WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
Early in September 1972, Ed Kemper’s urges start up again, the effect of his previous victims’ photos having faded. He gets back into hunt mode. On September 14, he is driving along University Avenue in Berkeley when he sees this eastern girl hitchhiking near a bus stop. Aiko Koo is just fifteen years old and she is heading to a dance class in San Francisco. She seems older than her fifteen years and is anxiously waiting for a bus that is not coming; she is afraid of being late for her class. For her, dancing is something very serious, a vocation. Her Lithuanian mother, who lives modestly, deprives herself in order to pay for lessons for her daughter, who has already performed professionally, both in classical ballet and in traditional Korean styles. Aiko never knew her Korean father who abandoned them before she was born. Her mother works at the University of California Library.
Aiko is not used to hitchhiking and she doesn’t hesitate for a second to board the Ford Galaxie and sit in the front seat, next to the imposing driver. As for Mary Anne Pesce and Anita Luchessa, Kemper takes advantage of the complicated system of highway interchanges to disorient his passenger, before heading south along the coastal highway. When she realizes Kemper’s maneuvers, Aiko starts to scream and beg. He takes out a new model of firearm, a .357 Magnum, which he borrowed again from a friend, and presses the barrel in the teenager’s ribs. Kemper, who is left-handed, drives with this hand and uses the other to threaten Aiko with his weapon. He tries to calm her by swearing that he doesn’t want to harm her; in fact, he explains, he wants to kill himself and he’s just looking for someone to talk to. He leaves the highway for small mountain roads that he knows very well and drives on Bonny Doon Road, near Santa Cruz. He somehow manages to convince her to be tied and gagged.
“I just want a quiet place where we can tie you up and then we’ll go to my place,” he says. He turns off on Smith Grade Road, going slowly until he finds a turnoff where he can get away behind a tree, sheltered from the road and any traffic. He shuts off the lights and then the engine. He shoves the gun back under the front seat.
“There’s a roll of medical tape in my glove compartment. Hand it to me,” he says. She complies, handing him the small cardboard box. His hands shake as he tries to find the end of the roll.
“Now who’s nervous?” she says, laughing. He tears off a big chunk and holds it up. “My mouth’s not that big,” she says, so he tears off part of it and throws it aside before placing a patch over her mouth. “Move your jaws. See if you can loosen it,” he says, noting that it did not come unstuck. He presses the tape again to make certain.
“Hop in the back seat,” he instructs. She flips her leg up and rolls over the back of the seat and sits awaiting his next command. He pulls the rest of the tape off his fingers and gets out of the car and walks around to the passenger side. The door is locked.
He remembers the gun still under the front seat. She has him locked out and that gun within easy reach. He is dead. He begins frantically fishing in his pocket for his keys. Damn. Where are they?
The girl peers out at him through the window, shakes her head knowingly and reaches up and unlocks the door for him. He smiles weakly and flips the seat back forward and sits on it a moment.
She starts to resist when Kemper throws himself on her with all his weight, covering her mouth and nose with his hand. Aiko struggles with the energy of desperation, she even manages to grab his testicles, but he is too strong. He ends up strangling her before releasing his grip. To his surprise, Aiko is not dead and continues to fight. This time, he makes sure that she loses consciousness completely. Kemper takes her out of the car to rape her: “It didn’t take more than fifteen or twenty seconds before I had an orgasm.” He strangles her again with a scarf. The body is wrapped in a sheet and then stored in the trunk. Further down on Bonny Doon Road, he spots a small bar where he stops to drink two or three beers. Before entering the bar, he opens the trunk to examine Aiko Koo. He does it again after leaving the bar: “Both to check that she was really dead and also to savor my triumph, to admire my work and her beauty, a little like a fisherman happy with his catch.”
“First, I try to suffocate Aiko Koo by pinching her nostrils, but she struggles violently. I think I’ve managed to do it when she regains consciousness and realizes what’s going on. She panics. Finally, I strangle her with her neck warmer. After the murder, I’m exhausted, I’m hot and very thirsty. I stop at a bar to drink a few beers, while the body is still in the trunk of my car. I almost got caught by neighbors when I carried the corpse to my apartment. Dismembering the body required a meticulous job with a knife and an ax. It took me about four hours of work. Slicing limbs, getting rid of the blood, completely washing the bathtub and the bathroom.”
