Documenting the Co-Ed Killer case

Category: Criminal Mind (Page 1 of 3)

“I just wanted to see what it felt like to shoot Grandma.”

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

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

Kemper on Kemper book – Expanded

We published a post on December 30 about this book, but we learned recently that an expanded version was just released. And what has been added to the book is quite awesome. Indeed, Kemper’s 1973 confessions after his arrest in Pueblo, Colorado, are now included in the book. Quite a riveting read for any Kemper researcher!

This book was already fun since it collects all of Kemper’s most important interviews. Now, it’s even more complete! Available to buy on Amazon.

Kemper’s mother’s car

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.

You can join the Facebook group here.

Sources: Picture of car and confession transcript excerpt courtesy of Emerson Murray and the Santa Cruz Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office

Kemper on Kemper book

Got this for Christmas! I wasn’t aware of this book before receiving it as a gift. Independently published in 2020 by author Peter Scott Jr., it presents Kemper’s story through newspapers articles, interviews and personal encounters. It includes written transcripts of some of Kemper’s most famous video interviews, such as the ones for the documentary “Murder – No Apparent Motive” (1984), the FBI Academy (1989) and Stéphane Bourgoin’s “Serial Killers” (1991). Also included is the full transcript of Kemper’s 2017 parole hearing.

This book is nothing new for seasoned Kemper researchers, but it is fun to have a book that collects all of Kemper’s most important interviews. This book is also a good starting point for anyone interested in knowing more about Kemper.

Author Peter Scott Jr. has published a similar book about Charles Manson, Manson on Manson, also released in 2020. Both books are available on Amazon.

“I was trying to hurt society where it hurt the worst”

“It was all coeds and it would only be if they were a possible candidate for death, which would mean they were young, reasonably good-looking, not necessarily well-to-do, but say a better class of people than the scroungy, messy, dirty, smelly hippie-type girls I wasn’t at all interested in. I suppose they would have been more convenient, but that wasn’t my purpose.”

“My little social statement was I was trying to hurt society where it hurt the worst and that was by taking its valuable members or future members of the working society, that was the upper class or the upper middle class…”

“I was striking out at what was hurting me the worst, which was the area, I guess deep down, I wanted to fit into the most and I had never fit into and that was the group, the in-group.”

edmund kemper about picking up coeds as his urges to kill came not only from a strong sexual instinct but also a desire to strike back at society, according to his taped statements, played for jurors in his mass murder trial.

Source: “Kemper wanted to hurt society by taking its ‘valuable members'”, Register-Pajaronian, by Marj von B, October 26, 1973

“Of course, the personality is gone.”

Santa Cruz was plagued at that time with a series of bizarre unsolved murders, and warnings had been issued to students not to accept rides from strangers. But Ed Kemper’s mother had given him a university sticker for his car so that he could easily enter the campus to pick her up from work. This sticker gave women a sense of security when he offered them a ride. On February 5, 1973, he shot two more women [Rosalind Thorpe and Alice Liu] and brought them back to his mother’s house. He cut off one woman’s head in the trunk of his car, and when his mother went to bed he carried the headless corpse to his room and slept with it in his bed. Kemper explained, “The head trip fantasies were a bit like a trophy. You know, the head is where everything is at, the brain, eyes, mouth. That’s the person. I remember being told as a kid, you cut off the head and the body dies. The body is nothing after the head is cut off . . . Well, that’s not quite true. With a girl, there is a lot left in the girl’s body without the head. Of course, the personality is gone.”

Source: Excerpt from “Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters” by Peter Vronsky

“And that night I killed her. Not so much to celebrate, but I had been eagerly awaiting that gun.”

***Warning: graphic content***

“Cynthia Schall was the next one.” Kemper went on, “That happened the night I bought a .22 Ruger automatic pistol with a six inch barrel. And that night I killed her. Not so much to celebrate, but I had been eagerly awaiting that gun.” He said he bought the gun at Valley Sport shop in Watsonville.” He picked up Miss Schall on Mission Street, “in that vicinity. I had been up cruising around the campus and I’d picked up three different girls, two of them together, that were possibilities, but I canceled those out because there were too many people standing around that possibly knew them when they got in. But all the other conditions were perfect. It had been drizzling, it had been raining real hard and people were getting any ride they could get and windows were fogging up… But I had given up on those other two and I was kind of uptight about it and driving down the street I spotted her standing out there with her thumb out.”

