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
Here is a never-before-seen photo of 15-year-old Ed Kemper having a meal with his stepfather, Harold Strandberg, his mother’s third husband, in Helena, Montana, in August 1964. Shortly after, Kemper returned to his grandparents’ ranch in North Fork, and murdered them.
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…”
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.
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.”
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.
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
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
“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
– 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.
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.
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.
told Kemper his crimes “shock the public conscience.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
said Kemper was and still is a deeply disturbed person who will kill again if
he’s ever released.
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.”
told the parole board Kemper’s greatest danger is that he may some day con his
way back out on the street.
pointed out that Kemper had led psychiatrists and psychologists to believe he
was no threat after a five-year commitment for killing his grandparents.
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.
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.
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.
said he went to the second interview, later in the day, “blasted off my tail on
beer,” but the doctor didn’t notice.
two psychiatrists wrote that Kemper posed no danger to himself or others.
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.
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.
said he only murdered the women hitchhikers because the women in his life,
especially his mother, had caused his only grief.
talked at length about his mother and drunken fights he said they had after his
release from custody after killing his grandparents.
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.”
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.
was love and there was hate,” Kemper said of his relationship with his mother.
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.”
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.
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
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.
said he believed at the time that he would have to be killed or he would keep
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
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.
he appeared to look more like the 6-foot-9, 280-pound giant of a man Santa Cruz
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
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.
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.
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
– 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