of God. It is even more than a symbol when he thinks about it: “This hand is the left hand of the Lord, I have always considered my mother as a great being, someone very fierce and sinister. She has always had a great influence on my life, and when she died, I was very surprised to find that her death was like all my other victims, how vulnerable and human she was, which has left a mark on me and still shocks me today. The left hand of the Lord is the one he uses to punish, and I, that guilty and left-handed son, cut off my mother’s left hand. That’s enough to make me flip, right? ”

Source: L’Ogre de Santa Cruz de Stéphane Bourgoin / Images: The Killing of America

“The judge was so outraged by my crimes that he declared ‘not wanting to send this young man to Disneyland.'”

“I think I was the only murderer to leave Atascadero with a clean record – in fact, the psychiatrists did not want to release me – they were about to transfer me to Agnew State Hospital, where I would have been released after many years, and then closely monitored. Remember that I was not yet twenty-one, without any love or sexual experience, and that I had never worked in my life.

At Atascadero, I found myself, a minor, in a psychiatric hospital for hardened criminals. In 1964, the average age of prisoners was thirty-six. According to the law, I should have been sent to Napa State Hospital, an institution with minimal security, but the judge was so outraged by my crimes that he declared ‘not wanting to send this young man to Disneyland.’ That’s why I ended up in Atascadero, with people on average twenty years older than me. Believe me, I grew up very quickly.”

– Ed Kemper about his first incarceration at age 15 for the murder of his paternal grandparents in 1964.

Source : L’Ogre de Santa Cruz (Stéphane Bourgoin, 1998)

“One thing I learned at Atascadero was you don’t get far if you regret anything.”

In August 1974, a UCSC symposium entitled “Minds on trial” took place with 5 experts on the criminal mind: John Monahan, assistant professor on social ecology at the University of California at Irvine; District Attorney Peter Chang; Joel Fort, MD specialist in crime and violence and author of the “Pleasure Seekers”; Jerome Neu, assistant professor of humanities at UCSC; and David Marlowe, expert witness in numerous murder trials.

Moving into the Ed Kemper murders, the panel explored the possible motives behind the eight killings and discussed Kemper’s childhood and personality. “I don’t think we’ll ever know why he did what he did,” said Marlowe. “He wasn’t particularly different from many people. He wasn’t crazy. The question is ‘What accounts for his loss of control?’ Many others with similar fantasies and upbringings never commit a violent act.”

While author Fort said sexual repression, large physical size, a need to be near his father and his lack of friends were all contributing motives to the killings, Kemper could not pinpoint which special event led to his need to murder.

“To him and other mass murderers, killing is as acceptable as eating a meal or brushing your teeth. This type of behaviour didn’t bother him in the least.” District Attorney Chang added other dimensions to Kemper’s personality. “One side of him really had a conscience. I think he really wanted to confess.” However, Chang also said “Ed never showed remorse or guilt. He told me ‘One thing I learned at Atascadero was you don’t get far if you regret anything.’”

Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel, Sunday, August 18, 1974

“I had been living with people older than I was for so long that I was an old fogey.”

Ed Kemper blamed the court for counteracting the plan of Atascadero doctors to release him in stages geared to get him accustomed to the world outside again. He said they planned to send him to a “halfway house” environment where he would still have counselling, have a chance to get acquainted with girls at social functions and become aware of persons in his own age group.

“When I got out on the street (in 1969) it was like being on a strange planet. People my age were not talking the same language. I had been living with people older than I was for so long that I was an old fogey.”

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