Edmund Emil Kemper Sr. and his wife Maude Matilda Kemper were both murdered by their grandson, serial killer Edmund Kemper III, on August 27, 1964, at their ranch in North Fork, California. They were his first victims.
Maude Matilda (nee Hughey) Kemper was born on November 19, 1897 in Topeka, Shawnee County, in Kansas. She was the sixth of seven children to her parents Henry McClellan Hughey and Violet Elizabeth (nee Dodge) Hughey. Her family moved to Los Angeles in 1910.
That’s where she met Edmund Emil Kemper Sr. a few years later, and married him on June 7, 1914. She was 16 and he was 21. They had three sons: Edmund Emil Kemper Jr. (1919-1985); Robert (1921-2018); and a third son whose name might be Raymond.
Edmund Sr. was a farmer before enlisting in the Army in 1917, and serving during the First World War. He was the third of six sons to his parents Frederick Augustus Reinhardt Kemper and Bertha Anna Haas. After the war, he worked as an electrician for the California State Division of Highways.
Maude and Edmund Sr. lived on an isolated farm in North Fork, Madera County, California, in 1963, when their oldest son, Edmund Jr., visited them with his second wife and his son Edmund III during the Christmas holidays. After the celebrations, Edmund Jr. left his son with his parents. Edmund Jr. explained his decision in 1964:
“His personality had changed so much that I was worried about him being here with my present wife, who tried very hard to be a real friend to him. I saw him one day in a brooding mood and his eyes looked like a sleepwalker. In several talks I had with him toward the last he seemed fascinated by death and war. Tried to watch Weird Tales on TV which I suppressed.”
Of his father, Kemper said, “he didn’t want me around, because I upset his second wife. Before I went to Atascadero, my presence gave her migraine headaches; when I came out she was going to have a heart attack if I came around.”
It was because of that, Kemper said, that he was “shipped off” to his paternal grandparents to live in “complete isolation” on a California mountain top with “my senile grandfather” and “my grandmother who thought she had more balls than any man and was constantly emasculating me and my grandfather to prove it. I couldn’t please her… It was like being in jail… I became a walking time bomb and I finally blew…”
Kemper hated living on his grandparents’ farm, but he had great admiration for his grandfather. Some people who knew Kemper believed his grandfather was the only person he ever really loved: “Well, I’d heard stories about when he [his grandfather] was younger. He was a pretty fierce guy. He was an original cowboy. He carried a .45 on his hip. He was a tough guy wrangler, and my father had told me that he back-handed him clear across the kitchen one night when he got, I guess, smart with him.”
As for his grandmother, she was a strong woman, who reminded Kemper of his own mother. She wouldn’t let him bring any friends home or get into any social activities in school. He couldn’t watch cartoons and she screened any TV shows he watched. Kemper said: “She had placed herself in the position of being, in essence, my warden. And she said if you ever want to go live with your father again, you had better do what I say.”
His grandfather bought in a .22 and taught him how to shoot it. Kemper spent hours in the bushes shooting at birds, gophers and other small animals to annoy his grandmother who didn’t want him killing animals. He disposed of the remains carefully. Edmund Sr. eventually took away the rifle at the behest of Maude, who didn’t see the point in killing things just for the sake of killing them. This punishment infuriated Kemper, as the weapon served as an outlet for his growing aggression.
Confined at home, Kemper’s anger started to simmer, and he began to transfer his hatred for his domineering mother to his domineering grandmother.
Kemper laughed as he recalled an incident with his grandmother when she left him home alone one day but took his grandfather’s .45 automatic with her in her purse, because she was afraid he might “play” around with it in her absence. His grandparents were going to Fresno on a monthly shopping trip. He recalled: “I saw her big black pocketbook bulging as she went out the door and I said to myself, ‘Why that old bitch, she’s taking the gun with her, because she doesn’t trust me, even though I promised I wouldn’t touch it.’” He said he looked in his grandfather’s bureau drawer and “sure enough the gun was gone from its usual place… I toyed with the idea of calling the chief of police in Fresno and telling him ‘there’s a little old lady walking around town with a forty-five in her purse and she’s planning a holdup’ and then give him my grandmother’s description. How do you suppose she would have talked herself out of that?”
