As Ed Kemper celebrates his 73rd birthday today (he was born on December 18, 1948), we revisit his 1973 trial for the murder of six coeds, his mother and her best friend, during his cross examination by District Attorney Peter Chang, where Kemper reflected on his psychiatric diagnosis:
Peter Chang: How would you diagnose yourself, Mr. Kemper?
Ed Kemper: I believe very dearly and honestly there are two people inside of me and at times one of them takes over.
Peter Chang: You disagree with the court-appointed psychiatrist who diagnosed you as a sex maniac?
Ed Kemper: I don’t believe I am.
Peter Chang: Why do you tend to blame others for what you have done?
Ed Kemper: I feel there are others involved. I don’t believe I was born to be this way.
Peter Chang: Do you think society thinks what you’ve done is grossly evil?
Ed Kemper: Right now, yes.
Peter Chang: Horrendous?
Ed Kemper: Yes, but there are times those things don’t even enter my mind.
Source photo and text: Murder Capital of the World by Emerson Murray, 2021 / Photo by Pete Amos
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
We are saddened to hear that Harold Cartwright passed away a few days ago at the age of 80. Mr. Cartwright worked on Ed Kemper’s defense team. He was an investigator for Kemper’s lawyer, Jim Jackson. Thanks to @8folddharma on Instagram for letting us know.
“Tell you a little bit about my interaction with Eddy, with Ed Kemper,” said Cartwright. “One day, I had a really stiff neck — I couldn’t move my head hardly at all.”
Cartwright continued, “[Kemper] said, ‘I know a lot about anatomy. I can make your neck feel better.’ So, I went around, and he worked on my neck for maybe, I don’t know, five minutes. And you know? It worked.”
Cartwright said that even though the 6-foot-9-inch, 285-pound Kemper “could have probably killed [him] with one hand,” he “never felt unsafe in his presence.”
“I felt that if somebody had attacked me, he would have come to my aid,” Cartwright told “Kemper on Kemper: Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer.”
The two spent “a lot of time together,” and Cartwright said he and Kemper were “friendly.” While Kemper was in jail awaiting trial for murdering eight women — including his own mother and her best friend — many members of law enforcement also described him as “friendly,” “cooperative” and a model prisoner.
Still, defending an admitted serial killer took “a horrible toll” on all those involved in the investigation.
Cartwright said, “If I could change things in my life, I would definitely not have participated in these mass murders. I had a wife and two little kids; I worked 13 months without a day off. Within five years after these trials were completed, the district attorney was divorced, I was divorced, several of the police officers involved were divorced. … It was difficult, difficult time [sic], and it’s always a part of you.”
This photo and famous Kemper quote are from the upcoming book Murder Capital of the World by Emerson Murray, which will be released in May 2021. It covers the crimes of the three active serial killers in the Santa Cruz region in California in the early 1960s, that of Edmund Kemper, Herbert Mullin and John Linley Frazier. The stories are all told through direct quotes from the murderers themselves, people from their families and those who were involved in their respective cases.
I had the chance to read an advanced copy and this book is simply terrific. Many new information and details about the Kemper case. Direct quotes from his mother, his father and his older sister are quite revealing. Many new pictures of Kemper during the trial and a never-seen-before mugshot of young Kemper. Kemper researchers will be thrilled by this book as it enriches his story quite a lot. We will do an official review when the book comes out this Spring.
“[Reporter Marj von B] gave me a pen that day, it was a cast aluminum ballpoint pen, and I took it back to my high-security jail cell up in Redwood City. I was really slammed down tight: a two-man cell by myself. They have a camera on me 24-hours a day. The lights are on-two sets of these four-footers-it’s bright as day 24-hours a day, and I was there for five months, and I get strip shook leaving the cell and strip shook coming back in. I brought the pen in with my legal papers, and a few months later in the middle of the trial, I smashed the pen on the floor with my boot, sharpened it-got a sharp edge on the metal-and slashed my wrist. I was bleeding all over the place. It was very messy and very exciting, and everybody was dragging me off to the hospital and I got sewed up. I got shot up with industrial strength mace. They had about a quart of it and they just gassed me with that whole thing and dragged me off to the hospital.” […]
“At one point I could see every aspect of my life, my crimes, who I was, how I really felt about things without any defensive or protective accoutrements. It was fascinating to me: I was semi-conscious-actually, I was conscious, I just couldn’t get up and move around a lot, and at the end of the two hours, I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to keep on with this. I hadn’t gotten to the crimes themselves, I was kind of oriented around other things related to my life. I asked to continue on, and the doctor didn’t want to, so I insisted. They were using an IV and shot me up with another two-hour batch of this stuff, and as soon as he was done with what he wanted to do, he got up and left.”
