Documenting the Co-Ed Killer case

Category: Confession tapes

“I was trying to hurt society where it hurt the worst”

“It was all coeds and it would only be if they were a possible candidate for death, which would mean they were young, reasonably good-looking, not necessarily well-to-do, but say a better class of people than the scroungy, messy, dirty, smelly hippie-type girls I wasn’t at all interested in. I suppose they would have been more convenient, but that wasn’t my purpose.”

“My little social statement was I was trying to hurt society where it hurt the worst and that was by taking its valuable members or future members of the working society, that was the upper class or the upper middle class…”

“I was striking out at what was hurting me the worst, which was the area, I guess deep down, I wanted to fit into the most and I had never fit into and that was the group, the in-group.”

edmund kemper about picking up coeds as his urges to kill came not only from a strong sexual instinct but also a desire to strike back at society, according to his taped statements, played for jurors in his mass murder trial.

Source: “Kemper wanted to hurt society by taking its ‘valuable members'”, Register-Pajaronian, by Marj von B, October 26, 1973

Girl’s courtroom gesture brings Kemper trial to a halt

A threatening gesture by a young woman spectator seated in the rear row of the court brought the Edmund Emil Kemper murder trial to a halt for almost half an hour this morning.

The incident occurred during the playing of a tape interview of Kemper by investigators in which Kemper had described the killing of his mother, Mrs. Clarnell Strandberg on Easter weekend.

Kemper, who had said yesterday he would rather not be present in the courtroom during the playing of the confession tapes, was not allowed to remain out of the courtroom. This morning when he came to court his attorney said Kemper had been taking tranquilizers.

Despite this, Kemper was showing obvious strain listening to his own voice on the tape, and a number of times he turned from the counsel table and scanned the spectator section. After one such look at the spectators, Kemper turned back quickly and motioned to his sheriff’s guard sitting nearby.

A whisper consultation took place and Kemper’s lawyer, Jim Jackson, got up and immediately went to the bench and whispered something to Judge Harry F. Brauer, who promptly called for a recess.

Later, Judge Brauer told reporters Kemper had said a young woman in the back row had looked at him and drawn her forefinger across her throat, in a throat-cutting type gesture.

Brauer gave Kemper time to calm down and then resumed the court session, continuing with the playing of the confession tapes.

Bailiffs searched for the offending girl but she apparently left the courthouse immediately following the incident.

*******

A few years ago, the Santa Cuz Ghost Hunters featured a story in one of their videos where a young woman named Sara interviewed her grandmother who turned out to be the young woman who made this throat-slashing gesture toward Kemper during the trial in 1973. This is what she said:

“The trial that you’re asking me about, Sara, was in 1973. And every morning, Alice Liu would wait on my husband and I with coffee and naturally, we knew her from the coffee shop. And when she was murdered by Edmund Kemper, I wanted to… I well… I wanted to be there and listen to the testimony, and it was just real graphic, so I don’t know whether I should tell you all about that…”

“Edmund Kemper got Alice Liu in his car when she was on her way to campus or coming back. He had his car rigged up in such a way that once you got in the passenger side, the handle would never for you to get out. She could never get out…”

“Picture this lovely little Oriental girl, 19, working hard in a little coffee shop. When he was describing all these things about Alice Liu, there was a break in the proceedings and when he comes in with his chains and he’s walking in, his eyes focused on me. And I told you I was so emotional with that horrible testimony, I said to him… and he focused on me, and I said [she whispers]: ‘I would love to cut your throat,’ and he went [she screams]: ‘Oohhh!’ And the bailiff saying: ‘What is it? What is it?’ And I had a dress with polka dots on it and the bailiff come over and said: ‘You’ve got to sit on the other side of the courtroom. You’ve upset Mr. Kemper.’”

Sources: Girl’s courtroom gesture brings Kemper trial to a halt, Register-Pajaronian, by Marj von B, October 25, 1973 / Santa Cruz Ghost Hunters

“And that night I killed her. Not so much to celebrate, but I had been eagerly awaiting that gun.”