Maude began to fear the grandson she had inherited. Possibly because she was the object of Kemper’s deadly glares, she sensed he was plotting against her.
Kemper’s mother, Clarnell Strandberg, reacted in 1964: “Pressure [on Kemper] must have been building. [Maude] wrote how happy he was with his gun and dog and ‘great authors and school’ and it wasn’t until the tragedy that I was told by the father that he was beginning to worry and frightened them with his moods. I wish I had known.”
On August 27, 1964, Kemper’s grandfather was running errands at the grocery store and the post office. His grandmother was working on a short story for Boy’s Life Magazine, “Fire in the Cannon,” in the kitchen. Kemper was sitting at the kitchen table with her. They started to argue after he stared at her with the horrifying expression she had observed before. Enraged, Kemper stormed off and retrieved the confiscated rifle that his grandfather had given him for hunting. He decided to go rabbit hunting and went outside to fetch is dog, Anka, on the porch. His grandmother uttered her last words: “Oh, you’d better not be shooting the birds again.” He stopped to look in through the screen window. He had fantasized about killing her before. She was facing away from him. He raised his rifle aimed at the back of her head, and fired through the screen. Maude slumped forward on the table where she’d been typing. He shot her twice in the head and once in the back. He then wrapped her head in a towel and dragged her body to the bedroom, went to get a knife and stabbed her three times so hard, the knife bent double: “I didn’t think she was dead and I didn’t want her to suffer any longer.”
His grandfather soon returned home and Kemper went outside to greet him. Edmund Sr. nodded, smiled and waved to his grandson as he began unloading food and supplies from the truck. Kemper returned the greeting and sneaked up closer to his grandfather: “When he turned, I placed the rifle about thirty inches from the back of his head and shot him. Kemper later explained that he didn’t want his grandfather to see what he had done to his wife of fifty years and that he would be angry with Kemper for what he’d done.
Kemper dragged is grandfather’s body to the garage and washed the blood from his hands with a garden hose. He also tried to clean the blood near the truck.
Back inside the house, Kemper had a passing thought about undressing his dead grandmother and exploring her body sexually to satisfy his carnal curiosity, but he shook it from his mind as being too perverted.
He was unsure of what to do next, so he phoned his mother, who told him to sit tight while she called the Madera County Sheriff. Kemper also called the police to make sure they would come. When the police arrived, Kemper was sitting calmly on the front porch. The reason he gave for his actions: “I just wanted to see what it felt like to shoot Grandma.”
Sources: Ancestry / Front Page Detective Magazine, March 1974, by Marj von B / Murder Capitol of the world, 2021, by Emerson Murray / Ed Kemper’s 2017 parole hearing / Ed Kemper – Conversations with a killer, 2021, by Dary Matera / Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer, 2020, by David Jouvent and Thomas Mosdi
There were moments, prior to her death, when Kemper felt like punishing his mother. Kemper told investigators he had killed his mother to spare her the suffering and shame that knowledge of his crimes would bring. He said: “There were times when she was bitching and yelling at me that I felt like retaliating and walking over to the telephone in her presence and calling the police, to say, ‘Hello, I’m the coed killer,’ just to lay it on her.”
Kemper’s testimony in court revealed his desire to punish his mother did not end with the fatal hammer blow. He cut off his mother’s head, “put it on a shelf and screamed at it for an hour … threw darts at it,” and ultimately, “smashed her face in,” he recalled for the horrified court. [Kemper supposedly performed irrumatio with his mother’s head, but that story is not verified.]
