Documenting the Co-Ed Killer case

Category: Blind Project

1985 – Ed Kemper parole hearing

Convicted mass-murderer Edmund Kemper III decided not to go through with a parole hearing yesterday when he saw a television camera inside the hearing room.

Kemper, serving eight concurrent life terms at the California Medical Facility at Vacaville, sent a message to the three-man parole board stating he wasn’t suitable for parole and would wait three years before requesting another hearing.

Assistant Santa Cruz County District Attorney John Hopkins, who went to Vacaville to argue against parole, said Kemper told him later he was ready for the hearing and wanted to tell the parole board about his progress, but changed his mind moments before it was to begin. Hopkins said Kemper changed his mind when he saw a television camera inside the hearing room as he walked toward it.

The hearing, Kemper’s fifth, was being video-taped by a Sacramento television station. Reporters from the Register-Pajaronian and the Santa Cruz Sentinel were also present.

Corrections Department Lt. Joe McGrath said yesterday Kemper felt “he couldn’t adequately state his case in front of the press.”

McGrath said the six-foot nine-inch Kemper has a “spotless record” and is an above-average worker at the prison. One month ago Kemper took over as coordinator of the prison’s Blind Project, supervising 15 inmates who record books on cassette tapes and repair Braille machines, McGrath said.

Assistant District Attorney Hopkins said he talked with Kemper for two hours after the hearing was cancelled. Kemper told him he was concerned that only five or 10 seconds of his comments would be used by the press and it would distort his remarks, increase his notoriety and make it more difficult for him to gain a release in the future.

Hopkins said today he would have told the board there aren’t “words strong enough to express how much the community of Santa Cruz is against (Kemper’s) release.”

McGrath said Kemper regularly participates in psychiatric therapy while in prison, although he suffers from no psychiatric illness. In a psychiatric report prepared for the hearing, Vacaville psychologist Jack Fleming states Kemper keeps his life “an open book” to people who are helpful to him. The psychologist said he has “no hesitation” recommending Kemper for work assignments that involve female staff.

Source: “Mass-murderer Kemper backs out of parole hearing”, Register-Pajaronian, by Guy Lasnier, June 4, 1985 / “Kemper backs out of stating his case”, Santa Cruz Sentinel, by John McNicholas, June 4, 1985 / Image: from documentary Murder: No Apparent Motive, 1984

1979 – Door’s still shut for Coed Killer

May 2, 1979 – Ed Kemper failed Tuesday in his half-hearted first attempt to win parole, admitting to a three-member panel of the board he doesn’t “see my release as feasible – as morally or legally feasible.”

Without emotion, panel chairman Ruth Rushen Tuesday detailed the eights murders, Kemper’s decapitation of his victims and his disposal of their bodies in various counties, but Kemper demanded the official record be changed to reflect the accurate “facts” and proceeded to recount each of the slayings again.

At the time he made statements to authorities in 1973, he said he was “suicidal” and “in my unwise immature judgment, I thought I was trying to build a psychiatric case against me. I needed help. I wanted help. And I made statements unsubstantiated by fact that are now being introduced as fact.”

“I was suicidal in my feelings at the time. I was trying to seal my fate.”

Officials, he went on Tuesday, were so anxious to convict him of the slayings “they left loopholes that I could use for an appeal, but I do not intend to take advantage of them.”

His actions “distressed me greatly” at the time, but “things still happen out there on the streets,” he added.

Kemper, who received an award two weeks ago for contributing 2 900 hours during the past two years tape recording books for the blind has sought court permission three times for psycho-surgery. He denied Tuesday the request was an attempt to gain his release or that he still felt an urge to kill.

“I felt I had one foot in a coffin and one on a banana peel” and his circumstances in the medical facility might result in violence, he suggested, “I didn’t like being controlled by my dislikes.”

Kemper, who also told the panel he has become a Christian while at Vacaville and has “learned to live with myself and God,” admitted the State of California has “more than enough reason to keep me locked up for the rest of my life. I have to say eight people are dead and I murdered them.”

After a half-hour deliberation, Rushen reconvened the hearing and said, “Mr. Kemper, you are not suitable for parole.”