***Warning: graphic content***

“Cynthia Schall was the next one.” Kemper went on, “That happened the night I bought a .22 Ruger automatic pistol with a six inch barrel. And that night I killed her. Not so much to celebrate, but I had been eagerly awaiting that gun.” He said he bought the gun at Valley Sport shop in Watsonville.” He picked up Miss Schall on Mission Street, “in that vicinity. I had been up cruising around the campus and I’d picked up three different girls, two of them together, that were possibilities, but I canceled those out because there were too many people standing around that possibly knew them when they got in. But all the other conditions were perfect. It had been drizzling, it had been raining real hard and people were getting any ride they could get and windows were fogging up… But I had given up on those other two and I was kind of uptight about it and driving down the street I spotted her standing out there with her thumb out.”

The young woman with her thumb out was Cynthia Schall. After driving her to the Watsonville area, he forced her to get in the trunk. Later near Corralitos, he shot her. He took her to his mother’s house in Aptos and dumped her in the closet. He dismembered her in the bathtub the next morning, after having sexual intercourse with her.

After having murdered and disposed of Cynthia Schall’s body, Ed took a trip to visit a friend in Oakland. He stopped off at a laundromat near his old apartment in Alameda, where he placed Cynthia’s blue socks, checkered wool shirt, brocaded blouse, and nylon jacket in a dryer and placed it on the highest setting, putting in four dimes worth. He turned the machine on, expecting that the continued high heat would burn the clothing beyond recognition. The next day, he went by the laundromat, checked the dryer and found it empty. He has succeeded again.

Sources: “Gruesome Details on Tape at Trial”, Santa Cruz Sentinel, October 25th, 1973 / “Sacrifice Unto Me”, by Don West / Photo: Getty Images Bettmann

A good horror story

In April 1973, following Kemper’s arrest, early on in his taped confession to police, Sergeant Aluffi asked Kemper to hold up because the tape had gotten “all messed up” in the recorder. Kemper then commented, “Oh, Jeez, wouldn’t this make a good horror story on tape?”

Source: The Co-Ed Killer, Margaret Cheney, 1976 / Drawing by David Jouvent from his upcoming graphic novel about Ed Kemper

“This girl was actually fighting me, almost succeeding.”

**Warning: graphic content**

Ed Kemper about murdering Anita Luchessa in his car right after killing Mary Anne Pesce: “I decided that Anita was more gullible and would be easier to control, so I told her that she was gonna go into the trunk. And she stepped right out of the car.” (…)

“I took Anita to the trunk. Just before she got in, she reiterated something Mary Anne said: ‘Please don’t do this,’ or something like that. I said, ‘What, are you gonna start in too?’ (…)

After murdering Mary Anne Pesce in the car, Kemper got up in a daze or shock, he said, and headed to the back of the car. “I knew I had to do it to the other girl right then, because she had heard all the struggle and she must have known something very serious was going on.”

He concealed his hands as he raised the trunk lid because of the blood on them. Anita said, “What’s happening with Mary Anne?” Kemper said, “Well, she was getting smart with me.”

“And I pulled my hands down kind of unconsciously, and she noticed how bloody they were and she panicked. Her lip was really quivering, and she was really scared. I was scared.”

He told her that he thought he had broken Mary Anne’s nose, and that she should help her. Anita, in her new, heavy coveralls, started to get out. While Kemper was talking to her, he picked up another knife from the trunk, with a very large blade. “It was called the Original Buffalo Skinner or something,” and it had been “very expensive, about eight or nine dollars.”

He turned to Anita with the Original Buffalo Skinner and stabbed her hard as she got out of the trunk, but the knife vexingly failed even to penetrate her garnments.

Anita saw what was happening. As Kemper stabbed at her again and again, she threw herself back into the trunk, saying “Oh God, God.” She began fighting back. He tried to slash her throat but in the process stabbed his own hand, a fact he did not realize for all of an hour. He did not however fail to take account of the fact that when he went to the office of Dr. Donald G. Miller in Aptos for treatment, the wound required three stitches.