He went even further and cut her tongue out, as well as her larynx, and placed them in the garbage disposal. However, the garbage disposal could not break down the tough vocal cords and ejected the tissue back into the sink. Kemper found it rather ironic: “That seemed appropriate. As much as she’d bitched and screamed and yelled at me over so many years.”
Sources: “I was the hunter and they were the victims”: Interview with Edmund Kemper, Front Page Detective, by Marj von Beroldingen, March 1974 / Serial Homicide – Book 1 by RJ Parker, 2016 / Intercorpse – Necrophilia: sexual attraction towards corpses including sexual intercourse, by RJ Parker, 2019
From Charles Manson to the Yorkshire Ripper, Son of Sam to the Monster of Florence, John Douglas tests his wits against the best criminal minds of his generation.
Edmund Kemper is, by his own lights, a man of superior intellect and no small achievements. He boasts of once having been America’s youngest fully-fledged civic booster; a twenty-year-old Christian living what he calls a “Jesus-first” life.
But that distinction is just an ironic footnote in Kemper’s vitae. He is a legend for far more weighty reasons, and he implores his visitor to please, just please, get the story right.
“I did not butcher people,” Ed Kemper, now 41 years old, insists with the petty certitude of a grammarian arguing over nuance. “Decapitation is not butchering. The papers and the magazines had me butchering my victims. But I only dismembered two bodies. They were all decapitated; all but my mother’s friend. Why? Why didn’t I just pop some teeth out, or crunch some bones up? I was starting to branch out in my thoughts about how to do things and get away with it. The psychological trip was, the person is the head. For some reason, someone looks entirely different with no head. I noticed that.”
“I’m on an honesty thing the last five or six years; except when people get into my car. I didn’t tell ‘em I was gonna kill ‘em. I couldn’t quite handle that … Are you interested in what I was taking the heads off with? It wasn’t a saw, not even a hack saw: a buck knife.”
“I got my high on the complication of the thing; the meticulous way I ironed out potential problems before they even started… Hatpins! Mace! The more weapons the girls had, the safer they felt, the more chances they’d take, the easier it was for me. Unless it’s a policewoman with a gun in her hand, aimed at me, I’ve got her exactly where I want her. The first two victims [Pesce and Luchessa] were convinced the FBI and the CIA and Interpol were going to come looking for ‘em two hours after they were missing. Both of ‘em had money. Ritzy families. Real important. ‘Boy, if I don’t call daddy, we’ll be missed.”
In an interview room at Vacaville prison in California, John Douglas, an energetic man not particularly suited to the sedentary, just sits there for a change and listens. There is little choice. Kemper talks fast, like someone trying to finish a long story before he runs out of the door. But Kemper is going nowhere.
Kemper is a giant of a man, 6’9” and 302 pounds, and as the words spew out, his voice betrays macabre enthusiasm while an intermittent giggle gives away his self-consciousness. These are awful stories. Over a span of maybe half-a-dozen years, Kemper killed ten people: his grandparents, his mother, her best friend, and six hitchhiking students. He chopped their heads and hands off, ate parts of them, and, in his nagging mother’s case, propped up her severed head on the kitchen table, ranted and raved at it, ripped out the larynx and ground it up in the waste disposal. “Mom didn’t give a fuck. She was using us for her own little comforts.” Nice guy.
Maybe it’s a stretch of the imagination to see Kemper as the pride of the Junior Chamber of Commerce chapter at the Atascadero State Hospital for the criminally insane, California. But then he was much younger and the shrinks thought there was still hope; at that time, he’d only hacked up his grandparents.
As Douglas listens to this serial killer offhandedly describe the young women he stalked and murdered after his release from Atascadero, the word that comes to Douglas’s mind is nothing to be proud of, but at least he is being honest with himself. Douglas spells it out: “p-u-s-s-y”. A coward. The word refers to Edmund Kemper, not to those who are dead, although Douglas has called murdered girls by that cruel name, too, when he thought doing so would please a murderer enough to make him relive the thrill of the kill.