“He had an appointment and it had gone longer than he had planned on it so he had to leave and my lawyer had to go. So, I’m stuck with these two deputies and a registered nurse watching me until I come down off of this stuff. Well, when the doctor left, he decided to give me a shot of medicine to snap me out of this, and I asked him what it was, and he said it was Methedrine-hospital-grade speed. I’ve asked doctors since then, both medical doctors and psychiatrists, if that was an appropriate action, and they said absolutely not. They should have left me sleep it off. It is suggested that the doctor knew full well it would put me through hell. It amplified everything I was feeling, it got me really down, and for two days after that they were trying to scrape me off the ceiling-they couldn’t even talk to me. I was raving and ranting. They had to put me in a strip cell because I refused to go back to my regular cell. There was television available there. I had canteen. I had some food items, but I wouldn’t accept it.” […]
“Under the influence of those drugs, I was seeing what I did through other people’s eyes, not through mine; as someone else would view it-pure horror-how someone with nothing to do with violence in their life would see it. It was an awful experience. Within hours of coming down off that stuff two days later, I wasn’t making comments like that, [my] defenses were back in place-they were a bit ruffled. It had been an eye-opening experience because it gave me some perspectives on my case that I would never forget-some anxieties on my case that I would never forget-and all I can give you to gauge it by is that when I went into that hospital, the nurse came out-she was the typical battle-axe, professional nurse, been on the job for twenty years… great woman… with the wheelchair, severe stern face, and she’s looking at me with razor blades.”
“I’m in the chair and she wheels me inside. Five hours later when I come out of there, she’s wheeling me out and as I’m getting into the car, I’ve got this tortured look on my face. I’ve been crying and tearing at myself. She looks at me with this very compassionate look, and she says, “Good luck.” She got a good look at what was really inside. She was already aware of the evil I was capable of and the horror that happened in the case, and then she saw a lot of my real feelings. With her knowledge of chemicals and medicine and treatments, she knew I wasn’t faking. So, from her I got good luck and she was serious. I’ve never seen her since, but ironically, the deputies that were stuck with me that day, they figured ‘he’s so outraged right now, let’s just keep him here until he calms down a bit, then we’ll take him back to jail.’”
“But I didn’t calm down. I just kept going on and on, and at one point I asked the deputies to handcuff me to the rails of the bed because I was afraid I would rip my eyes out. I was really acting up, and he had known me for a few months and he didn’t want to do that. He said, “Oh, come on Ed, that’s not really necessary.” I said, “Man, you better put them on, or I’m going to tear that goddamn gun belt off and blast you, and I might beat you to death with it.” So, he comes over with the cuffs. He was a little offended by that… so he came over with the cuffs and started putting them on my wrists and I just went through some incredible convulsion and I just yanked him clear across the bed. He had the other hand cuffed already. Zing! Off he goes, he’s hanging onto this handcuff and at that point he cuffed me up real quick and finished and I already had my leg irons at the foot of the bed and I was just yanking those rails up and down with my wrists. That was very painful with handcuffs on. We went like that for a few hours and finally they said, “We got to get him back to jail, he’s not going to change in the near future.”
Sources: Interview with Stéphane Bourgoin, from “Serial Killers” (1991) / Kemper on Kemper by Peter Scott Jr. / Photo from Getty Images
A few days away from the U.S. elections, a look at Ed Kemper’s strange link to the Republican party, as he received a letter from the Committee to re-elect President Nixon thanking him for volunteer work in the 1972 campaign.
On April 30, 1973, Kemper, after his arraignment in Superior court on eight counts of murder, startled reporters when he showed them the form letter on White House stationery. The First Family’s picture was on the front of it and the “thank you for campaign effort” message inside along with the mimeographed signatures of the President and his family.
Kemper’s Santa Cruz address was on the envelope. It bore a Washington postmark dated April 26, two days after Kemper was arrested in Pueblo, Colorado. Kemper’s attorney, Jim Jackson, could not shed much light on this rather unusual development:
Jackson: It was mailed to him apparently. It came yesterday.
Reporter: Did he have an active role in the campaign, do you know?
Jackson: He voted against Mr. Nixon. (laughs)
Reporter: Against Mr. Nixon?
Jackson: That’s what he told me.
Reporter: And how would he get this letter?
Jackson: You have to ask the Committee to re-elect the President.
The testimony by Ed Kemper yesterday was no exception from the preceding grim testimony. With questioning from his lawyer Jim Jackson, he recalled his childhood fantasies which started out innocently and wistfully, later to become daydreams of murder and sex.
He said his first fantasy was that his “mother and father would be loving together and caring for their children.”
According to Kemper, it was a fantasy that never came true. Instead, there was “much violence, hatred, yelling and screaming” between his father and mother who separated and were divorced when he was around seven years old.
Kemper said he felt rejected and unloved by his mother and his father as well, though he indicated he yearned for a good relationship with his father.
He spoke of his mother as “alcoholic,” and said she once had beaten him with a heavy belt and buckle when he was a small child and told him not to scream, “because the neighbors will think I’m beating you.”
