Documenting the Co-Ed Killer case

The murder of Clarnell Strandberg

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT INCLUDED BELOW

The following is from a taped interview between suspect Edmund Emil Kemper III and Investigator Michael Aluffi, held at the Santa Cruz Jail on April 28, 1973. 

Aluffi: This interview will be based around the incidents that occurred at your home last Saturday [April 21, 1973]. Is there anything that you want to tell me that led up to this incident?

Kemper: Not really.

Aluffi: Well, let’s start with the reason for it.

Kemper: That’s rather involved. The reason for it is these murders were coming to a head I felt, that I was going to be caught pretty soon for the killing of these girls, or I was going to blow up and do something very open and get myself caught, and so I did not want my mother… A long time ago I had thought about what I was going to do in the event of being caught for the crimes and the only choices I seen open is being that I could just accept it and go to jail and let my mother carry the load, and let the whole thing fall in her hands like happened last time with my grand-parents. Or, I could take her life. Well, I guess that leaves me two choices, I could either do it in the open with her knowing what was happening or I could do it when she didn’t know what was happening. Last Friday night, whatever date that was, I had decided it was the night before the killing, or the day before the killing really, I had been thinking about it for quite a while and I just started working myself up towards the act of killing her. I guess that answers the reason.

Aluffi: All right, you want to get into the actual crime?

Kemper: OK. I got home Friday night, or I got back to her home from Alameda, where I’d been working early Friday in the afternoon and I sat around the house and took care of a few business problems, you know, calling and  making a couple phone calls that were unrelated to the problem, and I called my mother at work and let her know I was in town and she told me that she was going out to a dinner, some faculty dinner or something, and she’d be home late. So, I sat around and drank some beer, watched television, stayed up as late as I could and I had wished to talk to her really, before anything had happened. It was my hopes that she would go on good terms and this was impossible because, well I guess it would be good terms because we hadn’t really argued or anything when we talked on the phone. I went to bed about midnight I guess and I woke up a couple hours later. Well, let me see, that doesn’t work out right. I think I went to bed around two and she still wasn’t home and I went to bed and went to sleep. I woke up a couple hours later, around four, and she had already come home, done whatever she does when she gets home late at night and had retired for the evening. This was after I had gone to bed around 2:00 AM Saturday morning. She was in bed, reading a book and I woke up about four o’clock in the morning, two hours after I went to sleep roughly. The lights were pretty much out in the house. I didn’t see any lights on. I hadn’t heard anything and I thought, gee, it’s four o’clock and she’s still not home. So, I got up and I walked out of my bedroom, noticed her small light was on and walked into her bedroom, just as she had taken off her glasses and turned the light off. Without her turning it back on, she commented that uh, I said oh, you’re home, and she says, you’re up, what are you doing up? I said well, I just wanted to see if you were home. I hadn’t heard anything. She said, oh I suppose you want to talk. This has happened several times before, when she’d come in late and I wanted to talk and we’d talk and then she’d go to sleep. She didn’t say it in an abusive manner, it was more or less just jive and I said no. She said well, we’ll talk in the morning. I said fine, good night. She left the light out and I walked out of the room and back to my bedroom, layed down and decided at that point, I was going to wait another hour or so, until she was asleep before it happened.

Kemper: I looked at my watch. It was about a quarter after four, something like that, and I layed there in bed thinking about it and it’s something hard to just up and do. It was the most insane of reasons for going and killing your mother. But I was pretty fixed on that issue because there were a lot of things involved. Someone just standing off on the side, watching something like that isn’t really going to see any kind of sense or rhyme or reason to anything. I had done some things and I felt that I had to carry the full weight of everything that happened. I certainly wanted for my mother a nice quiet, easy death like I guess everyone wants. The only way I saw this possible was for it to be in bed, while she was asleep. The next thing was to decide how to do it. The only possible answer to that I saw was to take a hammer and hit her with it, in her sleep, and then to cut her throat. So, I waited till about 5:15 AM, I went into the kitchen and got a hammer. We have a regular claw hammer at home, picked up my pocket knife, the same one I’d used to kill Mary Anne Pesce with, opened it up, and I carried that in my right hand and the hammer in my left, walked into the bedroom very quietly.