Which is what Douglas wants.
The dead cannot speak, but their killers can, and Douglas has probably talked to more of them than any other man alive.
Sources: Excerpts** from the article “In at the Kill”, by John A. Jenkins (as published in GQ (Britain), February 1991) / Image from 1989 closed-circuit interview for the FBI Academy
**The order of the excerpts has been modified for a better understanding of the content.
Ed Kemper had a dark fantasy life as a child and teenager: he performed rituals with his younger sister Allyn’s dolls that culminated in him removing their heads and hands. Some of his favorite games to play as a child were “Gas Chamber” and “Electric Chair”, in which he asked Allyn to tie him up and flip an imaginary switch, and then he would tumble over and writhe on the floor, pretending that he was being executed by gas inhalation or electric shock.
Sources: “Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters”, Vronsky, Peter (2004) / Wikipedia Ed Kemper page / Photo of Allyn Kemper (18 years old) from the Soquel High School yearbook, 1969
Testifying as the first defense witness in Ed Kemper’s trial, Allyn Kemper, 22, revealed under cross examination that both she and her mother thought Kemper might have been involved in the death of Cynthia Schall.
Allyn Kemper testified that she asked her brother directly whether he had anything to do with the killing – one of eight of which he is accused.
“No,” she quoted him in response, “but I was afraid you might be suspicious because of that cat thing. My mother has already asked me about it, and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t bring it up again because it will just stir things up.”
The “cat thing” Miss Kemper explained, involved an incident when the family lived in Montana and her brother decapitated the family cat with a bayonet.
Under questioning by District Attorney Peter Chang, she also related that she herself was almost killed by Kemper.
That, too, happened in Montana. Kemper, she explained, had always had an interest in guns, and one day as she walked through the living room she heard a click.
As she turned, she said, a bullet from Kemper’s .22 rifle whizzed by her ear and buried itself in a bookcase.
“Oops!” she quoted her brother. “I thought it was empty.”
Sources: “Kemper tapes relate grisly details”, The San Francisco Examiner, October 31, 1973, by Don West / Photo of Allyn Kemper (17 years old) from the Soquel High School yearbook, 1968
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
February 5, 1973, less than a month after the murder of Cindy Schall, was again a perfect day to kill: hard rain was coming down. And Ed Kemper was mad with rage. “My mother and I had a terrible argument. I told her I was going to the movies and I immediately drove my car to the [University] campus because it was still early.” Luck was with him despite the late hour: the campus was buzzing with activity because of a conference that was taking place that evening. He was afraid to stand out as he passed the guards’ gate at the university entrance, because his rear light and bumper were tinkered and were easily identifiable. But there were many cars and the guard was just managing the flow of vehicles. Kemper was spoiled, as there were many hitchhikers in the rainy weather.
Rosalind Thorpe, twenty-three, a student of linguistics and psychology, shared an apartment in Santa Cruz with a friend; she usually went to campus by bicycle, but the bad weather had made her change her mind. “I noticed that she took a look at the sticker which allowed me to park on campus. She took me for another student and settled down next to me without any hesitation. She started talking immediately. I let her do it, she was very open, very friendly. And I wondered how to act. After a while, I decided that it was good, that she would be mine, without any doubt. Besides, I had what I call one of those little zapples! which crossed my body. Every time I had one, they would die; it never happened to me to have a zapple! at another time. It’s the moment when everything falls into place, when the circumstances are ideal. No one around, the guard hadn’t noticed anything, no problem leaving campus and Thorpe suspected nothing. And, of course, she was also someone I didn’t know at all. It was one of my rules of conduct from which I didn’t deviate. I had also decided never to hunt around Santa Cruz, because I lived there, especially with my criminal record. I could be considered a potential suspect. But, as my crimes went on, I became more and more ill and I took fewer and fewer precautions, both in my approach, during and after, which seemed obvious to me given the growing amount of evidence that was discovered, in one form or another.”
