Documenting the Co-Ed Killer case

Category: Atascadero (Page 1 of 2)

“I just wanted to see what it felt like to shoot Grandma.”

Edmund Emil Kemper Sr. and his wife Maude Matilda Kemper were both murdered by their grandson, serial killer Edmund Kemper III, on August 27, 1964, at their ranch in North Fork, California. They were his first victims. 

Maude Matilda (nee Hughey) Kemper was born on November 19, 1897 in Topeka, Shawnee County, in Kansas. She was the sixth of seven children to her parents Henry McClellan Hughey and Violet Elizabeth (nee Dodge) Hughey. Her family moved to Los Angeles in 1910. 

That’s where she met Edmund Emil Kemper Sr. a few years later, and married him on June 7, 1914. She was 16 and he was 21. They had three sons: Edmund Emil Kemper Jr. (1919-1985); Robert (1921-2018); and a third son whose name might be Raymond.

Edmund Sr. was a farmer before enlisting in the Army in 1917, and serving during the First World War. He was the third of six sons to his parents Frederick Augustus Reinhardt Kemper and Bertha Anna Haas. After the war, he worked as an electrician for the California State Division of Highways.

Maude and Edmund Sr. lived on an isolated farm in North Fork, Madera County, California, in 1963, when their oldest son, Edmund Jr., visited them with his second wife and his son Edmund III during the Christmas holidays. After the celebrations, Edmund Jr. left his son with his parents. Edmund Jr. explained his decision in 1964:

“His personality had changed so much that I was worried about him being here with my present wife, who tried very hard to be a real friend to him. I saw him one day in a brooding mood and his eyes looked like a sleepwalker. In several talks I had with him toward the last he seemed fascinated by death and war. Tried to watch Weird Tales on TV which I suppressed.”

Of his father, Kemper said, “he didn’t want me around, because I upset his second wife. Before I went to Atascadero, my presence gave her migraine headaches; when I came out she was going to have a heart attack if I came around.” 

It was because of that, Kemper said, that he was “shipped off” to his paternal grandparents to live in “complete isolation” on a California mountain top with “my senile grandfather” and “my grandmother who thought she had more balls than any man and was constantly emasculating me and my grandfather to prove it. I couldn’t please her… It was like being in jail… I became a walking time bomb and I finally blew…” 

Edmund Sr. and Maude’s ranch in North Fork at the time of the murders

Kemper hated living on his grandparents’ farm, but he had great admiration for his grandfather. Some people who knew Kemper believed his grandfather was the only person he ever really loved: “Well, I’d heard stories about when he [his grandfather] was younger. He was a pretty fierce guy. He was an original cowboy. He carried a .45 on his hip. He was a tough guy wrangler, and my father had told me that he back-handed him clear across the kitchen one night when he got, I guess, smart with him.” 

As for his grandmother, she was a strong woman, who reminded Kemper of his own mother. She wouldn’t let him bring any friends home or get into any social activities in school. He couldn’t watch cartoons and she screened any TV shows he watched. Kemper said: “She had placed herself in the position of being, in essence, my warden. And she said if you ever want to go live with your father again, you had better do what I say.”

His grandfather bought in a .22 and taught him how to shoot it. Kemper spent hours in the bushes shooting at birds, gophers and other small animals to annoy his grandmother who didn’t want him killing animals. He disposed of the remains carefully. Edmund Sr. eventually took away the rifle at the behest of Maude, who didn’t see the point in killing things just for the sake of killing them. This punishment infuriated Kemper, as the weapon served as an outlet for his growing aggression. 

From David Jouvent and Thomas Mosdi’s Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer, 2020

Confined at home, Kemper’s anger started to simmer, and he began to transfer his hatred for his domineering mother to his domineering grandmother. 

Kemper laughed as he recalled an incident with his grandmother when she left him home alone one day but took his grandfather’s .45 automatic with her in her purse, because she was afraid he might “play” around with it in her absence. His grandparents were going to Fresno on a monthly shopping trip. He recalled: “I saw her big black pocketbook bulging as she went out the door and I said to myself, ‘Why that old bitch, she’s taking the gun with her, because she doesn’t trust me, even though I promised I wouldn’t touch it.’” He said he looked in his grandfather’s bureau drawer and “sure enough the gun was gone from its usual place… I toyed with the idea of calling the chief of police in Fresno and telling him ‘there’s a little old lady walking around town with a forty-five in her purse and she’s planning a holdup’ and then give him my grandmother’s description. How do you suppose she would have talked herself out of that?”

Maude began to fear the grandson she had inherited. Possibly because she was the object of Kemper’s deadly glares, she sensed he was plotting against her. 

Kemper’s mother, Clarnell Strandberg, reacted in 1964: “Pressure [on Kemper] must have been building. [Maude] wrote how happy he was with his gun and dog and ‘great authors and school’ and it wasn’t until the tragedy that I was told by the father that he was beginning to worry and frightened them with his moods. I wish I had known.”

