Documenting the Co-Ed Killer case

Category: Edmund Emil Kemper I

Clarnell Strandberg’s husbands

Edmund Emil Kemper Jr (Ed Kemper’s father)

“You know, wooing and dating, you’re one thing, but after you’re married you let it all hang out. She was just too powerful. She would drive them (the men in her life) away, attack them verbally, attack their manhood.”

Ed Kemper about his mother

Ed Kemper’s mother, Clarnell Strandberg née Stage, according to her son, apparently was a real man-hater. Whatever the truth may have been on that front, she was persevering and married three times. She told the social workers that she kept trying to find a suitable husband “because the boy needed a father”-a motivation that they cynically tended to discount.

1. Edmund Emil Kemper Jr

Her first husband was Kemper’s father, Edmund Kemper Jr. It was also his first marriage. Edmund Emil Kemper Jr was born to Edmund Emil Kemper Sr and Maude Matilda Hughey Kemper in Los Angeles, California, on April 27, 1919. 

Edmund Jr enlisted in the Army on June 21, 1939. He served in World War II during his enlistment. After the war, he tested atomic bombs in the Pacific Proving Grounds before returning to California, where he found work as an electrician. He married Clarnell Elizabeth Stage on November 26, 1942 in Great Falls, Montana. His wife constantly complained about his “menial” job as an electrician. Edmund Jr later stated that “suicide missions in wartime and the later atomic bomb testings were nothing compared to living with [Clarnell]” and that she affected him “as a grown man more than three hundred and ninety-six days and nights of fighting on the front did.” He said, “I became confused and was not certain of anything for quite a time.”

Edmund Jr and Clarnell had three children, Susan, Edmund III, and Allyn. Due to constant fighting, the couple separated in 1957 and Clarnell took the children back to Montana and continued to raise them there as a single parent. She found a job as a secretary at the First National Bank. Kemper, who had a close relationship with his father, was devastated by the separation. In 1962, when Kemper turned 14, he ran away from home to reunite with his father, who was living in Van Nuys, California at the time. Upon arriving at his father’s house. Kemper discovered that his father had remarried and now had a step-son. Edmund Jr allowed his son to stay until he planned for him to live in North Fork, California with his parents, Edmund Sr and Maude Kemper, whom Kemper would eventually murder in 1964. 

Kemper was the second of three children of Edmund Jr, a six-foot-eight-inch electrician and his six-foot wife Clarnell. Both parents were heavily built and loud spoken. In good times, there were rowdiness and joking around the dinner table, and these were the moments that Kemper later cherished. 

Susan, the oldest child, was six years of age when Kemper was born. The parents called him Guy. And when Guy was two and one-half years of age, and huge for a toddler-bright, curious, and into everything-his sister Allyn was born. 

The wrangling and shouting between the two parents found a new focus in the way in which Kemper was being reared. When he was four, his father went away for two years, taking a job in an atomic bomb testing program in the Pacific. “The war never ceased,” Clarnell said bitterly. “Upon his [the father’s] return he tried college under the G.I. Bill, couldn’t get back into studying, argued like a staff sergeant with the instructors, dropped out, and worked rapidly into the electrical business.”

They argued over money and over the father’s lack of attention to the children. Clarnell Kemper claimed that her husband was “stern to the girls and overprotective to Ed,” saying, “He never spanked the children and they never had any respect for him. All he ever gave Kemper was his medals and war stories.”

When Kemper was nine years of age, his father again left home. By this time, it was charged that Clarnell had developed a drinking habit. 

In 1958, when the father briefly returned to the family, he claimed he found that Clarnell was mistreating Kemper, having made him sleep in the basement for about eight months. “He was terrified of this place. There was only one way out. Someone had to move the kitchen table and lift the trapdoor. I put a stop to it and threatened her with the law.”

He also said that when Kemper was eight or nine years of age, the mother forced him to sell newspapers on the street, and that on one occasion the father went out looking for his son after the mother told the boy not to return until he had sold all his newspapers. 

The way Kemper remembered those years, “Very early, my natural parents were always loud and arguing, which terrified me emotionally of anything very loud and very pushy. As I was growing up, I shied away from loud noises and arguments.”

“My mother was very strong and she wanted a man who was strong. My father was very big and very loud, but he was very weak and she wanted the opposite.”

Clarnell and Edmund Jr divorced on September 28, 1961 in Montana, on legal grounds of mental cruelty. 

Two months later, Edmund Jr remarried, this time to Elfriede Weber, a German immigrant with a son two years older than Kemper. For the latter, this apparent usurpation of his father’s affections by an older and, no doubt in Kemper’s mind, worthier son must have come as the ultimate rejection.

Edmund Jr and Elfriede Weber remained married until his death in Los Angeles on January 19, 1985. He was buried at sea.