As Anita tried to cover her throat with her hands, he stabbed through her fingers. She was, as he told the investigators, “putting up a hell of a fight.” He then tried to stab her heart. “I was thrusting and the knife was going very deep, and it amazed me that she was stabbed three times and she was still going at it. I tried stabbing her in the front again, or towards the throat area, and she was making quite a bit of noise and was trying to fight me off, and I stabbed her in the forearms. One was so bad you could see both bones, and she saw it, when I hit, I didn’t think it really hurt so much, as it was the shock of everything happening so fast. She looked at it, and I could see the expression on her face of shock.”

He continued stabbing young Anita, trying to jab her left eye, as he told the assembled lawmen. “I hate to get into such detail on that,” Kemper apologized, “but my memory tends to be rather meticulous.”

Finally, Anita began screaming, very loudly and piercingly. Her murderer was scared, he said, and unsure of what to do. He had heard voices in the distance. Therefore, he renewed his attack with greater fury. The stab with which he hoped to penetrate her eye socket failed, but he knocked her glasses off.

“She reacted to each one of these things with a completely different thing,” Kemper noted. “Where the other girl was just one continuous motion, this girl was actually fighting me, almost succeeding. But she really didn’t have a chance.”

He said that she started dying. She slowed down, and became semiconscious or delirious. She was moaning and waving her arms around, fending off an imaginary assault that was no longer there. Every motion of the victim fascinated Kemper, registering itself on his mind. Finally, he threw the knife into the trunk of the car and shut the lid. He noticed that she had torn off his wristwatch and that it was stained with blood.

Source: The Co-Ed Killer, by Margaret Cheney, 1976

“There was just almost a reverence there.”

On May 7, 1972, Ed Kemper struck. He picked up two college girls, Mary Anne Pesce and Anita Luchessa, hitchhiking on a freeway ramp. Knowing the area well, Kemper managed to drive around without them realizing that he had changed directions from where they wanted to go. “I asked them a few questions and determined to my satisfaction that they were not familiar with the area,” he began. “I didn’t really make much of an effort to deceive them because they were terribly naive.”

He then stopped his car in a remote area he was familiar with from his work with the highway department. Kemper first handcuffed Pesce in the backseat of the car. He later confessed, “I was really quite struck by her personality and her looks, and there was just almost a reverence there. I think once I accidentally—this bothers me too, personally—I brushed, I think the back of my hand when I was handcuffing her, against one of her breasts, and it embarrassed me. I even said, ‘whoops, I’m sorry’ or something like that.”

Kemper then took Luchessa out of the car and locked her in the trunk. Within thirty seconds of apologizing to Pesce for accidentally brushing against her breast, he threw a plastic bag over her head and wrapped a bathrobe belt around her neck. But as he pulled on the belt, it snapped; meanwhile Pesce had bitten through the plastic bag. Kemper then drew his knife and began to stab Pesce in the back, but the blows did not seem to have any effect and she began to twist around, facing Kemper. “I stabbed her all over her back, she turned around and I stabbed her on the side and the stomach once. As she turned around I could of stabbed her through the heart, but her breasts were there. Her breasts actually deflected me. I couldn’t see myself stabbing a young woman in her breasts. That’s embarrassing.”

He then grabbed Pesce by the chin, pulled back her head, and slit her throat.

Kemper then went to the back of the car, opened the trunk, pulled Luchessa out, and began to stab her repeatedly in the throat, eyes, heart, and forearms. He recalled being surprised by how many heavy blows she took before losing consciousness.

Once the women were dead, he drove their corpses back to his apartment and carried them inside. In his apartment he dissected their bodies, handled their various internal organs, snapped Polaroid photographs of them, and cut their heads off. Kemper confessed, “I remember there was actually a sexual thrill. You hear that little ‘pop’ and pull their heads off and hold their heads up by the hair. Whipping their heads off, their body sitting there. That’d get me off!” But Kemper insisted, “There was absolutely no contact with improper areas.”

