In this excerpt from his May 1979 parole hearing, Ed Kemper discusses managing violence as well as his sexuality in prison.
INMATE KEMPER: “I don’t want to start a precedent at being a second-time released multiple murderer. I have absolutely no plans of ever hurting anybody again in my life.
To do that is to circumvent and call a failure and a lie everything positive I’ve done the last six years.
I told staff when I came here [at Vacaville], I will not hurt anybody again. I don’t want to hurt anybody again.
They told me I was unrealistic; they told me that was impossible because of my size. That would be one problem with inmates here. Another problem would be my crime. And between the two of them combined, it was impossible for me to stay out of violent encounters either as a victim or as an aggressor.
I have not hit anybody since I’ve been here. I may have been struck since I’ve come here, but there has not been a fight, and I’ve not been locked down because of being struck.
I don’t see that as a defeat of the projections of the CDC staff; I see that as them looking at things very stereotypedly.
If I had no control over my life whatsoever, or what some things I do have a chance of ghanging, then I could agree with them. But if I did agree with them back then, then I’d still be pushing a broom down in the hole — feeling lucky.
I’ve done some tremendously nice things since then for other people. I don’t live luxuriously in here. My cell is rather — I have it equipped for doing the things that I enjoy doing, but it is rather austere. There’s nothing ornate about it; there’s nothing really comfortable about it. And I don’t lounge around in the yard. I do not have a homosexual queen in this place — which isn’t a condemnation of people around here doing that. There is no sexual provision for me for the rest of my life as best I can tell.
The only alternate to that would be a family visiting-type thing — the trailer visits here — and the only eligibility I have for that would be for my sisters. And I don’t really see them as volunteering for that kind of behavior — you know, getting into the trailers and spending a night or two. And I can’t condemn them for that. So, I have to resolve the fact that I am going to be neuter for the rest of my life.”
Sources: May 1st, 1979 Ed Kemper parole hearing / Photo @Joey Tranchina
It was rumoured that Ed Kemper had spent some time at Folsom State Prison at the beginning of his incarceration, in 1973-1974. In this excerpt from his May 1979 parole hearing (the first one he accepted to attend since he had been imprisoned), Kemper sheds light on why he didn’t get to go to Folsom Prison and how it was decided by doctors that he would stay at the California Medical Facility (CMF) in Vacaville, where he has been living since November 1973.
INMATE KEMPER: When I came into CDC on November 9th, 1973, I was classified Category A, “emergency psychotic” and a high violence potential, maximum custody, without having seen anybody. There was no psychiatric evaluation at all.
I was taken immediately from Receiving after being processed. I was taken to psychiatric isolation in S Wing on the third floor. I stayed there for five weeks. During that time, I had a tremendous difficulty in dealing with the depressions I was feeling from being taken from a very high-profile situation in jail — the court, the press, the flashbulbs, the lawyers — to a total isolation where I didn’t talk to anybody unless I was being fed or medicated – and then very briefly. I had trouble accepting and getting along with that. I felt very suicidal at that time – because it was very hard on me. And I saw — I didn’t know what prison was like; I didn’t know that I didn’t have that going for the rest of my life. I didn’t want to live. And at that time, I was also on suicidal watch.
After – well, excuse me, not during the first the five-week period.
I left the — after the five-week period, the staff determined that I could be returned and ordered to the Reception Center for processing. I stayed there two weeks behind the screen in T Wing; it’s a secure housing. After two weeks of processing, it was determined by — on paper, — that I would either be placed in California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo or this mainline setting [CMF].
Dr. Alvin Groupe, capital G-r-u- — G-r-o-u-p-e, the Chief Psychiatrist for In-patient Services, which included Seguin Unit and S Wing, determined that he would take me back into the CMF Program under the Seguin Unit program, working toward the mainline.
When I returned to the Seguin Unit, I was put in a secure housing cell, six days later taken to screening, and I was recommended to be taken to Folsom — to the Adjustment Center in Folsom Prison, with an alternate of San Quentin Adjustment Center.
I had talked to no one, psychiatrically, counselling or otherwise during that six-day wait. I have a feeling that it would have been the same day if I had got there a day earlier.
I was returned to S-3, which is isolation. The day after that I was taken down to W Wing, “the hole”, the jail house to await transfer. During that wait, I attempted suicide.
It had been dismissed by several psychiatric staff as a show. I didn’t know what I was showing for, because I hadn’t been through the system before. I don’t know that they didn’t want me to go ahead and kill myself anyway — to save money.
