Documenting the Co-Ed Killer case

Category: Criminal Mind (Page 1 of 2)

“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

“Of course, the personality is gone.”

Santa Cruz was plagued at that time with a series of bizarre unsolved murders, and warnings had been issued to students not to accept rides from strangers. But Ed Kemper’s mother had given him a university sticker for his car so that he could easily enter the campus to pick her up from work. This sticker gave women a sense of security when he offered them a ride. On February 5, 1973, he shot two more women [Rosalind Thorpe and Alice Liu] and brought them back to his mother’s house. He cut off one woman’s head in the trunk of his car, and when his mother went to bed he carried the headless corpse to his room and slept with it in his bed. Kemper explained, “The head trip fantasies were a bit like a trophy. You know, the head is where everything is at, the brain, eyes, mouth. That’s the person. I remember being told as a kid, you cut off the head and the body dies. The body is nothing after the head is cut off . . . Well, that’s not quite true. With a girl, there is a lot left in the girl’s body without the head. Of course, the personality is gone.”

Source: Excerpt from “Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters” by Peter Vronsky

“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

Author focuses on mass murderer

Margaret Cheney has written books about the environment, a scientist, the University of California – and mass murderer Edmund Kemper.

“I was more or less interested in seeing whether I could do it,” said Cheney, who wrote the book about the Santa Cruz County killer in 1976 and has just published an updated version titled, “Why: The Serial Killer in America.”

The original book was called “The Coed Killer”, because six of Kemper’s victims were young women he picked up on college campuses in 1972 and 1973. Most of his victims were students at UC-Santa Cruz.

Cheney said she decided to publish the new version after she was contacted by criminologist Harry Miller, who was trying to find a copy of the original book, then out of print.

Cheney, of Hollister, conducted new interviews with psychologists and criminologist for the new book about Kemper’s gruesome murders.

The book questions the early diagnosis of Kemper, who killed his grandparents when he was 15, in 1964. He was sent to a mental hospital and later to the California Youth Authority.

Despite the recommendations of doctors that Kemper not be paroled to his mother, the Youth Authority did just that. Kemper’s final victims were his mother and her friend in April 1973 at the mother’s Seacliff apartment. He turned himself in several days later and admitted everything.

“If Kemper had been diagnosed as a classic sadist, perhaps we wouldn’t have had these murders,” because Kemper would have been kept locked up longer, Cheney said.

The book refers to a 1991 FBI study that traces certain confused behavior in childhood to violence in later life.

Cheney writes about an incident when Kemper was a small boy and told one of his sisters he wanted to kiss his teacher. When the sister asked him why he didn’t do it, Kemper replied, “I’d have to kill her first.”

That response should have been a tipoff that Kemper could turn violent later on, Cheney said. When telling authorities about the murders, Kemper said he felt he could “own” the women by killing them.

Another indicator of future violent behavior, Cheney said, was when the young Kemper killed a cat. Cheney recently joined the Latham Foundation, an Alameda-based group that believes childhood abuse of animals can lead to violence in later life.

“We’re trying to get social workers and veterinarians” to be aware of the ramifications of such cruelty, Cheney said.

Cheney was a consultant for a CBS-TV special, “Inside The Criminal Mind,” a portion of which is about Kemper. No broadcast date has been set.

“Why: The Serial Killer in America,” is published by R&E Publishers, of Saratoga.

Source: “Author focuses on mass murderer”, Register-Pajaronian, December 22, 1992, by Lane Wallace, staff writer; Photo by Kurt Ellison

“Oh, what is it like to have sex with a dead body?”

“You haven’t asked the questions I expected a reporter to ask,” Kemper said to reporter Marj von B.

“What do you mean,” she replied. “Give me some examples.” 

He drawled, “Oh, what is it like to have sex with a dead body? … What does it feel like to sit on your living room couch and look over and see two decapitated girls’ heads on the arm of the couch?” (He interjected an unsolicited answer: “The first time, it makes you sick to your stomach.”) 

