Ed Kemper and his older sister Susan Swanson discussed the Santa Cruz murders and Herbert Mullin in April 1973 before Kemper’s arrest: “Guy [Kemper’s nickname] and I discussed them one day when mom and I went to the university to borrow a movie projector so I could show a movie I had brought from home [in Montana]. There was something said about Mullin firing his attorney because he had long hair, and I asked Guy if he thought Mullin had done the co-ed slayings too. He said he didn’t because none of them were similar in any way to how his victims had been shot–then the subject was dropped. The first weekend I was there, Guy went to Turlock and picked up [Kemper’s fiancée] and brought her to mom’s. We went to San Francisco that weekend Mom, I, [Kemper’s fiancée], and Guy, and along the road he mentioned that down there, pointing to the right, was where they had found two girls propped up against something I don’t remember the exact area. We drove along the coast highway, but this was a hilly section inland, just a bit. I believe it was just south of San Jose. Another time, I commented on the girls hitchhiking and mentioned they weren’t too bright, considering what happened and the particular ones I mentioned were really dressed shabby. He said it was strange because some of the co-eds killed were very attractive girls, not hippie looking at all. I think this was mentioned at the same time the conversation about Mullin was discussed on the way to the university. The subject changed. He didn’t say or do anything strange or comment any more than anyone might comment because of what had been happening.”
“One day when we were driving from Aptos along the beach toward Santa Cruz, just sightseeing, [Kemper] pointed off toward the beach and mentioned that a girl’s head was washed up along there -no more was said, and he brought it up.”
“Several times while we were riding around while I was there he would notice a girl and really stare, not just look or glance, and I teased him that he’d better get out of that habit when he gets married or [Kemper’s fiancée] would sure get jealous. He said she’s used to it or something along that line and most of these girls were dark skinned, possibly Mexican heritage, with black hair and medium build, tending toward heavy. He also commented that he sure likes those big butts- again I just passed it off and went on to other talk.”
Source: Book “Murder Capital of the World” by Emerson Murray, 2021 / Photo: Yearbook, University of Southern California, 1964
Edward George, former administrator at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, recalled his many interactions with Ed Kemper:
“Big Ed and I used to chat occasionally about his life on the street. I discovered that he actually lived in Alameda in an apartment two blocks from where I lived. Scary. He worked at a gas station where I used to buy gas. Very scary. One day I asked him, tongue in cheek, what did he consider his greatest contribution to society. He didn’t miss a beat. With a gleeful smile, he cracked ‘I taught women not to hitchhike.’”
Source: Ed Kemper – Conversations with a killer, by Dary Matera, Sterling Publishing, 2021/ Photo: Pete Amos, Murder Capital of the World, by Emerson Murray, 2021
This is a transcript of a Staff Summary written by Mercedes Tileston, a Senior Social Worker at Atascadero State Hospital, in October 1964, a few months after Kemper was arrested for killing Edmund Sr. and Maude Kemper, his paternal grandparents. The Staff diagnosed him as schizophrenic paranoid:
This youth (Kemper) has committed a double murder, that of his paternal grandparents. For several years prior to the killing there were numerous indications that this youth was extremely disturbed, had self-destructive impulses and acted out homicidal impulses against two cats over a period of a year. He is overwhelmed with feelings of worthlessness, guilt, parental rejection and has great fears that he will suffer a psychotic episode. [Kemper] has thought long and hard about suicide and has attempted it repeatedly over a number of years. Upon admission at NKCC, he was in a particularly unstable state and gave the impression of being on the verge of committing suicide. As a result, a suicide watch was posted. At present he has stabilized to some small extent. He is on tranquilizers.
In spite of the tranquilizers, though, [Kemper] continues to be extremely agitated, anxious, distraught and preoccupied. He has a tremendous need to talk about himself, has done this with the psychologist and his social worker and to some extent with the psychiatrist. He should be encouraged to channel all this talk about himself to his therapist. [Kemper] is fearful that peers might learn of his commitment offense. In this respect, he is in very good touch with reality, he is sensitive and very much aware of the unacceptable nature of the killings. Studying the record and all of [Kemper]’s verbalizations reveals that there were suggestions that he would act out violently. It is a tragedy that attention was not paid to these suggestions and that he was not placed in treatment and helped to avert this terrible tragedy of killing both the paternal grandparents. Staff is in accord that this youth could best be treated in a mental hospital at this time and perhaps with some preparation and at a later date be prepared for placement in a treatment program in a Youth Authority institution.
Medical Report: Physically fit for full activity.
Diagnosis: Schizophrenia, paranoid
Placement recommendation: Department of Mental Hygiene
Source photo: Murder Capital of the World by Emerson Murray, 2021
This oil painting is titled “Portrait of a Spanish Lady” and it was made by Maude Hughey Kemper, Edmund Kemper’s paternal grandmother, circa 1930. It measures 22 X 16 inches and is signed by the artist. It is believed to be a self-portrait. She was a figurative painter and she signed her paintings “Hughey Kemper”.
