Documenting the Co-Ed Killer case

Category: Mindhunter (Page 1 of 2)

Interview with David Jouvent

**French translation of the interview follows**

David Jouvent is the illustrator of the graphic novel Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer (Under a serial killer’s skin), published in French in September 2020. We asked him a few questions about the creation of this unique work.

EKS: Why did you create an album about Ed Kemper? Where did you get the idea? What was your inspiration?

DJ: The idea originally came from Jean-Luc Istin who, in 2009, had created a collection on serial killers for Soleil. He came across my work while viewing the book of my colorist Axel Gonzalbo. As he was looking for someone to draw a one-shot on Kemper… and as I had set up a project with Thomas Mosdi… things happened very naturally. To put it in context, at the time, Big Ed was totally unknown to the general public. Only a handful of insiders knew about him and there were very few articles on the net and even less pictures!! This obviously changed dramatically with the success of the Mindhunter series. My references in terms of serial killers came from Thomas Harris’ work, Psycho (by Hitchcock) and Chris Carter’s Millenium series (which I liked very much) with Lance Henriksen where there was a lot of talk about serial killers in season 1.

David Jouvent at work

EKS: How was the collaboration between Thomas, Axel and you during the creation of the album?

DJ: First of all, we exchanged a lot of documentation of all kinds… I wanted to make sure that the places and atmospheres of the times fit together perfectly. For me, it is essential to be credible in my visuals, so that the reader has no doubt when he sees a telephone or inadequate vegetation (the vegetation in California is not the same as in Alaska!) As an anecdote, I had pushed the vice to the point of reproducing in detail the broken headlight of his car or the exact plate number! (laughs) Without forgetting the sticker of the university where his mother, Clarnell, worked…

EKS: You made some narrative choices for the script, such as excluding the trial and the murders of his grandfather, Rosalind Thorpe, Alice Liu and Sara Hallett (they are mentioned, but not shown). How did you decide what was to be shown or not shown?

DJ: The important thing (and the concept) was to speak from Ed’s point of view, how he saw things, so there was no room for the representation of the victims! If only out of respect for their families. Exit all that is gore, we were not there to make vulgar sensationalism. Just to put ourselves in this man’s skin for a moment, and try to catch a glimpse of his motivations and feelings. If this can give some kind of explanation to his (incomprehensible) actions, because we all ask ourselves this question: “how can one reach such extremes?”.

EKS: The structure of the narrative is in flashbacks with as a starting point the moment when Kemper is delirious in prison following an injection of medication that makes him revisit the events of his past. This allows you to tell the story from Kemper’s point of view and walk through his narrative. How did you come to structure the story in this way?

DJ: Indeed, this anecdote was blessed bread!! It’s more of a question to ask my screenwriter (laughs)!

EKS: For the drawings and colors, what were your aesthetic inspirations?

DJ: The idea was to give an atmosphere reminiscent of California and the 1970’s… warm colors, in a dominant sepia.

EKS: Are you working on a new project right now? If so, can you tell us a few words about it?

DJ: I have a fantasy western project based on Native American legends… but, the context is not very favorable at the moment… more to follow.

EKS: Thanks David!

**Version française de l’entrevue avec David Jouvent**

David Jouvent est le dessinateur de la bande dessinée Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer, parue en français en septembre 2020. Nous lui avons posé quelques questions au sujet de la création de cette œuvre unique. 

EKS : Pourquoi avoir créé un album sur Ed Kemper? D’où t’es venue l’idée? Quelle a été ton inspiration?

DJ : L’idée provient au départ de Jean-Luc Istin qui, en 2009, avait créé une collection sur les tueurs en série chez Soleil. Il était tombé sur mon travail en visionnant le book de mon coloriste Axel Gonzalbo. Comme il cherchait quelqu’un pour dessiner un one-shot sur Kemper… et que j’avais monté un projet avec Thomas Mosdi… les choses se sont faites très naturellement. Pour remettre dans le contexte, à l’époque, Big Ed était totalement inconnu du grand public. Seule une poignée d’initiés connaissait et l’on trouvait très peu d’articles sur le net et encore moins de photos !!! Cela a évidemment fortement changé avec le succès de la série Mindhunter. Mes références en termes de tueurs en série étaient issues de l’œuvre de Thomas Harris, Psychose (de Hitchcock) et la série Millenium (que j’affectionnais beaucoup) de Chris Carter avec Lance Henriksen où il était énormément question de tueurs en série dans la saison 1 !

EKS : Comment s’est déroulée la collaboration entre Thomas, Axel et toi pendant la création de l’album?