2. Norman Vincent Turnquist

On February 17, 1962, Clarnell married for the second time, with Norman Turnquist, in Helena, Montana. It was his third marriage. Born on March 18, 1917 in Horte, Missoula, Montana, Turnquist was in the US Marine Corps until he was wounded. He was discharged on August 8, 1945. After his military service, he worked for the city of Wallace in Montana. When he met Clarnell, he was working as a plumber. Kemper was 13 when they married. 

Norman Turnquist, Kemper’s first stepfather, helped him for a time to overcome his death fantasies, taking him on fishing expeditions and teaching him to hunt. Yet even so, there was a day at Hauser Dam near their home when the boy picked up an iron bar and stood behind Turnquist for quite a long time. His plan, after bashing him over the head, was to steal his car and drive to Southern California for a reunion with his natural father. In these years, he thought continually of being allowed to live once more with his father, and made several attempts to do so. But he could not bring himself to lower the cudgel on his stepfather’s head. Usually, it was fear of reprisal by an older male that deterred him in such circumstances. All his life he would be a fearful giant who vastly preferred to strike weaker victims of the female gender. 

When his father left and remarried, Kemper has fantasies of protecting his mother. But a year later, she had married Turnquist.

“I found out,” Kemper recalled, “that she didn’t need any protection at all. She used always to tell me how much I reminded her of my father, whom she dearly hated, of course.”

Clarnell and Turnquist divorced in Montana on June 20, 1963, just over a year after they married, on legal grounds of extreme cruelty. 

Norman Turnquist died a few years later at the age of 48 of cardiac arrest, on August 18, 1965. At the time, his was working as a meat cutter for a meat packing company. 

3. Harold Magnus Strandberg

Less than a year after her divorce from Turnquist, Clarnell wed Harold Magnus Strandberg on May 17, 1964. It was his first marriage, it was her third. They were both 43 years old. They were married in Wallace in Shoshone County in the State of Idaho. When he met Clarnell, Strandberg was working as a plumber.

Not much is known about Mr. Strandberg. He was born on December 8, 1921, in Helena Montana. He was drafted in the US Army some time in 1942 during the WWII conscription. He was working at the Helena Related Trade School at the time.  

Clarnell and Strandberg married just a few months before Kemper murdered his paternal grandparents at their farm in August 1964 in North Fork, California. Kemper had been living with them since Christmas 1963. It is unclear if Kemper and Strandberg ever met or spoke. Kemper never mentioned Strandberg in any interview. 

Clarnell and Strandberg divorced some time before 1969, the year he remarried, to Nona Laurence Buckland. Clarnell kept his surname as her own even after the divorce. 

Strandberg died in an accident on August 8, 1986 in Montana. He was operating his small outboard motor boat on Holter Lake when a high wind capsized his boat. He did not have a life vest on. He suffered from hypothermia and drowned.

Source: The Co-ed Killer by Margaret Cheney, 1976 / Ancestry  

1988 – Ed Kemper parole hearing

Convicted killer Edmund Kemper, left, testifies at his parole hearing on June 15, 1988. With him is his attorney, Richard Shore.

Vacaville – A parole date was denied on June 15, 1988 for serial killer Edmund Kemper, even though a prison psychiatric evaluation termed Kemper suitable for release.

Kemper, 40, is serving a life sentence at the California Medical Facility for murdering eight women, including his mother, in 1972-73. The law at the time provided for the possibility of parole on life sentences.

A three-member panel from the Board of Prison Terms rejected the psychiatric evaluation by Dr. Jack Fleming. Board member David Brown said Kemper poses an unreasonable risk to society.

Brown told Kemper his crimes “shock the public conscience.”

During an almost three-hour hearing, Kemper told the panel he did not practice cannibalism or perform sex acts on his victims when they were dead or dying. He said he made those confessions to police when he was tired and confused.

He did acknowledge that he beheaded seven of his victims, including his mother, Clarnell Strandberg, because of a childhood fascination with decapitation. And, he put his mother’s head on a mantle and threw darts at it.

Kemper buried the head of one of his young victims in the backyard of the house he shared with his mother in Seacliff. He pointed the face toward his bedroom, according to testimony at his trial in 1973.

He appeared surprised during the hearing by a letter written by a cousin, Patricia Kemper, urging the panel deny Kemper a parole date. Kemper said he had not known of such a letter.

In the letter, the woman said that as a child, Kemper mutilated the family cat. And, she said she watched him one day wait for hours with a rifle over a squirrel’s hole to blow its head off when it peeked out. He went on to kill his grandparents and then the seven women and his mother, she wrote.

She said Kemper was and still is a deeply disturbed person who will kill again if he’s ever released.

District Attorney Art Danner said he was shocked, but not surprised by the latest psychiatric evaluation of Kemper. Danner said Fleming’s report “flies in the face of everything known about Kemper.”

Danner told the parole board Kemper’s greatest danger is that he may some day con his way back out on the street.

