Documenting the Co-Ed Killer case

Category: Dark tourism

Kemper’s friendship with police

Drawing from David Jouvent for his upcoming graphic novel about Ed Kemper

“My relations with the police were much exaggerated at the time of my crimes. I knew two or three agents. The bar I went to wasn’t in front of the police station, it was more than sixteen hundred feet away, in front of the courthouse. The Jury Room, Joe Mandela’s Jury Room. ‘Come in and give us your verdict’, that’s the slogan under the sign. The establishment is rather quiet and a number of police officers frequent it. At the time I was committing my crimes, I used the friendship bonds that I’d woven with these policemen to learn more about the progress of the investigation.

Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, I had read it when I was younger. “(Kemper smiles.) With this criminal who feels the pressure building up inside: Are they following me? And he ends up cracking and confessing. This is a novel. I want to avoid all of that. I had no problem getting information out of these officers. Why? Because of the very structure of the police hierarchy, whose elite is represented by the criminal brigade. They see themselves as the cream of the crop and they like to brag about their exploits in front of other cops. So, there is a certain jealousy and friction between the different services.

As for me, I was doing a little dragging around these simple cops. I didn’t care about being their friend. I had already been in prison. I didn’t like the police. But they were talking to each other about what they’d heard about the case. I was on the periphery. They snubbed me, as they were snubbed by the ‘supercops’ of the Criminal. But I wasn’t bothered by their presence, I didn’t act weirdly in front of them and that’s something they must have felt.

Usually, any citizen who speaks to a police officer in uniform is clumsy, as if he’s guilty of something, even if he’s clean. And I think cops are sensitive to that kind of thing; as soon as they put on a uniform, they know right away that they’re no longer like the others. Relationships are skewed. It’s something that must hurt them somehow. But if I don’t act that way, if I don’t treat them like an insect under the microscope, then I’ve slipped a foot in the crack of the door. Little by little, you learn to pay for beers and get to know each other: ‘How’s it going, Big Ed’, ‘Great, and you, Andy, etc. And a year later, I phone them to tell them, ‘I’m the Co-Ed Killer. I want to surrender. ‘

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

The Jury Room bar in Santa Cruz

In 2018, we went to Santa Cruz on vacation and visited some of the places that were important in Ed Kemper’s story. First stop was the Jury Room, a bar where he hung out and drank beer with policemen, while having conversations about the co-ed murders, which were being investigated at the time. The police did not suspect him and found him friendly. 

On one of the walls, there’s a sign acknowledging that Kemper was at one time a regular patron. We don’t know to what ‘colorful history’ they are referring to, as nobody suspected him of the crimes and few people knew that he had killed his grandparents years before…

We went a couple of times and enjoyed a few drinks. On one of our visits, a dog kindly lent us his seat…!