Documenting the Co-Ed Killer case

Category: Prison (Page 1 of 2)

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

1997 – Ed Kemper parole hearing

June 13, 1997 – Vacaville – No one thinks Edmund Kemper, an Aptos serial killer who haunted Santa Cruz in the early 1970s, should be paroled – including Kemper.

Kemper, 49, refused to attend his parole hearing Thursday but he directed his appointed attorney to read a short statement. “The severity of my commitment offenses, I believe, preclude my release at this time,” read Marcia Hurst.

A three-member panel from the state Board of Prison Terms agreed with Kemper, saying he remains a threat to society.

“Mr. Kemper terrorized Northern California,” said Commissioner Carol Bentley at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville. “He poses an unreasonable risk to the public.”

Since 1988, this is the third consecutive time Kemper, who has diabetes, has declined to appear before a parole board [he had also declined in March 1991 and June 1994], and he has repeatedly stated that he does not believe he should be freed. In fact in the late 1970s, he twice tried unsuccessfully to get state doctors  to perform psychosurgery on him – similar to a lobotomy – claiming surgery may be the only way to squelch his urge to kill.

Assistant District Attorney Bob Lee represented Santa Cruz County at the hearing and recalled Kemper’s “absolutely shocking, violent, depraved acts.”

“I was a 12-year-old boy at the time and I remember instead of having a monster in our dreams we had him in real life,” Lee told the parole board.

Kemper, who attempted suicide four times before and during his trial, testified that he killed his mother because he didn’t want her to think he was the serial killer being reported in all the news accounts.

According to the parole board, Kemper has been a model prisoner at Vacaville. He works in the library and has had no disciplinary action taken against him in the last 23 years. However, no one wrote a letter to the parole board or came forward Thursday to say he should be released. His next parole hearing is in 2002.

Source: “Mass murderer denied parole for third time”, Santa Cruz Sentinel, June 13, 1997, by Robert Gammon, Sentinel Staff Writer

1979 – Kemper won’t be paroled and that’s fine with him

[During his parole hearing in 1979] Ed Kemper was asked by board member Craig Brown why he got along well in Vacaville with the staff and his peers “and in the community you become violent?”

“Because when I am in a structured situation, I can get help when I need it,” Kemper replied. “But on the streets, I felt rather forgotten and sometimes I felt abandoned.”

The loquacious Kemper later expounded on his life in prison saying, “I was convinced when I came here, I would soon be dead. But the last six months have been the best of my life. I’ve learned to live with myself and with God. I believe I have an obligation to myself and the people around me.”

Source: Register-Pajaronian, May 2, 1979, excerpt from an article by Marj von B

1979 – Door’s still shut for Coed Killer

May 2, 1979 – Ed Kemper failed Tuesday in his half-hearted first attempt to win parole, admitting to a three-member panel of the board he doesn’t “see my release as feasible – as morally or legally feasible.”

Without emotion, panel chairman Ruth Rushen Tuesday detailed the eights murders, Kemper’s decapitation of his victims and his disposal of their bodies in various counties, but Kemper demanded the official record be changed to reflect the accurate “facts” and proceeded to recount each of the slayings again.

At the time he made statements to authorities in 1973, he said he was “suicidal” and “in my unwise immature judgment, I thought I was trying to build a psychiatric case against me. I needed help. I wanted help. And I made statements unsubstantiated by fact that are now being introduced as fact.”

“I was suicidal in my feelings at the time. I was trying to seal my fate.”

Officials, he went on Tuesday, were so anxious to convict him of the slayings “they left loopholes that I could use for an appeal, but I do not intend to take advantage of them.”

His actions “distressed me greatly” at the time, but “things still happen out there on the streets,” he added.

Kemper, who received an award two weeks ago for contributing 2 900 hours during the past two years tape recording books for the blind has sought court permission three times for psycho-surgery. He denied Tuesday the request was an attempt to gain his release or that he still felt an urge to kill.

“I felt I had one foot in a coffin and one on a banana peel” and his circumstances in the medical facility might result in violence, he suggested, “I didn’t like being controlled by my dislikes.”

Kemper, who also told the panel he has become a Christian while at Vacaville and has “learned to live with myself and God,” admitted the State of California has “more than enough reason to keep me locked up for the rest of my life. I have to say eight people are dead and I murdered them.”

After a half-hour deliberation, Rushen reconvened the hearing and said, “Mr. Kemper, you are not suitable for parole.”

She cited the “extreme violence and depravity” of his crimes and called Kemper “an unreasonable risk to society at this time.” His crimes, she went on, were premeditated and planned in meticulous detail, including bizarre conduct in “abusing, defiling and mutilating the victims’ bodies, which shows a total disregard for the worth of another human being.”

During a break in Edmund Kemper’s parole hearing at Vacaville Tuesday, Richard F. Verbrugge, inspector with the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office, said Kemper was questioned by Sonoma County authorities as a suspect in the murder of several hitchhiking girls here that began in 1972.

