Kemper spent five years at Atascadero after he murdered his grandparents in 1964 at the age of 15. He recalled with pride the job he’d held there as head of the psychological testing lab at the age of 19 and working directly under the hospital’s chief psychologist. He said:
“I felt I definitely could have done a lot of good there, helping people return to the streets … I could have fit in there quicker than anybody else…
“After all,” he explained, “I grew up there. That used to be like my home.
“Basically, I was born there, you know. I have a lot of fond memories of the place … And I don’t know anybody else who has,” he added with a rueful laugh.
It was there that he became a member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce. During his trial, he wore his membership pin in his lapel, apparently with pride.
Because of his intelligence and ability, he apparently was a valuable aide in psychological testing and research. “I helped to develop some new tests and some new scales on MMPI… You’ve probably heard of it … the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory,” he said with a chuckle. “I helped to develop a new scale on that, the ‘Overt Hostility Scale’… How’s that for a…” He groped for a word.
“Ironic?” I suggested.
“Ironic note,” he agreed. “There we go, it was an ironic note that I helped to develop that scale and then look what happened to me when I got back out on the streets.”
Source: Excerpt from an interview by reporter Marj von Beroldingen for Front Page Detective Magazine, March 1974 / Photo: 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
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
“We got back to Santa Cruz, and we took him in to book him, and as we pull into the Sheriff’s Office, there must have been a hundred to two hundred members of the press waiting there. Keep in mind that I’m supposed to stay out of the press. So, we get around and go in the back and take him upstairs and book him.”
“Jesse Valdez was the booking officer. It gets to the point and Jesse said, “So who do you want to notify in case of emergency? Ed looked at me. He said, “Can I put you down because I don’t have anybody left?”
investigator Michael aluffi, in 2019-2020
Source: Murder Capital of the World by Emerson Murray, 2021
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…”
Edmund Sr. and Maude’s ranch in North Fork at the time of the murders
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.
From David Jouvent and Thomas Mosdi’s Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer, 2020
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.”
From David Jouvent and Thomas Mosdi’s Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer, 2020
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.
Edmund Sr.’s truck on the day of the murders
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
Ed Kemper in a side room at the courthouse during his trial in 1973
[During his time at Atascadero from 1964 to 1969, Kemper,] the ever popular study subject with an always friendly, totally unthreatening countenance, had consciously or subconsciously convinced his array of doctors that he was “healed” and, clearly, no longer a threat to society. Much of that belief was based on the collective egos of his doctors, nurses, and other dedicated staff members, who desperately wanted to believe in their life’s work, to believe that people, especially juveniles like Ed Kemper, could in fact be cured, rehabilitated, and go on to live happy, productive, violence-free lives. They needed that gold star on their resumes, the reassurance that all their work and study had not been wasted. [Kemper] had astutely psycho-analyzed his own doctors, sensing their overwhelming need to heal, feel self-empowered, and pigeonhole him in the box of their prior schooling. They played right into his hands.
Showing his true feelings toward his shrinks, [Kemper] once colorfully described them as charlatans who “…put on their feathers, put on their paint, they get their rattles, they hop around and go into the witch doctor routine. That I resent.”
April 1973 – Ray Belgard from the District Attorney’s office with the arsenal Kemper left Santa Cruz with, after killing his mother and her best friend. Kemper surrendered and was arrested in Pueblo, Colorado, where he could have done a lot of damage with these weapons.
Source: Murder Capital of the World, by Emerson Murray, 2021, https://www.emersonmurray.com/murder-capital-of-the-world / Photo: Pete Amos
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