Source: Interview with Ed Kemper by Marj von Beroldingen, published in March 1974 in Front Page Detective Magazine / Image ©Bay Area TV Archive

“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

Ed Kemper’s head trip fantasies

“The head trip fantasies were a bit like a trophy. You know the head’s where everything is at, the brain, eyes, mouth. That’s the person. I remember being told as a kid, you cut off the head and the body dies. The body is nothing after the head is cut off… well that’s not quite true. With a girl there’s a lot left in the girl’s body without a head. Of course, the personality is gone.”

Edmund Kemper about decapitating most of his victims

Artwork: Artist unknown (If you are the artist or know who it is, please let me know, and I will add the credit)

“Wow, this is insane.”

“As I’m sitting there with a severed head in my hand talking to it, or looking at it. And I’m about to go crazy, literally. I’m about to go completely flywheel loose and just fall apart.

I say, ‘Wow, this is insane.’ And then I told myself, ‘No it isn’t, you’re saying that and that makes it not insane.’ I said, ‘I’m sane and I’m looking at a severed… Wait a minute, wait a minute, I’d seen old paintings and drawings of Viking heroes and talking to severed heads and taking them to parties, old enemies in leather bags. Part of our heritage.

That’s just me back then. In 1972, and ‘73. Unable to live with the fact that I just stabbed to death and cut the throat of an innocent young woman.”

ed kemper, about his victims’ severed heads, in the 1981 interview for the documentary “the killing of america”

“I could take her life.”

“I felt that I was going to be caught pretty soon for the killing of these girls, or I was going to blow up and do something very open and get myself caught, and so I did not want my mother—. A long time ago, I had thought about what I was going to do in the event of being caught for the other crimes, and the only choices I saw were just accept it and go to jail, and let my mother carry the load and let the whole thing fall in her hands, like it happened the last time with my grandparents, or I could take her life.”

Ed Kemper explaining one of the reasons he murdered his mother

Photo ©Joey Tranchina

“I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that I liked Ed.”

John Douglas (left) and Ed Kemper (right)

FBI criminal profiler John Douglas talks about his first meeting with Ed Kemper in his book Mindhunter:

“The first thing that struck me when they brought him in was how huge this guy was. I’d known that he was tall and had been considered a social outcast in school and in the neighborhood because of his size, but up close, he was enormous. He could easily have broken any of us in two. He had longish dark hair and a full mustache, and wore an open work shirt and white T-shirt that prominently displayed a massive gut.

It was also apparent before long that Kemper was a bright guy. Prison records listed his IQ as 145, and at times during the many hours we spent with him, Bob [Robert Ressler] and I worried he was a lot brighter than we were. He’d had a long time to sit and think about his life and crimes, and once he understood that we had carefully researched his files and would know if he was bullshitting us, he opened up and talked about himself for hours.

His attitude was neither cocky and arrogant nor remorseful and contrite. Rather, he was cool and soft-spoken, analytical and somewhat removed. In fact, as the interview went on, it was often difficult to break in and ask a question. The only times he got weepy was in recalling his treatment at the hands of his mother. (…)

We ended up doing several lengthy interviews with Kemper over the years, each one informative, each one harrowing in its detail. Here was a man who had coldly butchered intelligent young women in the prime of their lives. Yet I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that I liked Ed. He was friendly, open, sensitive, and had a good sense of humor. As much as you can say such a thing in this setting, I enjoyed being around him. I don’t want him out walking the streets, and in his most lucid moments, neither does he. But my personal feelings about him then, which I still hold, do point up an important consideration for anyone dealing with repeat violent offenders. Many of these guys are quite charming, highly articulate, and glib. (…)

Quite clearly, some types of killers are much more likely to repeat their crimes than others. But for the violent, sexually based serial killers, I find myself agreeing with Dr. Park Dietz that “it’s hard to imagine any circumstance under which they should be released to the public again.” Ed Kemper, who’s a lot brighter and has a lot more in the way of personal insight than most of the other killers I’ve talked to, acknowledges candidly that he shouldn’t be let out.”

Source: Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit (1996) by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker / Photo: Getty Images

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