He pointed out that Kemper had led psychiatrists and psychologists to believe he was no threat after a five-year commitment for killing his grandparents.

Even Kemper testified that he was shocked in the 1970s when two doctors would rule him sane and no danger to society, even after he had begun killing again.

He explained that he was sent to be interviewed by two doctors in Merced County in 1972 when he was seeking to have his conviction for killing his grandparents sealed from public view.

After meeting with the first psychiatrist, Kemper said, he went out and got drunk. “He thought I was Mr. Wonderful or something,” Kemper said. He knew after the first interview that he would be judged sane.

He said he went to the second interview, later in the day, “blasted off my tail on beer,” but the doctor didn’t notice.

The two psychiatrists wrote that Kemper posed no danger to himself or others.

Kemper hadn’t told them he had already begun killing again, just two days before and had driven to his interviews with a woman’s head in the trunk of the car.

He told the parole board he picked up more than 1,000 hitchhikers during his year-long murder spree. He did not say why he selected the victims he did, other than say the selection was random.

He said he only murdered the women hitchhikers because the women in his life, especially his mother, had caused his only grief.

Kemper talked at length about his mother and drunken fights he said they had after his release from custody after killing his grandparents.

Kemper said he returned from the California Youth Authority at age 20 with great hope for the future. He said his mother fought him every step of the way. “She was 6 feet tall and 220 pounds at the time of her death,” Kemper said, adding, “she was not intimidated by anybody.”

Kemper said he can’t simply explain why he murdered his mother to spare her from finding out that he was responsible for all the co-ed killings in Santa Cruz.

“There was love and there was hate,” Kemper said of his relationship with his mother.

“I didn’t want to put her through what I created,” he said. And even though he said she helped create what he was, “she was a victim and not a perpetrator.”

Kemper fled Santa Cruz County after killing his mother. He said he drove for four days, listening to the radio for news that police had a break in the case.

He said he had three guns and a knife in the car. “When I heard on the news there was a break in the case it would mean in a few hours I’d be dead,” Kemper explained.

He said he planned to stop the car as soon as he heard the bulletin. “I was going to get my weapons and go to high ground and attack authorities when they came for me,” Kemper said.

He said he believed at the time that he would have to be killed or he would keep on killing.

As it turns out, a showdown never happened. The bodies of his mother and her friend had not been found, and a panicked Kemper finally telephoned Santa Cruz police from Pueblo, Colorado, and confessed. Police there arrested him at a telephone booth.

Kemper’s last appearance before the parole board was in 1982. At the time, he had lost weight and looked noticeably different that at the time of his trial.

Now, he appeared to look more like the 6-foot-9, 280-pound giant of a man Santa Cruz residents remember.

In 1985, Kemper waived his right for a hearing, saying he was unsuitable for release. He did not say that this time, but did concede he does not expect to be released from prison anytime soon.

His next parole consideration will be in 1991.

Source: “Kemper parole denied – Psychiatrist says killer suitable for release”, by Mark Bergstrom, Santa Cruz Sentinel, June 16, 1988

Ed Kemper’s Christmas in 1963

On Thanksgiving Day (the fourth Thursday in November) 1963, as Ed was not yet fifteen, he borrowed his mother’s car, without her permission, drove it to Butte, Montana. From there, he got on a bus and returned to Los Angeles and Dad. The father should understand, he felt, that it was his duty to support his natural son rather than his stepson. To Edmund’s joy, his father agreed to let him live with him. There followed a brief happy period which, in itself, was such a novelty that it scarcely surprised him when it came to a sudden ending.

During the Christmas holidays, Kemper Sr. took his son to visit his parents, who owned an isolated farm at North Fork, a small town in the foothills of the magnificent Sierra Mountain range. But the pastoral beauties of the place were lost on the teenage boy. For him, the farm came to seem like a prison or an old folks’ home and he felt bitterly betrayed when his father announced to him for the second time in less than three months that he was not going to return to Los Angeles at the end of the Christmas holidays.

Clarnell had spoken to her ex-husband on the phone to tell him about the Siamese cat episode (Kemper had killed the family cat and hid it in his closet). She warned him:

This Guy (Ed Kemper’s family nickname) is a really funny bird. And you’re taking a risk by leaving him with your parents. You may be surprised to wake up one morning to learn that they have been killed.

Eight months later, in August 1964, Ed Kemper would shoot both his grandparents to death.

When we examine Ed Kemper’s existence, it is interesting to note how crucial the holiday periods were: Thanksgiving & Christmas 1963, and Easter 1973. For someone like him, who felt rejected by his loved ones and by society, these moments of celebration could be extremely difficult and stressful times.

Sources: L’Ogre de Santa Cruz (Stéphane Bourgoin, 1998) / The Coed Killer (Margaret Cheney, 1976) / 1973 Ed Kemper mugshot