She cited the “extreme violence and depravity” of his crimes and called Kemper “an unreasonable risk to society at this time.” His crimes, she went on, were premeditated and planned in meticulous detail, including bizarre conduct in “abusing, defiling and mutilating the victims’ bodies, which shows a total disregard for the worth of another human being.”

During a break in Edmund Kemper’s parole hearing at Vacaville Tuesday, Richard F. Verbrugge, inspector with the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office, said Kemper was questioned by Sonoma County authorities as a suspect in the murder of several hitchhiking girls here that began in 1972.

Verbrugge said he worked closely with sheriff’s homicide Detective Sgt. Butch Carlsted on the Sonoma County cases, but that Kemper was ruled out as a suspect.

“He was like a little boy, telling us everything and taking us everywhere,” the inspector said. Kemper was also given truth serum by officials during his initial examination. However, Verbrugge said Kemper did admit he picked up young girl hitchhikers in Sonoma County during his cruise through Bay Area counties seeking young girls that met “his criteria” for victims, but none of them apparently had the characteristics he sought.

The Press Democrat, May 2, 1979, by James E. Reid

Reluctant Edmund Kemper Denied Parole

The following article was published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, on May 2, 1979. Due to a decision by the state Parole Board, only one reporter from this area was allowed to be present at Edmund Kemper’s parole hearing Tuesday. That reporter was Marj Von B of the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian, who filed this report.

Kemper first became eligible for parole in 1979. He was denied parole that year, as well as at parole hearings in 1980, 1981, and 1982.

Coed killer Ed Kemper, imprisoned in 1973 on eight first-degree murder counts, will not be freed next year, a state prison parole board decided Tuesday. Kemper, 30, was found to be “unsuitable for release at this time,” but the board’s decision did not seem to dismay him.

He told the three-member board at the conclusion of a three-hour hearing at the Vacaville State Medical Facility, “I’d have refused to be considered for parole, but I didn’t want to be provocative.”

Earlier, he had stated to the board he felt his release on parole was not “feasible, legal or moral,” saying he had been sentenced to prison by Santa Cruz County Superior Court Judge Harry F. Brauer “for the rest of your natural life.”

In addition, Kemper said, “I don’t want to set a precedent of being a person two-times released after multiple murders. I don’t want to ever hurt anybody again.”

Kemper killed his grandmother and grandfather when he was 15, and was sent to Atascadero State Mental Hospital and then to the California Youth Authority, where he was paroled in 1970.

But during the hearing, in which he was represented by a lawyer, Steve Bedient of Sacramento, Kemper seemed bent on personally straightening out the state’s recorded version of his crimes.

Part of the hearing procedure was the reading of a summary of his criminal history into the record by the chairman, Ruth Rushen.

It was a recitation of brutality, sexual depravity and violence, detailing the killing of six young women, Kemper’s mother and one of her best friends.

According to a confession made to police alter his surrender, Kemper said he had sexually assaulted the coeds after killing them, and then had dismembered their bodies, disposing of them in sites in Santa Cruz and other adjacent counties.

As Mrs. Rushen read on, in a strange contrast, birds chirped in a tree outside the windows of the second story prison conference room.

Then Santa Cruz District Attorney Art Danner was asked to add his comments for the record, and he noted that the material related by Mrs. Rushen did not reflect the fact that “parts” of one of the bodies of Kemper’s victims had been cannibalized by the defendant.”

Nor, Danner said, did it reflect that Kemper had “mutilated” parts of his mother’s body “by putting it into the garbage disposal.”

Kemper refuted the confession, saying that in telling the police the lurid details, “In my unwise and immature judgment, I thought I was building a case supporting my psychiatric plea (of not guilty by reason of insanity).”

“I disclaim any sexual misconduct during any of my crimes,” he said emphatically. “I made those statements when it was understood that I was to be the only witness at my trial.”

And he added, “I am not a cannibal. That’s unsubstantiated and only claimed by me.”

“As every hunter knows, I could get physically ill or die from eating an animal or person in that state,” Kemper argued.

In his account of the murders, Kemper said, he had been trying to “go to Atascadero” instead of state prison. “I was trying to get myself locked up for good.”

