Documenting the Co-Ed Killer case

Category: Life

Mindhunter: Holt McCallany reached out to Ed Kemper

Perhaps it won’t surprise you to learn that Holt McCallany, the brawny, silver-haired actor who plays special agent Bill Tench [based on FBI Agent Robert Ressler] in David Fincher’s Mindhunter, is mildly obsessed with serial killers. To prepare for the true-crime Netflix series’s second season, McCallany tried to reach out to the real Ed Kemper, a six-foot-nine killer who murdered 10 people—including his mother and grandparents. (He’s played in the show by Cameron Britton.) But Kemper never responded. So McCallany went to the California Medical Facility, where Kemper is housed. “When I got there, what I discovered is that Kemper has kind of given up on life,” the actor said. “He’s confined to a wheelchair. Do you know what I mean? He doesn’t really take visitors. He doesn’t bathe himself anymore. It’s very sad.”

Source: Vanity Fair, Mindhunter Season 2: Holt McCallany Really Tried to Talk to Son of Sam, August 16, 2019

Del Mar movie theater

Ed Kemper often went to see movies at the Del Mar theater in Santa Cruz. Kemper has mentioned that he enjoyed films very much, such as John Wayne movies, war films and police thrillers.

Built in 1936, and located on Pacific Avenue, the Del Mar Theatre is an art deco triplex featuring a grand auditorium, tasty local snacks, organic popcorn (with real butter!) and weekly Midnight Movies. The theatre shows a wide variety of independent and foreign language films, as well as the best big-budget Hollywood movies, with state-of-the-art presentations in a welcoming community atmosphere. Extensively renovated and restored in February 2002, it has been operated by Landmark Theatres since December 2015.

Ed Kemper and cigarettes

Someone recently asked me if Ed Kemper smokes. He did smoke when he was young, at the time of his arrest and trial, as seen in the enclosed pictures. I don’t know if he continued smoking during his incarceration at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, or if he still does now. With his health issues, I wouldn’t think so.

Edmund Kemper III, 24, enjoys a smoke as unidentified detective adjusts his handcuffs after Kemper appeared in Pueblo District court extradition hearing. Kemper is being held by police in connection with eight California murders. (Photo by Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

Kemper’s smoking was mentioned by reporter Marj von B in her interview with him in November 1973 just after his conviction on eight counts of first-degree murder:

When dinner was over, I said I must go and, when he got up and proceeded toward the door, I said, “Do you think you could knock on the window and get the jailer to spring me, Ed?” 

He laughed and replied, “I’ll try.” 

He stood in the doorway, his hair brushing the top of the door jamb, watching me leave, as if he were graciously bidding a guest goodbye from his home. 

He said to a deputy, “Could I have some matches?” (I had been lighting his cigarettes all afternoon with my lighter.) 

The sergeant on duty at the desk said to the deputy, “He can’t have any matches, but light his cigarette for him.” Kemper looked at me and grinned like a teenager. “Yesterday,” he said, “I had matches, but isn’t it funny when you’re convicted, you immediately become combustible.” 

Edmund Kemper III from Aptos, California dwarfs escort officer en route to his cell a the Pueblo City jail after being questioned by officials about the unsolved murder of 6 co-ed’s. Police said Kemper admitted to killing his mother and a friend on a phone call to Santa Cruz police.

Source: Front Page Detective Magazine, March 1974, by Marj von Beroldingen

Ed Kemper’s Christmas in 1963

On Thanksgiving Day (the fourth Thursday in November) 1963, as Ed was not yet fifteen, he borrowed his mother’s car, without her permission, drove it to Butte, Montana. From there, he got on a bus and returned to Los Angeles and Dad. The father should understand, he felt, that it was his duty to support his natural son rather than his stepson. To Edmund’s joy, his father agreed to let him live with him. There followed a brief happy period which, in itself, was such a novelty that it scarcely surprised him when it came to a sudden ending.

During the Christmas holidays, Kemper Sr. took his son to visit his parents, who owned an isolated farm at North Fork, a small town in the foothills of the magnificent Sierra Mountain range. But the pastoral beauties of the place were lost on the teenage boy. For him, the farm came to seem like a prison or an old folks’ home and he felt bitterly betrayed when his father announced to him for the second time in less than three months that he was not going to return to Los Angeles at the end of the Christmas holidays.

Clarnell had spoken to her ex-husband on the phone to tell him about the Siamese cat episode (Kemper had killed the family cat and hid it in his closet). She warned him:

This Guy (Ed Kemper’s family nickname) is a really funny bird. And you’re taking a risk by leaving him with your parents. You may be surprised to wake up one morning to learn that they have been killed.

Eight months later, in August 1964, Ed Kemper would shoot both his grandparents to death.

When we examine Ed Kemper’s existence, it is interesting to note how crucial the holiday periods were: Thanksgiving & Christmas 1963, and Easter 1973. For someone like him, who felt rejected by his loved ones and by society, these moments of celebration could be extremely difficult and stressful times.

Sources: L’Ogre de Santa Cruz (Stéphane Bourgoin, 1998) / The Coed Killer (Margaret Cheney, 1976) / 1973 Ed Kemper mugshot

Easter Lily for Mother

Neighbors said the young man [Ed Kemper], who had been collecting workmen’s compensation since an injury last year on a highway construction job, went to his mother’s Aptos apartment last Saturday carrying an Easter lily.

The lily was still blooming on a table when sheriff’s deputies entered the apartment Tuesday and found the nude bodies of the two women [Clarnell Strandberg and Sally Hallett] stuffed into a closet. Mrs. Strandberg had been decapitated and one hand chopped off.

Neighbors said Kemper quarrelled frequently with his mother [Strandberg] about whether she loved him. “You’re embarrassing me in front of my friends,” they quoted him as saying after she upbraided him for “laying around and drinking beer.”

From: Why: The Serial Killer In America by Margaret Cheney (1992, update of The Co-Ed Killer, 1976)

“I became interested with everything related to morbidity. I was fascinated by lots of things that revolved around death, destruction and Evil.”

“I always felt like a social outcast, I never managed to find my place. I couldn’t stay put, the need to move was constant. From ages five to seven, while we lived in Los Angeles, I had problems in public schools. I changed schools several times. I was a difficult child at that time, but at least I was ‘normal’, because I wasn’t internalizing my problems. [he laughs] I didn’t kidnap classmates or break windows. I was insolent, I was disobedient and I didn’t do much work. The teachers often called my parents. But you know what, that was definitely better than my attitude in the following years, where I was troubled, very calm and where I hardly spoke. People who really knew me were very few. I remained locked in the basement with my dark thoughts. I became interested with everything related to morbidity. I was fascinated by lots of things that revolved around death, destruction and Evil, with a capital E. But that had nothing to do with Satan or any devil worshipping. In fact, I feared these things.”

– Ed Kemper about his childhood fantasies

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

“My size has also caused me a lot of problems, what I would call artificial paranoia…

…When I walk into a room, everyone immediately looks at me because I’m the tallest person they’ve ever seen. The conversations stop and all eyes turn on me. And the irony of the thing is that the shortest kid is infuriated because he has always dreamed of being the center of attention. I absolutely do not want to be the center of this attention, I want to blend into the crowd. For large individuals I see that there are two categories, the passive ones, because of everything that befalls them, and those who are aggressive. Those who are short need to surpass themselves and they’re angry at those who naturally attract attention because of their size. At school, I was constantly harassed by smaller kids.” – Ed Kemper (who stands at 6’9″)

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