This was at the age of nine, and Kemper said after that he was afraid of her and began to have a recurring fantasy about sneaking up on her and hitting her in the head with a hammer.
Later, in Atascadero [where he was incarcerated for five years after the murder of his grandparents], Kemper’s fantasies turned to sex as well as murder. He said his final fantasy was, “I killed someone, cut them up and ate them… and I kept the head on a shelf and talked to it… I said the same things I would have said had she been alive, in love with me, had she been caring of me.”
Asked by Jackson if he ever told anyone at Atascadero about the fantasies, Kemper replied, “No, I would never got out if I had told psychiatrists I was having fantasies of sex with dead bodies and in some cases eating them I would never have gotten out ever.”
He paused and then said, “Wow! That’s like condemning yourself to life imprisonment, and I don’t know many people who do that.”
The young defendant, who worked for psychologists testing other inmates at Atascadero, said, “I hid it from them. They can’t see the things going on in my mind. All I had to do to conceal it from them was not talk about it.”
Source: “Kemper explains why he murdered coeds”, Register-Pajaronian, by Marj von B, November 1st. 1973 / Images from trial: Bay Area TV Archive
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
“It was all coeds and it would only be if they were a possible candidate for death, which would mean they were young, reasonably good-looking, not necessarily well-to-do, but say a better class of people than the scroungy, messy, dirty, smelly hippie-type girls I wasn’t at all interested in. I suppose they would have been more convenient, but that wasn’t my purpose.”
“My little social statement was I was trying to hurt society where it hurt the worst and that was by taking its valuable members or future members of the working society, that was the upper class or the upper middle class…”
“I was striking out at what was hurting me the worst, which was the area, I guess deep down, I wanted to fit into the most and I had never fit into and that was the group, the in-group.”
edmund kemper about picking up coeds as his urges to kill came not only from a strong sexual instinct but also a desire to strike back at society, according to his taped statements, played for jurors in his mass murder trial.
Source: “Kemper wanted to hurt society by taking its ‘valuable members'”, Register-Pajaronian, by Marj von B, October 26, 1973
A threatening gesture by a young woman spectator seated in the rear row of the court brought the Edmund Emil Kemper murder trial to a halt for almost half an hour this morning.
The incident occurred during the playing of a tape interview of Kemper by investigators in which Kemper had described the killing of his mother, Mrs. Clarnell Strandberg on Easter weekend.
Kemper, who had said yesterday he would rather not be present in the courtroom during the playing of the confession tapes, was not allowed to remain out of the courtroom. This morning when he came to court his attorney said Kemper had been taking tranquilizers.
Despite this, Kemper was showing obvious strain listening to his own voice on the tape, and a number of times he turned from the counsel table and scanned the spectator section. After one such look at the spectators, Kemper turned back quickly and motioned to his sheriff’s guard sitting nearby.
A whisper consultation took place and Kemper’s lawyer, Jim Jackson, got up and immediately went to the bench and whispered something to Judge Harry F. Brauer, who promptly called for a recess.
Later, Judge Brauer told reporters Kemper had said a young woman in the back row had looked at him and drawn her forefinger across her throat, in a throat-cutting type gesture.
Brauer gave Kemper time to calm down and then resumed the court session, continuing with the playing of the confession tapes.
Bailiffs searched for the offending girl but she apparently left the courthouse immediately following the incident.
A few years ago, the Santa Cuz Ghost Hunters featured a story in one of their videos where a young woman named Sara interviewed her grandmother who turned out to be the young woman who made this throat-slashing gesture toward Kemper during the trial in 1973. This is what she said:
“The trial that you’re asking me about, Sara, was in 1973. And every morning, Alice Liu would wait on my husband and I with coffee and naturally, we knew her from the coffee shop. And when she was murdered by Edmund Kemper, I wanted to… I well… I wanted to be there and listen to the testimony, and it was just real graphic, so I don’t know whether I should tell you all about that…”
“Edmund Kemper got Alice Liu in his car when she was on her way to campus or coming back. He had his car rigged up in such a way that once you got in the passenger side, the handle would never for you to get out. She could never get out…”
“Picture this lovely little Oriental girl, 19, working hard in a little coffee shop. When he was describing all these things about Alice Liu, there was a break in the proceedings and when he comes in with his chains and he’s walking in, his eyes focused on me. And I told you I was so emotional with that horrible testimony, I said to him… and he focused on me, and I said [she whispers]: ‘I would love to cut your throat,’ and he went [she screams]: ‘Oohhh!’ And the bailiff saying: ‘What is it? What is it?’ And I had a dress with polka dots on it and the bailiff come over and said: ‘You’ve got to sit on the other side of the courtroom. You’ve upset Mr. Kemper.’”
Sources: Girl’s courtroom gesture brings Kemper trial to a halt, Register-Pajaronian, by Marj von B, October 25, 1973 / Santa Cruz Ghost Hunters