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)
This is the registration card confirming that Ed Kemper’s father, Edmund Emil Kemper Jr. (II), was discharged from the army after World War II in 1945.
Edmund Kemper II 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.
Edmund Kemper grew up like almost any other red-blooded American boy, which is to say, in a home where the parents quarrelled a great deal, separated, reunited, eventually were divorced, and where the mother wound up both caring for the children and working at a full-time job. He grew up worshipping Hollywood actor John Wayne, whose image intertwined and blurred in his mind with memories of the beloved father who had abandoned him.
Raised by a terrible mother, who didn’t hesitate to lock him in the cellar when he was a child, Edmund Kemper became very shy and isolated himself more and more. He dreamed of revenge, he thought of morbid games in which death and mutilation played an essential part. Aware of his inadequacy, he admired his absent father and actor John Wayne.
“John Wayne was very much like my father,” said Edmund Kemper, both physically and in his behavior. My father was a big guy who spoke loudly. Like John Wayne, he had very small feet. When I first went to Los Angeles, I immediately went to put my feet in the footprints of John Wayne, who are immortalized in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater. I was proud to see that my feet were bigger than his.”
Sources: The Co-Ed Killer, Margaret Cheney / Serial killers : Enquête mondiale sur les tueurs en série, Stéphane Bourgoin / Thanks to Catrin Elen Williams for the John Wayne pictures on Facebook
Did Ed Kemper’s father ever forgive him for killing his parents in 1964?
According to Kemper himself, his father forgave him during their 1971 reunion. In June 1971, Ed Kemper tries to get in touch with his father whom he has not seen since his imprisonment at Atascadero. He manages to find his address and telephone number through the electricians’ union directory in Los Angeles. His father refuses to receive him at home because he remembers his second wife’s reactions and migraines when his son came to live with them. He agrees to meet him at a restaurant where they spend several hours together drinking, chatting and pretending to argue over who will pay for the alcohol tab. Finally, Ed Jr pays the bill. “I knew he never had bread, but we took the opportunity to solve all our problems, about the grandparents, and he told me he had forgiven me.” This would be their last meeting.
But, according to David Weber, Ed Kemper’s half-brother through their father, said in an interview published in the Fall of 2017 in the Daily Mail UK, that his father was at a loss as to what to do with his unruly son until [his parents] offered to take him in and straighten him out. “It was a fatal mistake. My father never forgave himself for that and only on his deathbed forgave Guy [Ed Kemper’s nickname in his family] for what he did. Susan [Kemper’s older sister] arranged a phone call between Guy, my dad, and a minister while my dad was dying in the hospital,” Weber said. Kemper’s father died on January 19, 1985.
Source: L’Ogre de Santa Cruz (Stéphane Bourgoin) / Daily Mail UK
During the period when Kemper had been transported to and from the San Mateo County Jail for trial, he had become acquainted with a slightly built Santa Cruz County sheriff’s deputy named Bruce Colomy, a man not much older than himself. Colomy had been kind to the gigantic defendant. Although no one would ever have confused the deputy with John Wayne, he nevertheless represented another father figure to Kemper. “He’s more like a father to me than anyone I have ever known,” he said. “He’s like the father I wish I had had.”
While imprisoned at Atascadero in the late 1960s, Kemper became a member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees). During his trial, he wore his membership pin in his lapel, apparently with pride.
[Before being taken to state prison after his sentencing], slowly, Kemper removed the precious Junior Chamber of Commerce pin from the lapel of his buckskin jacket. Colomy described this episode, a scene that would have wrenched the heart of any B-grade movie fan. “Ed looked at it for a long time and tears came to his eyes. Then he handed it to me and said, ‘Here, I want you to have it.’”
From: Why: The Serial Killer In America by Margaret Cheney (1992, update of The Co-Ed Killer, 1976) / Pin is not the actual pin that belonged to Ed Kemper, but it is from the same time period.