I spent almost all of my canteen ducats buying a very small piece of metal —
PRESIDING MEMBER RUSHEN: Okay. You tried to commit suicide. Then what happened?
INMATE KEMPER: I tried to commit suicide with drugs and cut. I was returned to isolation, not the hospital. I was comatose for three days.
When I woke up, I was taken to the floor lieutenant’s desk, Lieutenant Steele’s court, the lieutenant’s court to stand a hearing on a CDC 115 for self-mutilation. And it’s the only rules violation report that’s ever been filed on me –
PRESIDING MEMBER RUSHEN: Recovered then. Now, is there anything else?
INMATE KEMPER: We passed over it; we didn’t really cover it.
The man found me guilty. I was kept there for five more weeks. At the end of that time, it was determined that the CFR, Sacramento did not want me leaving the California Medical Facility, and I was told by Dr. Groupe that I was going to go down to W-1 and live there. I was going to be there for a long, long time. And I was upset because I was going to be transferred [to Folsom].
I went to W-1. I sat down there for two months. The program administrator, Mr. Vineyard, who is now a representative on your Board – – he came down to me and we made a therapy contract, unofficially. He didn’t like me living down there where I lived in a cell for 23 hours a day, and exercised in a cage for one hour a day — as being my housing and treatment. And I promised him that I would not act up in a violent way; I would not get anybody up there in any trouble for taking a chance with me, because at that time nobody was willing to take a chance with me — at all. And I don’t blame them; there was no real grounds to do that — according to what was observable in the records in my past history.
Sources: May 1st, 1979 Ed Kemper parole hearing / Photo @Joey Tranchina
“Imperfect criminal justice systems execute the innocent along with the guilty — Kemper’s case does not fit that rubric. However, Kemper’s execution would have done nothing to change the unpardonable acts of his past, while it would have precluded every decent, useful and beautiful that he has done in prison. Considering the lives of his victims, Kemper’s execution could not fairly have been called an injustice, but considering the life he has led in prison, it would have been a mistake. However, it is Kemper’s remarkable art work that, ultimately, confirmed my faith in the futility of the death penalty.
Because of powerful forces beyond his control, Edmund Kemper is too high-risk to be on the street, but in 41 years of incarceration, he has been a model prison-citizen, an effective functionary and a very interesting artist, whose ceramic designs have amazed me and astonished my friends for almost 35 years. The cup Kemp mailed to me, almost 35 years ago, continues to delight me every day.
NOTE: Above is my photograph of an amazingly intricately-glazed, slip cast cup. It was made on the dock near my home in the South of France. Below it is my photograph of Ed Kemper making that cup, in his house in California State Correctional Facility — Vacaville.“
Photographer Joey Tranchina who visited ed kemper at the cmf in vacaville in the fall of 1979
Source: Excerpt from My Life Tumbled – Photographer Joey Tranchina’s Blog on Tumblr – July 12, 2014
The following article was published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, on May 2, 1979. Due to a decision by the state Parole Board, only one reporter from this area was allowed to be present at Edmund Kemper’s parole hearing Tuesday. That reporter was Marj Von B of the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian, who filed this report.
Kemper first became eligible for parole in 1979. He was denied parole that year, as well as at parole hearings in 1980, 1981, and 1982.
killer Ed Kemper, imprisoned in 1973 on eight first-degree murder counts, will
not be freed next year, a state prison parole board decided Tuesday. Kemper,
30, was found to be “unsuitable for release at this time,” but the
board’s decision did not seem to dismay him.
told the three-member board at the conclusion of a three-hour hearing at the
Vacaville State Medical Facility, “I’d have refused to be considered for
parole, but I didn’t want to be provocative.”
he had stated to the board he felt his release on parole was not “feasible,
legal or moral,” saying he had been sentenced to prison by Santa Cruz County
Superior Court Judge Harry F. Brauer “for the rest of your natural life.”
addition, Kemper said, “I don’t want to set a precedent of being a person
two-times released after multiple murders. I don’t want to ever hurt anybody
killed his grandmother and grandfather when he was 15, and was sent to
Atascadero State Mental Hospital and then to the California Youth Authority,
where he was paroled in 1970.
during the hearing, in which he was represented by a lawyer, Steve Bedient of
Sacramento, Kemper seemed bent on personally straightening out the state’s
recorded version of his crimes.
of the hearing procedure was the reading of a summary of his criminal history
into the record by the chairman, Ruth Rushen.
was a recitation of brutality, sexual depravity and violence, detailing the
killing of six young women, Kemper’s mother and one of her best friends.
to a confession made to police alter his surrender, Kemper said he had sexually
assaulted the coeds after killing them, and then had dismembered their bodies,
disposing of them in sites in Santa Cruz and other adjacent counties.