Kemper: She had been sound asleep. She moved around a little bit and I thought maybe she was waking up. I just waited and waited and she was just laying there. So, I approached her right side, to my right on the right side of the bed, on her side. I stood there for a couple of minutes and spent most of that day, and most of that week I suppose and most of that night, trying to get myself I guess you’d say hopped up to do something like that, thinking nothing but reasons to do it and the need to do it, trying to keep everything else out of my mind. I stood by her side for a couple of minutes I suppose and about 5:15 I struck and I hit her just above the temple on her right side of the head, the side that was up from the pillow. It was above and behind her temple on the right side of her head. I struck with a very hard blow and I believe I dropped the hammer, or I layed it down or something. Immediately after striking that blow, I looked for a reaction, and there really wasn’t one, blood started running down her face from the wound, and she was still breathing, I could hear the breathing and I heard blood running into her, I guess it was her windpipe. It was obvious I had done severe damage to her, because in other cases where I had shot people in the head, I heard the same, or it had the same effect, blood running into the breathing passages, and this all happened in a few moments.

Kemper: But after I struck, I moved her over in the bed on her back and with my right hand holding her chin up, I slashed her throat. She bled profusely all over and I guess it was an afterthought, I hadn’t really thought of it, but her being my mother, and me out doing those other things, and I knew right off if I had torn everything out in the open, and my plan which I didn’t mention earlier, had been to just, well everything’s getting to an end and I could either kill her and turn myself in or I could kill her and head out with everything I had, my arsenal. This was my choice at that time. So, I decided at that time, it’s a hell of a cliché to use, but I guess what was good for my victims was good for my mother. So, after I slashed her throat, I went ahead and slashed the rest of the way around her neck and took off her head, and I guess half as much of that was to make absolutely sure in my own mind that she was dead instantly and right then, so the whole attack took maybe, less than half a minute, possibly even as little as 20 seconds…

Sources: Ed Kemper’s official jailhouse confessions in April 1973 / Images from David Jouvent’s graphic novel Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer, 2020

4 Comments

  1. Daphne Rogozinski

    I have read many interviews and a few books about Kemper but this particular interview stands out to me. I know his mom was said to have a messed up personality and was not nice to him but as a woman looking at this, I think his mom was trying to get away from him. It seems she was trying to stay out until she knew he was asleep. He said this happened many times. Imagine this, an early twenties male waiting to talk with his mother in the wee hours of the morning after she comes home from parties. He should have been out with peers. I think this jumped out at me because I went through something similar with my son and I also tried the avoidance technique to get him to bond with other people. My son also waited for me to come home from get togethers to talk. He is fine now and is in the military but I know how stressful a demanding child can be. We see how in interviews Kemper loves to talk. He had to be overwhelming to deal with in real life. I am not making excuses for her, she should not have mistreated him but he admitted he acted out most of his life. Despite all this, she still allows him to live with her. Despite killing his paternal grandparents, she still takes him back. So for this, he kills her. I guess I feel the need to stand up for her because people are always saying his mother made him a killer. I totally disagree. He was heard to fight with her but also told neighbors that those fights meant nothing and that’s how they get everything out in the open. She also gave him a nice birthstone ring and mended his clothes ( at 23)…..and he paints her as this cold hearted b$&@h. I just don’t buy it. I really think he killed her because he did not want her to find out he was killing and raping co-Ed’s. Notice he killed her not long after the police came to confiscate that gun. If he truly wanted to kill her due to her “abuse”, I think he would have done it years before.I think in his paranoid mind, he thought an arrest was right around the corner and he didn’t want his mom to find out. I also think he turned himself in because he ran out of money and obviously couldn’t call or depend on his mom to bail him out of the situation. Just my two cents.☺️

    • Edmund Kemper Stories

      Thank you for your message and for sharing your experience. I totally agree with you about Kemper. His mother has been somewhat demonized by the Kemper community, but I think life is more complicated than good vs evil. There’s a book coming out soon (Murder Capital of the World) and it includes quotes from Clarnell taken from interviews she did with the people at Atascadero in the 1960s and they really bring another perspective to her relationship with Kemper. I will let you discover it! The book should be out in May.

  2. Ibraheem Farraj

    Rest in Peace Harold Cartwright you were a great man with a very good warm heart I hope I can meet you in heaven.

    • Edmund Kemper Stories

      🙏🏻

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