“I kill her on a Thursday night. The next morning, I call in sick at work. I dismember her body. On Friday night, I get rid of the corpse, keeping the head and hands, which are easily identifiable. Saturday morning, I leave home taking them with me. I’m looking for a safe place to bury them. It’s not easy to get rid of these things.” (This statement is crucial. Kemper doesn’t even realize what he just said. “It’s not easy to get rid of these things.” He talks about human beings by depersonalizing them. For him, and for the vast majority of serial killers, the victim is only an object. He has no remorse. Killing, maiming, cutting up a woman is a “normal” thing for Kemper.) Many times, I came close to getting caught burying bodies, and if a corpse is discovered, the witnesses can remember a car parked nearby. Saturday morning, I visit my psychiatrist in Fresno, and in the afternoon, I see the other one. Saturday night, I’m with my fiancee and her family in Turlock, and Sunday night I return home.”
After leaving the bar where he quenched his thirst, Kemper visited his mother at her home in Aptos to test himself and to enjoy the feeling of power he felt: “I talked to her for half an hour of things and stuff, just to pass the time, and to tell her what I had done in San Francisco. I wanted to see if she suspected anything by my facial expressions, involuntary gestures or words that would have escaped me. She suspected nothing and didn’t ask me any questions.” When he left, Kemper looked for the third time at Aiko Koo’s body in the trunk of the Ford Galaxy. “It was around 9:30 pm and I knew she was dead. I just wanted to touch her body to see which parts were still warm, and also just out of curiosity.”
It is 11 pm when he arrives at his apartment in Alameda. He drops Aiko’s body on his bed and searches her bag to get an idea of the life to which he has just put an end. He is disturbed by the fact that Aiko Koo doesn’t belong to this caste of “rich and haughty” California girls, which he claims to be attacking. To make sure of this, some time later, he drives past her modest family home. His disappointment is mitigated when he learns with surprise that Aiko Koo belongs to a family that has ancestry in the nobility. A little later in the night, he dissects her corpse. As Kemper says in his statements, he later goes to two Fresno psychiatrists to try to have his criminal record cleared, if he succeeds in passing the tests. Along the way, he throws pieces of Aiko Koo’s corpse into the mountains of Santa Cruz and, a little further away, her hands disappear into the wild. But he keeps her head in the trunk of his car. It’s still there when he shows up to his appointments with the two psychiatrists. The very idea excites him a lot, to the point that he opens the trunk to look at her head just before his appointments.
“The media made a big case about the stories of chopped heads in the trunk of my car. This happened to me only once, and even if I wanted to, it wasn’t possible. You know why? It was almost forty degrees in the valley, a real furnace and my car is not air-conditioned. I won’t ride with a severed head that will stink. As soon as I park, all the dogs and cats from the neighborhood will come to sniff my trunk. That day I took it with me because the owner of my apartment is always looking for trouble. So, when I leave for two or three days to stay at my mother’s or a friend’s house, what can I do? I can’t help but think she’s going to show up at my place to see if I don’t have any hash hiding somewhere. She’s going to open the fridge to see what’s in this paper bag, and come face to face with this severed head! (Kemper laughs.) But she’s not going to think of poking behind this large armchair in one of the corners of the living room, where I hide it for two days. Of course, I would have preferred to store it in the fridge to avoid bad smells. The kraft paper bag is hermetically sealed. Nobody found anything. Sunday night, it (the head) is already ripe. That same evening, my former probation officer comes to pay me a visit and the head is just behind him. (He hesitates a long time before speaking.) I did eat part of my third victim. I had cut pieces of flesh that I put in the freezer. Twenty-four hours after having dissected it, I cooked the flesh in a pan of macaroni with onions and cheese, like a carrion. A vulture or a bear. You know black blood? It’s non-oxygenated blood, we see it for a moment before it comes into contact with the air. After, the blood turns red. When in the body, the blood is black like tar. I ate a piece of leg that I had soaked in black blood for almost a day. And why did I do that? Having hunted animals in Montana, I was just pursuing an experiment in cannibalism. When you were a child, I’m sure you asked yourself this question: how would I react on a desert island, with three other people and without any food? If one of us is sick? All these come from stories of the Second World War. I had heard about it from former Marines. And then, in a way, I own my victim once again by eating her.”
Sources: L’Ogre de Santa Cruz by Stéphane Bourgoin, 1998, and Sacrifice Unto Me by Don West, 1974 / Thanks to MIEP for the photo of Aiko Koo
Rest in peace, Aiko