Mrs. Rushen read on, in a strange contrast, birds chirped in a tree outside the
windows of the second story prison conference room.
Santa Cruz District Attorney Art Danner was asked to add his comments for the
record, and he noted that the material related by Mrs. Rushen did not reflect
the fact that “parts” of one of the bodies of Kemper’s victims had
been cannibalized by the defendant.”
Danner said, did it reflect that Kemper had “mutilated” parts of his
mother’s body “by putting it into the garbage disposal.”
refuted the confession, saying that in telling the police the lurid details, “In
my unwise and immature judgment, I thought I was building a case supporting my psychiatric
plea (of not guilty by reason of insanity).”
disclaim any sexual misconduct during any of my crimes,” he said
emphatically. “I made those statements when it was understood that I was
to be the only witness at my trial.”
he added, “I am not a cannibal. That’s unsubstantiated and only claimed by
every hunter knows, I could get physically ill or die from eating an animal or
person in that state,” Kemper argued.
his account of the murders, Kemper said, he had been trying to “go to
Atascadero” instead of state prison. “I was trying to get myself
locked up for good.”
was trying to seal my fate, and the state in presenting its case botched it…
I have ample opportunity now to save myself in the courts.” Kemper said.
then he continued, “I’m not going to avail myself of them.”
also denied that he recently sought court permission to have psychosurgery to
help him get out of prison later. Kemper said, “I asked for multi-target
neurosurgery in the hope of gaining relief from any kind of homicidal
court denied his request.
if he was “still having urges to kill people,” Kemper said, “No.”
he explained, “I felt as if I had one foot in the coffin and one on a
He said he was afraid that “if some time I had a bad day and a prison officer or technician had a bad day and was provocative or insultive, I might smack his head up against the wall, and I would die in CDC (California Department of Corrections).”
referred to a state law which demands the death penalty for the murder of a
prison guard or official.
then he said mildly, “I am not known for a very short temper. I am a
in a sort of aside to himself, Kemper, who works as a clerk in a prison
psychotherapy ward, said, “I’ve had nine diagnoses in my time, I wonder how
many of them are valid?”
also appeared offended at a statement in a psychiatric report that he had shown
no remorse for all the killings.
feel very strongly about what I’ve done,” he said. “I do feel remorse
in what I’ve done.”
when pressed for a reason behind his killings, Kemper always seemed to return
to his relationship with his mother.
hate her — guts,” he said in a rare explosive moment during the hearing.
said he had turned to killing the six women because he was “feeling
persecuted and destroyed by my mother.”
it was his childhood hatred of his mother that led him to kill his
grandparents, too, he revealed.
he explained, “I’m not blaming my mother, I’m saying I hate my
the coed murders, Kemper said he was “sick of killing,” but murdered
his mother knowing that would “blow the whistle.”
said, “If she died they (the police) were going to get me, and if they got
me for her, they would get me for the others.”
denied he killed his mother’s friend to make persons think the two women were
away together for a weekend and give him time to flee before an investigation
of their disappearance.
Incongruously he said, “I killed her because she had hurt my mother very grievously.”
board members also talked with Kemper about his adjustment to prison life.
to prison reports he is “doing an outstanding job” as a therapy
clerk, has no disciplinary problems and “gets along with the staff and his
was asked by board member Craig Brown why he got along well in Vacaville and
other institutions “and in the community you become violent?”
when I am in a structured situation, I can get help when I need it,” Kemper
replied. But on the streets, I felt rather forgotten and sometimes I felt
loquacious Kemper later expounded on his life in prison saying, “I was
convinced when I came here, I would soon be dead.”
the last six months have been the best of my life. I’ve learned to live with
myself and with God. I believe I have an obligation to myself and the people
also spoke with pride of his work in recording books on tape for the blind and
the handicapped, which recently won him a public service award.
Danner warned the board not to be complacent about Kemper.
the kind of complacency he wants,” Danner said, “the kind that was seen at
Atascadero where he was released to kill again.”
district attorney said, “Mr. Kemper poses such an unreasonable risk and danger
to society, he is now unsuitable for release and probably will remain so for
the rest of his life.”
a 30-minute deliberation in private, the board called Kemper, the lawyers and
the press back into the room and announced its decision.
Rushen outlined the reasons for denying the parole.
she said, Kemper’s crimes “contained elements of such extraordinary violence
that it was incomprehensible to think that he should be released at this time.”