As he is about to leave campus, Kemper sees this young Chinese girl hitchhiking. Alice Liu, twenty-one, is the daughter of an aeronautical engineer from Los Angeles and is in her final year of studies at the University of California. Like Rosalind Thorpe, she lived in Santa Cruz in a studio that she shared with a friend. He stops the vehicle and she hops inside, sitting in the back seat. “Okay, here we are chatting, it’s actually Rosalind who is leading the conversation and that suits me. I notice Alice who sees us and gives us her most beautiful smile, thumb raised. A gesture of great beauty, she does it very naturally, with a lot of grace. I think she must have been an experienced hitchhiker. She is superb, with everything you need where you need it, intelligent, dressed in a conservative way, not with these fashionable clothes in bright colors that we saw everywhere at that time. I admit that I was relieved that the two girls didn’t know each other. We pass in front of the entrance gate. I look at the guard insistently, so he doesn’t think to take a look at the back of the car. I’m sure he didn’t see Alice because it was dark, she was small and wore dark clothes. A few hundred feet away, we are alone on the road. The view is superb: below, we see Santa Cruz which is illuminated. I ask them if they have any objection to me slowing down to observe the landscape. Rosalind nods, enthusiastic, but I feel like a reluctance coming from Alice. I have the very clear impression that I disgust her, that she’s too good for a poor guy like me. The car is running. I take out my weapon which is hidden under my leg, a black pistol, it’s dark and Rosalind doesn’t notice anything. We continue to chat and I point my gun. I hesitate for a second, but not more, because the girl in the back seat will see me act. I didn’t stop the car voluntarily, so that the warnings wouldn’t light up, in case we came across another car.”
“Thorpe had a very broad forehead and I was trying to imagine what her brain looked like, inside her skull. I wanted my bullet to hit her right in the middle of the brain. A second before she’s still moving, and the next, she’s dead. A noise, then silence, absolute silence. Liu, who was sitting in the back seat, covered her face with her hands. I turned around and shot her twice, through her hands. I missed her. The third time worked, right in the middle of her temple. We passed the campus gate and I could hear Liu dying in the back seat. Once out of the city, I slowed down as much as possible, before turning her head to the side, and shooting her at point blank range. I know it’s a big risk to take a student directly on campus, so you can imagine taking two multiplies that risk all the more, but I knew I could do it.
Once, in broad daylight, I took three hitchhikers on University Avenue, in Berkeley, and almost killed them. I could have, without any problem, because of the din of the highway which would have covered the shots. I drank more and more. I had to stop because I was losing all self-control. The cops knew me as a heavy drinker in the bar where we hung out, and that may be one of the reasons they didn’t suspect me. In public, I was almost always drunk, wine or beer, or under the influence of various barbiturates, but I remained sober to commit my crimes. Why? When I was drunk I could no longer act. That’s why I drank constantly: I wanted to stop this madness. But it was hard to stay drunk all the time. I drank between six and eight gallons of wine a week, twice as much as my mother. “
a path away from the road, Kemper put the two bodies in the trunk. He went to
fill up at a gas station and to the toilet to clean the blood stains that dot
the plaster on his arm and his black jeans. Back home, he parked on the street
and told his mother that he fell asleep while watching a movie at the cinema. He
leaves her in front of the television and indicates that he is going to buy
cigarettes. It is between ten and eleven o’clock in the evening. There is no
one on the street and he takes the opportunity to open the trunk and behead the
two women with his hunting knife.
next morning, after his mother leaves for work, Kemper brings the two heads
back to his room, cleans them in the bathroom and takes out the bullets. Then,
he takes Alice’s corpse, lays her on his bed to rape her and even thinks of
washing her body to remove all traces of sperm, before putting her back in the
trunk where she joins Rosalind’s headless body. Without really knowing why,
Kemper cuts Alice’s hands. This time, he doesn’t bother to dissect the corpses.