Kemper said, “I would sit there looking at the heads on an overstuffed chair, tripping on them on my bed, looking at them [when] one of them somehow becomes unsettled, comes rolling down the chair, very grisly. Tumbling down the chair, rolls across the cushion and hits the rug—‘bonk.’ The neighbor downstairs hates my guts. I’m always making noise late at night. He gets a broom and whacks on the ceiling. ‘Buddy,’ I say, ‘I’m sorry for that, dropped my head, sorry.’ That helped bring me out of the depression. I would trip on that.”

Afterward Kemper put what remained of the two women into plastic bags and buried them in the Santa Cruz hills, their torsos and limbs in one location, their hands in another, disguising the burial ground using techniques he had learned in the Boy Scouts. He kept the heads a few days longer before throwing them into a ravine. Kemper also visited the grave of one of the coeds, Mary Anne Pesce, because he wanted to be near her and talk to her. “I loved her and I wanted her,” he said. “I heard one news comment that she was a Camarillo girl, so I went down to Los Angeles (after the slaying) and checked out Camarillo and only found one Pesce in the phone hook and that was a Gabriel Pesce. So I went up by that neighborhood, in fact right by the house.”

Kemper said, “I didn’t even touch her [Pesce] too much after that, that is, other than to get rid of physical evidence such as clothing and later the body.” Kemper indicated the murders of Miss Pesce and Miss Luchessa weighed heavily on him. He said, “the whole experience is the most inlaid in my mind, imprinted and actually, you might say, it had a very strong influence on the fact I did continue doing these things.”

“I think, personally, deep down, that I continued to do these things to try to get that out of my mind, to cover it up… other young ladies, trying to get them out.”

“I think possibly because of the way they died (Kemper stabbed them to death) and I had been very struck by Mary Anne Pesce and I had never really taken a chance on getting to know her at all, forcibly, I mean, getting to know her, not so much by rape but even talking with her. I’ve had a lot of dreams about that and been very depressed about it.”

Kemper said that just before he began killing, his fantasies of making love to women became dissatisfying because he came to believe he could never realize them. If he killed them, then they would not reject him as a man, he explained. He characterized his crimes as “making dolls” out of human beings.

Sources: “Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters”, by Peter Vronksy, Berkley, 2004; “Kemper under questioning tells why!,” Register-Pajaronian, October 25, 1973, by Marj von B; “Gruesome Details on Tape at Trial”, Santa Cruz Sentinel, October 25th, 1973

“Hi, Mr. Chang!”

Kemper greeted Santa Cruz District Attorney Chang like an old friend when Chang confronted him at police headquarters after reaching Pueblo (Colorado). He exclaimed for all the world like the host of a gala party greeting an arriving guest. In sharp contrast to his menacing size, too, during the taping of his confession to purge himself of his inner torments, he was as gentle as the proverbial lamb.

“He was extremely affable, cooperative, and articulate, and intelligent” said Chang to journalists when he returned to Santa Cruz.

One of the detectives present later told newsmen Kemper reminded him of a little kid who had vowed to amend his hell-raising ways and was eager to prove the sincerity of his promises to be good. In any event, he proved to be the soul of cooperation and was eager to do anything to make things easier for the authorities. He unhesitatingly signed his waiver of extradition to California. He underwent no change of heart, which so often happens when violent criminals in the throes of remorse unburden their hearts, only to reverse themselves after they have had time to think it over.

Excerpt from True Detective magazine, October 1978

Ed Kemper’s confession tapes

The prosecution yesterday rested its case against Edmund E. Kemper III. The state’s final evidence was a videotape showing Kemper’s lengthy confession of eight grisly murders. While the video confession was being played for the jury of six women and six men, Kemper buried his head in his hands.

His attorney, James Jackson, interrupted the proceedings to ask Judge Harry Brauer if Kemper could be excused. The judge agreed and Kemper was allowed to leave the courtroom.

Kemper’s confessions were introduced previously in the trial, but the video recording was shown to give the jury an impression of the defendant’s attitude while he was recounting the crimes for investigators last April 28, shortly after he surrendered in Colorado. 

Source: San Bernardino Sun, 1 November 1973 / Video: Kemper on Kemper, Oxygen TV