He had a previous record of violence, and although his juvenile record was
sealed, “he stated several times during the hearing that he had killed his
His violent and bizarre conduct after the crimes, which included mutilation and
defiling of the corpses of the victims, showed a total disregard for the
dignity and worth of a fellow human being… and this included the victims and
The psychology reports do not support suitability for release.
Rushen noted that the latest report on Kemper, dated in March of this year
diagnosed him as paranoid schizophrenic in a state of “good remission.” But she
added the report said that there was no way to predict the possibility of his
violence in the future if he is released.
greeted the decision with a smile and thanked the board.
to an initial outburst and his demand that the press and one reporter in
particular, be barred from the hearing, Kemper said, “I would like to apologize
for my untoward and abusive behavior, although it’s probably better than some
you’ve had in here,” he added with a chuckle.
with a wave of his hand, the six-foot, nine-inch inmate, known as “Big Ed,” ambled
down the long hall and was admitted into the locked area of the prison
“Ironically, I have a high IQ. I didn’t know that until I was locked up the first time for murder. I always thought I was little missin’ up here, a little short, because I was always called stupid, called slow.”
ed kemper (from his 1991 interview with Stéphane Bourgoin)
At Atascadero, California Youth Authority psychiatrists recorded that Kemper had an IQ of 136 when he first was imprisoned there in 1964 following the murder of his grandparents. Later on in his time at Atascadero, Kemper tested higher at an IQ of 145.
In an interview published in the Fall of 2017 in the Daily Mail UK, after the release of the Mindhunter series on Netflix, Ed Kemper’s half-brother, David Weber, had this to say about Kemper’s IQ: ”Susan [Kemper’s older sister] told me once that Guy’s IQ [Guy is Ed Kemper’s nickname in his family] is far higher than the reported 146, more like 180 plus. He faked his IQ tests so it would always come out showing he had an IQ in the upper 140s. He’s a demented super-genius of a sociopath. He is incapable of caring regardless of what he says or shows. He makes OJ Simpson look like a rank amateur at best.”
During his 2017 parole hearing, Kemper seems to take pride in the fact that he has a high IQ and that it somehow makes him better than other people, as in this excerpt where Presiding Commissioner Fritz and Kemper discuss this topic:
Presiding Commissioner (PC) Fritz: Do you think you’re better than other people?
Kemper: Well, some people, I am. I don’t know how…
PC Fritz: You do think you’re better than other people?
Kemper: No, there are some people that – I have a high IQ, they don’t.
PC Fritz: So?
Kemper: Uh, well, I’m saying.
PC Fritz: I mean, so what. Lot – Tons of people in this room have high IQs. That doesn’t make us better than anybody, right?
Kemper: Not in…
PC Fritz: Does it make you feel good about yourself to say oh I have a high IQ so I’m better than other people?
PC Fritz: Okay so then what do you mean by you are better than other people besides having a high IQ?
Kemper: Some people, some of my acquaintances, uh, speak in, uh, a fashion that, uh, tells me they’re happy with much simpler accomplishments moment to moment, day to day, and I might put a lot more energy into that; a lot more effort into that than to so simply speak up to something. In that sense.
PC Fritz: Okay, all right. So you can’t empathize or be happy with the accomplishments they have cause you think they’re simple accomplishments versus your accomplishments.
Wolf was a professor at San Francisco State University and a regular visitor of Kemper’s in the late 1970s. They befriended one another, and with Wolf’s backing, Kemper was planning on getting a PhD. But Wolf left to go to New York and couldn’t sponsor Kemper anymore. So the PhD never happened.
“…[Leonard] spoke about the psychological perversity of Kemper’s childhood, and about his life in virtual isolation — never as a way to attempt to excuse Kemper’s inexcusable acts rather as a way to attempt to understand them. This was bridging a chasm.”
“…After all, [Leonard] had spent hundreds of hours with Kemper. At this point Leonard knew Kemper, probably, better than anyone ever had, including the psychiatrist who told the parole board that Kemper represented “no threat to society” and could be safely released, after he had killed only two of his 10 eventual victims.”
Excerpts from photographer Joey Tranchina’s blog My life Tumbled – “A day with Ed Kemper” – Parts 1 & 2 – Fall 1979
Who is Leonard Wolf:
Leonard Wolf is a poet, author, teacher, and the father of writer Naomi Wolf. He is known for his authoritative annotated editions of classic gothic horror novels, including Dracula, Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and The Phantom of the Opera, and critical works on the topic.