DJ : Nous nous sommes d’abord beaucoup échangés de la documentation de toutes sortes… je tenais à ce que les lieux et ambiances des époques collent parfaitement. Pour moi, il est essentiel d’être crédible dans mes visuels, que le lecteur n’ait pas de doute en voyant un téléphone ou une végétation inadéquate (la végétation de la Californie n’étant pas la même qu’en Alaska !) Pour anecdote, j’avais poussé le vice jusqu’à reproduire dans le détail le phare cassé de sa voiture ou le numéro de plaque exact ! (rires) Sans oublier l’autocollant de l’université où travaillait sa mère, Clarnell…

EKS : Vous avez fait certains choix narratifs pour le scénario, comme par exemple, vous avez exclus le procès ainsi que les meurtres de son grand-père, Rosalind Thorpe, Alice Liu et Sara Hallett (ils sont mentionnés, mais pas montrés). Comment avez-vous choisi ce qui allait être montré ou non?

DJ : L’important (et le concept) était de parler du point de vue d’Ed, c’est sa vision des choses, donc, la représentation des victimes n’y avait pas sa place ! Ne serait-ce que par respect pour leurs familles. Exit tout ce qui est gore, nous n’étions pas là pour faire du sensationnalisme vulgaire. Juste se mettre dans la peau de cet homme un moment, et tâcher d’entrevoir ses motivations et ressentis. Si cela peut donner une forme d’explication à ses actes (incompréhensibles), car on se pose tous cette question : “comment peut-on arriver à de telles extrêmes ?”

EKS : La structure du récit est en flashbacks avec comme point de départ, le moment où Kemper délire en prison suite à une injection de médicaments qui le fait revisiter les événements de son passé. Cela vous permet de raconter l’histoire du point de vue de Kemper et de vous promener dans son récit. Comment en êtes-vous venus à structurer le récit ainsi?

DJ : Effectivement, cette anecdote était du pain béni !!! C’est plus une question à poser à mon scénariste (rires) !

EKS : Pour les dessins et les couleurs, quelles ont été vos inspirations esthétiques?

DJ : L’idée était de donner une ambiance qui rappelle la Californie et les années 1970… des couleurs chaudes, dans une dominante sépia.

EKS : Travailles-tu sur un nouveau projet de BD en ce moment? Si oui, peux-tu nous en dire quelques mots?

DJ : J’ai un projet de western fantastique basé sur des légendes amérindiennes… mais, le contexte n’est pas très propice en ce moment… à suivre.

EKS : Merci David!

Sources: All photos were taken from the following Facebook pages: David Jouvent’s personal page and Ed Kemper Chronicles / English title is our translation.

Mindhunter: Holt McCallany reached out to Ed Kemper

Perhaps it won’t surprise you to learn that Holt McCallany, the brawny, silver-haired actor who plays special agent Bill Tench [based on FBI Agent Robert Ressler] in David Fincher’s Mindhunter, is mildly obsessed with serial killers. To prepare for the true-crime Netflix series’s second season, McCallany tried to reach out to the real Ed Kemper, a six-foot-nine killer who murdered 10 people—including his mother and grandparents. (He’s played in the show by Cameron Britton.) But Kemper never responded. So McCallany went to the California Medical Facility, where Kemper is housed. “When I got there, what I discovered is that Kemper has kind of given up on life,” the actor said. “He’s confined to a wheelchair. Do you know what I mean? He doesn’t really take visitors. He doesn’t bathe himself anymore. It’s very sad.”

Source: Vanity Fair, Mindhunter Season 2: Holt McCallany Really Tried to Talk to Son of Sam, August 16, 2019

“I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that I liked Ed.”

John Douglas (left) and Ed Kemper (right)

FBI criminal profiler John Douglas talks about his first meeting with Ed Kemper in his book Mindhunter:

“The first thing that struck me when they brought him in was how huge this guy was. I’d known that he was tall and had been considered a social outcast in school and in the neighborhood because of his size, but up close, he was enormous. He could easily have broken any of us in two. He had longish dark hair and a full mustache, and wore an open work shirt and white T-shirt that prominently displayed a massive gut.

It was also apparent before long that Kemper was a bright guy. Prison records listed his IQ as 145, and at times during the many hours we spent with him, Bob [Robert Ressler] and I worried he was a lot brighter than we were. He’d had a long time to sit and think about his life and crimes, and once he understood that we had carefully researched his files and would know if he was bullshitting us, he opened up and talked about himself for hours.

His attitude was neither cocky and arrogant nor remorseful and contrite. Rather, he was cool and soft-spoken, analytical and somewhat removed. In fact, as the interview went on, it was often difficult to break in and ask a question. The only times he got weepy was in recalling his treatment at the hands of his mother. (…)

We ended up doing several lengthy interviews with Kemper over the years, each one informative, each one harrowing in its detail. Here was a man who had coldly butchered intelligent young women in the prime of their lives. Yet I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that I liked Ed. He was friendly, open, sensitive, and had a good sense of humor. As much as you can say such a thing in this setting, I enjoyed being around him. I don’t want him out walking the streets, and in his most lucid moments, neither does he. But my personal feelings about him then, which I still hold, do point up an important consideration for anyone dealing with repeat violent offenders. Many of these guys are quite charming, highly articulate, and glib. (…)

Quite clearly, some types of killers are much more likely to repeat their crimes than others. But for the violent, sexually based serial killers, I find myself agreeing with Dr. Park Dietz that “it’s hard to imagine any circumstance under which they should be released to the public again.” Ed Kemper, who’s a lot brighter and has a lot more in the way of personal insight than most of the other killers I’ve talked to, acknowledges candidly that he shouldn’t be let out.”