The young woman with her thumb out was Cynthia Schall. After driving her to the Watsonville area, he forced her to get in the trunk. Later near Corralitos, he shot her. He took her to his mother’s house in Aptos and dumped her in the closet. He dismembered her in the bathtub the next morning, after having sexual intercourse with her.

After having murdered and disposed of Cynthia Schall’s body, Ed took a trip to visit a friend in Oakland. He stopped off at a laundromat near his old apartment in Alameda, where he placed Cynthia’s blue socks, checkered wool shirt, brocaded blouse, and nylon jacket in a dryer and placed it on the highest setting, putting in four dimes worth. He turned the machine on, expecting that the continued high heat would burn the clothing beyond recognition. The next day, he went by the laundromat, checked the dryer and found it empty. He has succeeded again.

Sources: “Gruesome Details on Tape at Trial”, Santa Cruz Sentinel, October 25th, 1973 / “Sacrifice Unto Me”, by Don West / Photo: Getty Images Bettmann

Author focuses on mass murderer

Margaret Cheney has written books about the environment, a scientist, the University of California – and mass murderer Edmund Kemper.

“I was more or less interested in seeing whether I could do it,” said Cheney, who wrote the book about the Santa Cruz County killer in 1976 and has just published an updated version titled, “Why: The Serial Killer in America.”

The original book was called “The Coed Killer”, because six of Kemper’s victims were young women he picked up on college campuses in 1972 and 1973. Most of his victims were students at UC-Santa Cruz.

Cheney said she decided to publish the new version after she was contacted by criminologist Harry Miller, who was trying to find a copy of the original book, then out of print.

Cheney, of Hollister, conducted new interviews with psychologists and criminologist for the new book about Kemper’s gruesome murders.

The book questions the early diagnosis of Kemper, who killed his grandparents when he was 15, in 1964. He was sent to a mental hospital and later to the California Youth Authority.

Despite the recommendations of doctors that Kemper not be paroled to his mother, the Youth Authority did just that. Kemper’s final victims were his mother and her friend in April 1973 at the mother’s Seacliff apartment. He turned himself in several days later and admitted everything.

“If Kemper had been diagnosed as a classic sadist, perhaps we wouldn’t have had these murders,” because Kemper would have been kept locked up longer, Cheney said.

The book refers to a 1991 FBI study that traces certain confused behavior in childhood to violence in later life.

Cheney writes about an incident when Kemper was a small boy and told one of his sisters he wanted to kiss his teacher. When the sister asked him why he didn’t do it, Kemper replied, “I’d have to kill her first.”

That response should have been a tipoff that Kemper could turn violent later on, Cheney said. When telling authorities about the murders, Kemper said he felt he could “own” the women by killing them.

Another indicator of future violent behavior, Cheney said, was when the young Kemper killed a cat. Cheney recently joined the Latham Foundation, an Alameda-based group that believes childhood abuse of animals can lead to violence in later life.

“We’re trying to get social workers and veterinarians” to be aware of the ramifications of such cruelty, Cheney said.

Cheney was a consultant for a CBS-TV special, “Inside The Criminal Mind,” a portion of which is about Kemper. No broadcast date has been set.

“Why: The Serial Killer in America,” is published by R&E Publishers, of Saratoga.

Source: “Author focuses on mass murderer”, Register-Pajaronian, December 22, 1992, by Lane Wallace, staff writer; Photo by Kurt Ellison

“Oh, what is it like to have sex with a dead body?”

“You haven’t asked the questions I expected a reporter to ask,” Kemper said to reporter Marj von B.

“What do you mean,” she replied. “Give me some examples.” 

He drawled, “Oh, what is it like to have sex with a dead body? … What does it feel like to sit on your living room couch and look over and see two decapitated girls’ heads on the arm of the couch?” (He interjected an unsolicited answer: “The first time, it makes you sick to your stomach.”) 

Source: Interview with Ed Kemper by Marj von Beroldingen, published in March 1974 in Front Page Detective Magazine / Image ©Bay Area TV Archive

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