“I was trying to seal my fate, and the state in presenting its case botched it… I have ample opportunity now to save myself in the courts.” Kemper said.

But then he continued, “I’m not going to avail myself of them.”

Kemper also denied that he recently sought court permission to have psychosurgery to help him get out of prison later. Kemper said, “I asked for multi-target neurosurgery in the hope of gaining relief from any kind of homicidal tendencies whatsoever.”

The court denied his request.

Asked if he was “still having urges to kill people,” Kemper said, “No.”

But he explained, “I felt as if I had one foot in the coffin and one on a banana peel.”

He said he was afraid that “if some time I had a bad day and a prison officer or technician had a bad day and was provocative or insultive, I might smack his head up against the wall, and I would die in CDC (California Department of Corrections).”

Kemper referred to a state law which demands the death penalty for the murder of a prison guard or official.

But then he said mildly, “I am not known for a very short temper. I am a passive aggressive.”

And in a sort of aside to himself, Kemper, who works as a clerk in a prison psychotherapy ward, said, “I’ve had nine diagnoses in my time, I wonder how many of them are valid?”

Kemper also appeared offended at a statement in a psychiatric report that he had shown no remorse for all the killings.

“I feel very strongly about what I’ve done,” he said. “I do feel remorse in what I’ve done.”

But when pressed for a reason behind his killings, Kemper always seemed to return to his relationship with his mother.

“I hate her — guts,” he said in a rare explosive moment during the hearing.

He, said he had turned to killing the six women because he was “feeling persecuted and destroyed by my mother.”

And it was his childhood hatred of his mother that led him to kill his grandparents, too, he revealed.

But he explained, “I’m not blaming my mother, I’m saying I hate my mother.”

After the coed murders, Kemper said he was “sick of killing,” but murdered his mother knowing that would “blow the whistle.”

He said, “If she died they (the police) were going to get me, and if they got me for her, they would get me for the others.”

Kemper denied he killed his mother’s friend to make persons think the two women were away together for a weekend and give him time to flee before an investigation of their disappearance.

Incongruously he said, “I killed her because she had hurt my mother very grievously.”

The board members also talked with Kemper about his adjustment to prison life.

According to prison reports he is “doing an outstanding job” as a therapy clerk, has no disciplinary problems and “gets along with the staff and his peers.”

He was asked by board member Craig Brown why he got along well in Vacaville and other institutions “and in the community you become violent?”

“Because when I am in a structured situation, I can get help when I need it,” Kemper replied. But on the streets, I felt rather forgotten and sometimes I felt abandoned.”

The loquacious Kemper later expounded on his life in prison saying, “I was convinced when I came here, I would soon be dead.”

“But the last six months have been the best of my life. I’ve learned to live with myself and with God. I believe I have an obligation to myself and the people around me.”

He also spoke with pride of his work in recording books on tape for the blind and the handicapped, which recently won him a public service award.

However, Danner warned the board not to be complacent about Kemper.

“It’s the kind of complacency he wants,” Danner said, “the kind that was seen at Atascadero where he was released to kill again.”

The district attorney said, “Mr. Kemper poses such an unreasonable risk and danger to society, he is now unsuitable for release and probably will remain so for the rest of his life.”

After a 30-minute deliberation in private, the board called Kemper, the lawyers and the press back into the room and announced its decision.

Chairman Rushen outlined the reasons for denying the parole.

First, she said, Kemper’s crimes “contained elements of such extraordinary violence that it was incomprehensible to think that he should be released at this time.”

Also:

– He had a previous record of violence, and although his juvenile record was sealed, “he stated several times during the hearing that he had killed his grandparents.”

– His violent and bizarre conduct after the crimes, which included mutilation and defiling of the corpses of the victims, showed a total disregard for the dignity and worth of a fellow human being… and this included the victims and their families.”

– The psychology reports do not support suitability for release.

Mrs. Rushen noted that the latest report on Kemper, dated in March of this year diagnosed him as paranoid schizophrenic in a state of “good remission.” But she added the report said that there was no way to predict the possibility of his violence in the future if he is released.

