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