Ed Kemper’s mother, Clarnell Elizabeth Stage, was born on March 17, 1921 in Winnett, Petroleum County in Montana. She attended Great Falls High School in Montana. These pictures are from her high school yearbook from 1938. She was 17 years old and aspiring to become a secretary. She was also part of the Young Authors’ Club.
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
“I said, ‘It’s not going to happen to anymore girls. It’s gotta stay between me and my mother.’ … I said, ‘She’s gotta die, and I’ve gotta die, or girls are gonna die.’ And that’s when I decided, ‘I’m going to murder my mother.’ … I knew a week before she died I was going to kill her.”
Kemper explained in a 1984 interview that, by April 1973, he wanted to end the life of the person who he believed fueled his violent, murderous rage — Kemper’s abusive, alcoholic mother, Clarnell Strandberg, after having murdered six female students from various colleges and universities scattered along the coast of Northern California.
Source: Documentary Murder: No Apparent Motive (1984)
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.
This photograph shows Ed Kemper’s mother’s car as he left it after killing her. He parked it on a different street in their neighbourhood so that people would think that she wasn’t home.
Kemper talks about it in his confessions in 1973 following his arrest: “So, I drank some beer I think that afternoon, Saturday, and was sitting around the house. I had some time during Saturday also, took the keys to my mother’s car and drove it out to an area not far from our home, but a street that I knew our family and friends wouldn’t be driving up. I parked my mother’s car there, locked it up, took the keys home and I think I left them there, I’m not sure, I may have taken them along.”
Thanks to author Emerson Murray for providing this information. He is currently writing a book on the Frazier-Mullin-Kemper crimes in Santa Cruz during the early 1970s, Murder Capital of the world, to be released in 2021.
Born on December 18, 1948, serial killer Edmund Kemper turns 72 years old today. He is still incarcerated at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, where he has been living since his conviction in 1973.
Edmund Emil Kemper III is the second of three children and the only son born to Edmund and Clarnell Kemper. Kemper bitterly recalls that his father was not around much when he was young and that his parents separated completely when he was 9, after which his mother moved the family from California to Montana. As a result of the move, Ed almost never saw his father. This greatly embittered him, and he blamed his mother entirely. As a child, Kemper was physically and socially awkward, always the largest boy in his class. He ultimately grew to 6 feet 9 inches and weighed 280 pounds. He was a loner who dwelled in the world of science-fiction and the occult for escape. His mother once wrote, “I was deeply worried during the years about the lack of a father relationship, and so I tried everything I could to compensate for that.” According to Ed, this meant she felt a need to punish and ridicule him in order to “make him a man.”
Source: Murder and Madness by Donald T. Lunde, 1976, San Francisco Book Company / Image taken from documentary The Killing of America by directors Leonard Schrader and Sheldon Renan (1981)
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