Kemper greeted the decision with a smile and thanked the board.

Referring to an initial outburst and his demand that the press and one reporter in particular, be barred from the hearing, Kemper said, “I would like to apologize for my untoward and abusive behavior, although it’s probably better than some you’ve had in here,” he added with a chuckle.

Then with a wave of his hand, the six-foot, nine-inch inmate, known as “Big Ed,” ambled down the long hall and was admitted into the locked area of the prison building.

List of 17 books narrated by Edmund Kemper for Volunteers of Vacaville – The Blind Project (Part 2 of 2)

Ed Kemper has read onto tape cassettes more books for the blind than any other prisoner. He has spent more than 5,000 hours in a booth before a microphone in the last 10 years and has more than four million feet of tape and several hundred books to his credit. The full list of these books has not been found yet.

Women of Eden
By: Marilyn Harris
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 4/15/1995
Romance

This Other Eden
By: Marilyn Harris
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 3/28/1996
Romance

Sphinx
By: Robin Cook 
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 11/28/1996
Spies and thrillers

Tangled Web
By: Giles A. Lutz
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 12/31/1996
Mystery and detectives

Trumpet of the Swan, The
By: E.B. White
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 7/8/1998
Children’s books

Ellis Island
By: F. Stewart 
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 12/31/1998
Romance

Bowdrie’s Law
By: Louis L’Amour
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 11/2/1999
Western

Merlin’s Mirror
By: Andre Norton
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: ¼/2002
Fantasy

List of 17 books narrated by Edmund Kemper for Volunteers of Vacaville – The Blind Project (Part 1 of 2)

Ed Kemper has read onto tape cassettes more books for the blind than any other prisoner. He has spent more than 5,000 hours in a booth before a microphone in the last 10 years and has more than four million feet of tape and several hundred books to his credit. The full list of these books has not been found yet.

Star Wars
By: George Lucas
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 6/21/1979
Science-fiction

Rosary Murders, The
By: William Kienzle 
Read by: Ed Kemper 
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 1/1/1981
Mystery and detectives

Flowers in the Attic
By: V.C. Andrews
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 5/8/1984
Horror
https://soundcloud.com/alisa-shavrina/ed-kemper-reads-flowers-in-the-attic

Web Between the Worlds
By: Charles Sheffield
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 2/2/1987
Science-fiction

Windmills of the Gods
By: Sidney Sheldon 
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 8/12/1987
Thriller

Dune, Book 4: God Emperor of Dune
By: Frank Herbert
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 5/2/1988
Science-fiction

If Tomorrow Comes
By: Sidney Sheldon
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 5/11/1989
Crime fiction

Petals on the Wind
By: V.C. Andrews
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 4/28/1993
Horror

Glass Key, The
By: Dashiell Hammett
Read by: Ed Kemper
Date Recorded/Cataloged: 2/6/1994
Mystery and detectives

Ed Kemper and the Blind Project

Since 1960, prisoners at Vacaville have been recording books–best sellers, textbooks, mysteries, science fiction, Westerns, children’s books and cookbooks–on tape for blind men, women and children all over America. It is the oldest and largest projects of its kind in the nation.

“Their visit here is so special for us. We get letters of thanks from our blind patrons, but they never come inside the prison to meet us,” said Edmund E. Kemper III, 38, the inmate who runs the program.

Kemper, a confessed mass murderer, has read onto tape cassettes more books for the blind than any other prisoner. He has spent more than 5,000 hours in a booth before a microphone in the last 10 years and has more than four million feet of tape and several hundred books to his credit.

Two large trophies saluting Kemper for his dedication to the program, presented by supporters outside the prison, are on display in the Volunteers prison office, which has eight recording booths, two monitor booths and a battery of sophisticated tape duplication equipment.

“I can’t begin to tell you what this has meant to me, to be able to do something constructive for someone else, to be appreciated by so many people, the good feeling it gives me after what I have done,” said the 6-foot, 9-inch prisoner.

Source: Blind Couple See Only Good, Not the Guilt of the Helpers, Los Angeles Times, January 29, 1987 / Some of the photos courtesy of edmundekemper.tumblr.com