Verbrugge said he worked closely with sheriff’s homicide Detective Sgt. Butch Carlsted on the Sonoma County cases, but that Kemper was ruled out as a suspect.

“He was like a little boy, telling us everything and taking us everywhere,” the inspector said. Kemper was also given truth serum by officials during his initial examination. However, Verbrugge said Kemper did admit he picked up young girl hitchhikers in Sonoma County during his cruise through Bay Area counties seeking young girls that met “his criteria” for victims, but none of them apparently had the characteristics he sought.

The Press Democrat, May 2, 1979, by James E. Reid

1976 – “I have tried the door, gentlemen…”

“I have tried the door, gentlemen, and I assure you all is secure,” said Edmund E. Kemper III in 1976, rejecting his first chance to appear before the Community Release Board as an “exercise in futility.”

Source: The Press Democrat, May 2, 1979 – Door’s still shut for coed killer, by James E. Reid / Center for Sacramento History – Video Archive Kemper Trial 5/28/81 #2

Ed Kemper mugshot – November 1973

This mugshot of Kemper is often thought to have been taken in 1964 when he was arrested for the murder of his grandparents. But if you look closely at the board in front of Kemper, the date is November 9, 1973. That is the day he was sentenced to eight life prison terms for the murder of six coeds, his mother and her best friend.

“Do you want him out there? I don’t.”

Steve Wiesinger pictured here in 1984

As an innovative teacher for many years at Soquel High School, as a published novelist and poet, and as a creative writing teacher at Soledad, San Quentin and Vacaville maximum-security prisons, Steve Wiesinger seemed an unlikely candidate to be a card-carrying law-and-order conservative, if that truly was his message. The Prison Arts Program was and is a locally based, admirable attempt at bringing light into darkness, life into places reeking of death and doom.

Wiesinger, who ended his long tenure with Prison Arts last Spring, took pains to establish his still-a-liberal-after-all-these-years credentials. “I really am a progressive. But what I’m interested in doing is cutting down on violent crime. I didn’t develop these ideas over a short time, I tested them out.”

Wiesinger said not being a penologist or criminologist stood him in good stead, that he had no stake in the prison system, no vested ax to grind.

“My qualifications (to address the problem of violent criminals) are as an interested observer who’s been on the inside,” he said.

Wiesinger talked about the cause-and-effect of “permissive social attitudes” upon violent criminals. “It’s like the hand-writing in the wall, it’s that clear. As soon as you get people breaking lots of laws, moral boundaries begin to fall.”

There was something else going on with the men he’d met: The macho, I’m a bad dude attitude, which cuts across racial and cultural barriers, infecting its adherents with a warped sense of what it means to be a male in this world.

“There’s always been an antiauthority, anti-establishment tradition in this country.” Wiesinger said. “A false idea of masculinity permeates our culture. The cowboy-macho idea comes from the taming of the West. It’s the simplest idea about violence, this false ideal of masculinity, yet it’s the key point.” Prison programs, he said, just don’t deal with this basic root of violent crime.

Wiesinger said he’s “not convinced on either side” about capital punishment. “Part of me says, ‘Forget it. Do him in.’ The other part says, ‘We want Justice.’ My mother taught me two wrongs don’t make a right. But to allow these people (convicted violent criminals) out under any circumstances is wrong. If someone steps that far outside the human family, there has to be some severity.”

What about “model prisoners”? “Some guys do great in prison – it’s a male world, isolated, structured. They act OK… Society needs to be protected. These (crimes) are horrible, abysmal things to do.”

Wiesinger worked at Vacaville with sex-slayer Edmund Kemper who killed and mutilated eight women in Santa Cruz County in the early 1970s. “Kemper is a model prisoner – a potter, he writes poetry, he runs a prison program for the blind, a pretty nice guy – but how are you ever going to say this guy is rehabilitated?,” said Wiesinger. “Do you want him out there? I don’t.”

Edmund Kemper

Wiesinger looked pained. A logical, methodical, intense man preaching a difficult message. “Other societies just write people like that off. I’m far from advocating something like that, but clear, decisive, harsh punishment is called for. Liberals have a hard time with the word ‘punishment,’ but people are controlled by punishment. If we’re clear about that, then we won’t get hundreds of criminals whining and sniveling, ‘The system is ripping me off! I’m a political revolutionary!’ ”

Wiesinger cited the pernicious roles played by television and movies in perpetuating an attitude of violence in already fragile psyches. “When I asked men why they had committed a particular crime, a lot of them mentioned something they’d seen on TV or in the movies.”

“The process of rationalization in prison is absolutely fantastic. I used to think people who committed violent crimes had to be insane. My moral standards would not admit murder or violent crime could be a rational act. But it is. When I listened to what people said to me, I knew for them it was a rational act. People don’t want to admit someone can be that mean or heartless. Yet, in eight years working in prisons, I never heard a convict express regret over hurting somebody,” Wiesinger concluded.

Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel – November 29, 1984, Excerpts from the article “Voice in the wilderness: Steve Wiesinger on violent crime” by Don Miller

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