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
From an unsigned note from a Social Worker at Atascadero State Hospital, a maximum-security facility that houses mentally ill convicts, where Ed Kemper was imprisoned for five and a half years after killing his paternal grandparents on August 27, 1964:
“In February 1964, ward’s [Kemper’s] mother was allegedly drunk when she called ward’s father in the middle of the night and told him that ward was “A real weirdo” and that he was taking a chance in having ward stay with his [parents] and that he might be surprised if he awoke some morning to learn that they had been killed.”
This is a never-before-seen mugshot of Ed Kemper, at the time of his arrest following the murder of his grandparents.
Source: Murder Capital of the World, by Emerson Murray, 2021 https://www.emersonmurray.com/murder-capital-of-the-world / Mugshot: Atascadero State Hospital
From a 1973 interview with Susan Swanson, Ed Kemper’s oldest sister, where she recalled his mood in 1964, after their father left him with his parents at their ranch in the mountains in North Fork, California:
“So, after that school year, while he was fifteen, he came home to Montana for summer vacations. I spent time with him, I was living back in Helena then, I was still married – in fact, I was three weeks away from having my third child. We spent a lot of time together. He seemed, oh, I don’t know, he was… He could have fun, he could laugh, he could play and be silly and visit and stuff like that, but deep down he seemed awfully hurt. Like you know, it really sunk in that his dad didn’t want him and this still intensified his love for his father. He just kept reaching and grabbing for him. So, we took him fishing and all kinds of things and then he went back down to Madera and it was just, oh, a matter of a couple of weeks later that he killed his grandparents.”
Source: Murder Capital of the World, by Emerson Murray, 2021 https://www.emersonmurray.com/murder-capital-of-the-world / Photo: Pete Amos
Sara “Sally” Taylor Hallett was Ed Kemper’s last victim. She was Kemper’s mother’s best friend and a colleague of Clarnell’s at UCSC. Born on October 19, 1913 in Washington, Hallett had two sons, Edward and Christopher Hallett. Kemper murdered Hallett in his mother’s apartment on Easter weekend in 1973. She was 59 years old.
After killing and decapitating his mother, Clarnell Strandberg, early on the Saturday morning before Easter, Ed Kemper spent much of the day drinking. That evening, he telephoned his mother’s close friend, Sara Taylor Hallett, saying he wanted to surprise his mother and take her and Ms. Hallett to dinner that night.
Kemper prepared for Ms. Hallett’s murder by distributing weapons around the apartment but in the end, none of them would be necessary. Soon after the phone call, Ms. Hallett arrived: “I came up behind her and crooked my arm around her neck, like this,” Kemper said, bending his powerful arm in front of himself at chin level. “I squeezed and just lifted her off the floor. She just hung there and, for a moment, I didn’t realize she was dead … I had broken her neck and her head was just wobbling around with the bones of her neck disconnected in the skin sack of her neck.”
Later that night, Kemper attempted to have intercourse with Ms. Hallett’s body.
He fled the next day in her car.
Kemper said he had to kill a friend of his mother’s “as an excuse.” In other words, Kemper said he had to provide a reasonable story for friends of his mother’s to explain her absence. If she were away on a trip with a friend, Kemper reasoned, nobody would be concerned about her absence.
At his 2017 parole hearing, Kemper gave an alternate explanation as to why he murdered Sally Hallett. He said it was revenge for ruining his mother’s holiday. The two women were supposed to go to Europe together for four weeks, but Hallett backed out at the last minute. Clarnell went on the trip by herself. At some point, during the hearing, Kemper referred to Hallett as his mother’s “lover”, but: “When [my mother] got back, she tried sharing those vacation moments with Sally, and Sally got very loud with her and rude, and told her ‘I don’t want to hear about that. I didn’t even go on that vacation, why are you bringing this up?’ So, she – that cut off that release. So, here I am at the house having heard this from my mother and she’s frustrated and I said ‘I’d like to know, I’d like you to share with me.’ So, she went and got all of her travel logs and the papers and stuff from the places that she went and she started systematically sharing this stuff with me, and then all of a sudden, she stops and she looks at me in this strange way, and she said, ‘I’m not gonna let you pity me.’ And she just walked away from the whole thing. And I said, ‘Hey, I wanted to hear this stuff…’
“I had told myself that if my mother ever dies over this stuff that I did, [Hallett]’s going with her. That’s one trip she’s not gonna miss. She’s not gonna back off on that one… I swore an oath to it. I was angry at the time… I haven’t sworn many oaths in my life and everyone that I have sworn I followed through with.”
Sources: “The Co-ed Killer” by Margaret Cheney, 1976 / “Gruesome Details on Tape at Trial”, Santa Cruz Sentinel, October 25th, 1973 / “Coed Sex Murders Detailed by Chang”, Register-Pajaronian, by Marj von Beroldingen, October 23rd, 1973 / Front Page Detective Magazine, by Marj von Beroldingen, March 1974 / Ed Kemper’s 2017 Parole hearing
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