It’s no longer something that excites him like the first time. It has now
become routine. He wants to get rid of all compromising evidence as quickly as
possible. Ed heads north on the road to San Francisco. He’s thinking of
depositing the corpses there to make the investigators believe that the
murderer is from that city.
media and the police were on their teeth. Macabre disappearances and discoveries
were increasing. The body of Cynthia Schall was identified on January 24, 1973,
that of Mary Guilfoyle (a victim of Herbert Mullin), on February 11. On
February 8, the newspapers announced on their frontpage the disappearances of
Rosalind Thorpe and Alice Liu. By a curious coincidence, two of Kemper’s work
colleagues found the beheaded corpses of the two girls on February 14; they were
identified a week later. The medical examiner indicated to the investigators
that the assassin (s) probably had medical knowledge or acted according to a
strange ritual, because Cindy’s Achilles tendons had been cut. Kemper did it to
satisfy his necrophilic desires, to prevent cadaverous rigidity and to keep the
He then visits a friend, takes the time to dine and go to the movies, before driving up to Eden Canyon Road around two in the morning, where he throws the beheaded bodies. He then continues to the town of Pacifica, at Devil’s Slide, where he throws the heads and hands of the two young girls. Worried, he regretted not having buried the two heads and returned on the scene two weeks later, at four in the morning.
Cindy Schall was killed by a single shot in the head from Ed Kemper’s .22-calibre pistol. He kept her body in a cupboard overnight, waiting for his mother to go to work. As soon as she left, he brought out the corpse and decapitated it. His years of hanging out at the Jury Room left him with a wary respect of forensic ballistics – so he cut the bullet fragments out of the skull, which he then kept for a while as a trophy.
He then dismembered the body and took a drive along the coast to dispose of it. But when a couple of weeks later Kemper learned that the police had already recovered Cindy’s remains, he panicked and buried her head in his back garden.
Representatives from the Santa Cruz sheriff’s office, city police and the district attorney’s office looked on as detectives dug a 16-inch deep hole and found the decaying head. Because authorities pinpointed the head’s location, it is speculated they were acting on information from Pueblo, Colorado, where Kemper was arrested and has reportedly been giving detailed information on not only the slaying of his mother Clarnell Strandberg, 52, and her friend Sara Taylor Hallett, 59, but also the slaying of six young women.
head found today had been buried about four feet from the rear of Kemper’s
house. For the last several months, Kemper and his mother lived in the duplex
the skull was being removed from the hole, the upstairs neighbors glanced down
at the yard through a window.
living next door to the duplex were visibly shaken as they occasionally looked
over to where the detectives located the head.
think we’ve been living here so peacefully with that laying on the ground,”
said one woman, pointing to Kemper’s backyard. A young woman next to her,
wearing a Cabrillo College T-Shirt, nodded silently.
Kemper said he buried Cynthia Schall’s head in the backyard of his mother’s apartment house facing the window of the bedroom where he was staying and “talked to it (the head) many times, saying affectionate things… like you would say to a girlfriend or a wife.”
Kemper has also said that he buried Schall’s head in his mother’s yard, facing up toward his mother’s bedroom window, because his mother always wanted people to “look up to her.”
Sources: “Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters”, by Peter Vronsky / “Kemper explains why he murdered coeds”, Register-Pajaronian, November 1, 1973 / “Head found in Aptos”, Santa Cruz Sentinel, April 26, 1973
[REBLOG] On January 8, 1973, Edmund Kemper picked up Cynthia Ann “Cindy” Schall as she was hitchhiking to Cabrillo College and drove her out to the Corralitos – Freedom area where he talked her into getting into the trunk of his car, telling her he was going to take her to his house to talk, and then shot her in the head with a .22 caliber pistol he had purchased that day. She died instantly.
He decapitated her the next morning after engaging in sexual acts with her body. He disposed of her remains and her things, except for her head that he kept and buried in the backyard, just under his mother’s bedroom window.