On August 27, 1964, Kemper’s grandfather was running errands at the grocery store and the post office. His grandmother was working on a short story for Boy’s Life Magazine, “Fire in the Cannon,” in the kitchen. Kemper was sitting at the kitchen table with her. They started to argue after he stared at her with the horrifying expression she had observed before. Enraged, Kemper stormed off and retrieved the confiscated rifle that his grandfather had given him for hunting. He decided to go rabbit hunting and went outside to fetch is dog, Anka, on the porch. His grandmother uttered her last words: “Oh, you’d better not be shooting the birds again.” He stopped to look in through the screen window. He had fantasized about killing her before. She was facing away from him. He raised his rifle aimed at the back of her head, and fired through the screen. Maude slumped forward on the table where she’d been typing. He shot her twice in the head and once in the back. He then wrapped her head in a towel and dragged her body to the bedroom, went to get a knife and stabbed her three times so hard, the knife bent double: “I didn’t think she was dead and I didn’t want her to suffer any longer.” 

From David Jouvent and Thomas Mosdi’s Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer, 2020

His grandfather soon returned home and Kemper went outside to greet him. Edmund Sr. nodded, smiled and waved to his grandson as he began unloading food and supplies from the truck. Kemper returned the greeting and sneaked up closer to his grandfather: “When he turned, I placed the rifle about thirty inches from the back of his head and shot him. Kemper later explained that he didn’t want his grandfather to see what he had done to his wife of fifty years and that he would be angry with Kemper for what he’d done. 

Kemper dragged is grandfather’s body to the garage and washed the blood from his hands with a garden hose. He also tried to clean the blood near the truck. 

Edmund Sr.’s truck on the day of the murders

Back inside the house, Kemper had a passing thought about undressing his dead grandmother and exploring her body sexually to satisfy his carnal curiosity, but he shook it from his mind as being too perverted. 

He was unsure of what to do next, so he phoned his mother, who told him to sit tight while she called the Madera County Sheriff. Kemper also called the police to make sure they would come. When the police arrived, Kemper was sitting calmly on the front porch. The reason he gave for his actions: “I just wanted to see what it felt like to shoot Grandma.”

Sources: Ancestry / Front Page Detective Magazine, March 1974, by Marj von B / Murder Capitol of the world, 2021, by Emerson Murray / Ed Kemper’s 2017 parole hearing / Ed Kemper – Conversations with a killer, 2021, by Dary Matera / Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer, 2020, by David Jouvent and Thomas Mosdi

“That I resent.”

Ed Kemper in a side room at the courthouse during his trial in 1973

[During his time at Atascadero from 1964 to 1969, Kemper,] the ever popular study subject with an always friendly, totally unthreatening countenance, had consciously or subconsciously convinced his array of doctors that he was “healed” and, clearly, no longer a threat to society. Much of that belief was based on the collective egos of his doctors, nurses, and other dedicated staff members, who desperately wanted to believe in their life’s work, to believe that people, especially juveniles like Ed Kemper, could in fact be cured, rehabilitated, and go on to live happy, productive, violence-free lives. They needed that gold star on their resumes, the reassurance that all their work and study had not been wasted. [Kemper] had astutely psycho-analyzed his own doctors, sensing their overwhelming need to heal, feel self-empowered, and pigeonhole him in the box of their prior schooling. They played right into his hands. 

Showing his true feelings toward his shrinks, [Kemper] once colorfully described them as charlatans who “…put on their feathers, put on their paint, they get their rattles, they hop around and go into the witch doctor routine. That I resent.”

Sources: Ed Kemper – Conversations with a killer, by Dary Matera, Sterling Publishing, 2021 / Photo: ©Pete Amos, from the book Murder Capital of the World, by Emerson Murray, 2021

“A real weirdo”

From an unsigned note from a Social Worker at Atascadero State Hospital, a maximum-security facility that houses mentally ill convicts, where Ed Kemper was imprisoned for five and a half years after killing his paternal grandparents on August 27, 1964:

“In February 1964, ward’s [Kemper’s] mother was allegedly drunk when she called ward’s father in the middle of the night and told him that ward was “A real weirdo” and that he was taking a chance in having ward stay with his [parents] and that he might be surprised if he awoke some morning to learn that they had been killed.”

This is a never-before-seen mugshot of Ed Kemper, at the time of his arrest following the murder of his grandparents.

Source: Murder Capital of the World, by Emerson Murray, 2021 https://www.emersonmurray.com/murder-capital-of-the-world / Mugshot: Atascadero State Hospital

Ed Kemper’s fingerprints

Just found this image of Ed Kemper’s fingerprints as they were taken on April 24, 1973, the day he surrendered himself to police after murdering his mother and her best friend, on the thisisedkemper website we previously told you about.

Kemper’s last hours of freedom are described as follows:

On the morning of April 24, 1973, Ed Kemper surrendered in Pueblo, Colorado.

He had been driving east across the country for days after committing his final murders in Santa Cruz. As he approached the Kansas border in the middle of the night, he was struck by a troubling memory from his teenage years at Atascadero State Hospital.

He turned around.

Kemper drove back the way he came and stopped at a bar in Lamar, Colorado. He had a confrontation with a local man before finishing his beer, getting into his car, and continuing west. At a phone booth in Pueblo by the side of the highway, he finally gave himself up to police.

“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)

« Older posts