Source: Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit (1996) by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker / Photo: Getty Images

FBI Agent John Douglas

John Edward Douglas (born June 18, 1945) is a retired special agent and unit chief in the FBI. Douglas is a renowned expert on criminal and behavioral profiling, and is a prolific and best-selling author on the subject. Among his publications are Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit (1996) and The Cases that Haunt Us (2001). He continues to be in considerable international demand, both as a public speaker/lecturer and as an expert consultant to police departments, law enforcement agencies, and to prosecuting attorneys.

During his tenure with the FBI, Douglas earned a reputation as a widely known expert on criminal personality profiling. He has been touted as one of the pioneers of modern criminal investigative analysis, and is credited with conducting the first organized study in the United States regarding the methods and motivations of violent serial criminals. As part of that research project, he interviewed such notorious killers as James Earl Ray, Richard Speck, John Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy, Ed Gein, David Berkowitz, Edmund Kemper, Sirhan Sirhan, and Charles Manson.  

John Douglas describes the world of the criminal profiler as arduous, filled with lengthy periods of reading and studying case files, investigator’s notes, autopsy and crime scene reports, examining crime scene photographs, pouring over eyewitness statements, police reports, and, if possible, victim’s statements. When the perpetrator’s identity is unknown, these forensic scientists seek patterns in the evidence that suggest the offender’s behavior and character style. They use their composite information to develop a profile of the unknown subject (UNSUB) that may be used to narrow the search for possible suspects.

Over time, the Investigative Support Unit became known as “The Mind Hunters,” with John Douglas being the chief Mind Hunter. This elite FBI Unit was involved in some of the most notorious and high-profile serial and sadistic murder investigations in American history: the San Francisco Trailside Killer, the Atlanta Child Murderer, Robert Hansen (who hunted and killed prostitutes on his property in Alaska), the Tylenol Poisoner, and the Green River Killer. John Douglas has been described as a profiler who is adept at understanding the way criminals think, getting inside their minds, understanding the workings of both the predator and his prey (the vast majority of serial and sadistic killers are male). Douglas uses this information, along with examination of the crime scene, to create a profile of the perpetrator, and to attempt to predict his future behavior. Upon the criminal’s apprehension, Douglas’ profile could be used to aid in structuring the processes of interrogation and prosecution. John Douglas is both a pioneer and a legendary figure in the forensic science world of  criminal profiling.

Douglas has been the inspiration for several fictional characters in film and television series, such as:

Jack Crawford, a major character in the Thomas Harris novels Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal, Douglas claims was based on himself. (Robert Ressler, Douglas’ mentor at the FBI disputes this in his book Whoever Fights Monsters: “Some people still in the BSU have also taken to claiming that they were the models for the FBI characters in the book and movie The Silence of the Lambs, though Harris has stated that the characters are entirely his own and not based on any particular individuals.”) Harris himself has never definitively stated who Crawford is based on. In all likelihood, Crawford is at least an amalgamation of Ressler and Douglas, if not others.

In January 2015, creators of the TV show Criminal Minds confirmed that the characters of FBI profilers Jason Gideon and David Rossi were based on Douglas.

A screenplay adapted from the book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit was picked up by Netflix. Mindhunter stars Jonathan Groff, who plays the character Special Agent Holden Ford, a lead character based on Douglas.

Source: Wikipedia / World of Forensic Science COPYRIGHT 2005 Thomson Gale

A gift from the FBI to Ed Kemper

A unique piece: This is the book written by John Douglas, Robert Ressler, Ann Burgess and Allan Burgess, following the interviews they conducted with 36 serial killers, including Ed Kemper, in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s an encyclopedia that classifies the elements of crime, and the many different criminal profiles. This is the copy of the book that Douglas gave Kemper as a gift when it was published, and Kemper gave it to one of his friends in 1995. It is signed by both Douglas and Kemper.

This book is part of my collection of true crime collectibles. 

FBI Agent Robert K. Ressler

Robert Kenneth Ressler (February 21, 1937 – May 5, 2013) was an FBI agent and author. He played a significant role in the psychological profiling of violent offenders in the 1970s and is often credited with coining the term “serial killer.” After retiring from the FBI, he authored a number of books on serial murders, and often gave lectures on criminology.

Robert Kenneth Ressler was a criminologist in private practice and the Director of Forensic Behavioral Services International, a Virginia based consulting company. Mr. Ressler was an expert in the area of violent criminal offenders, particularly in the area of serial and sexual homicide. He was a specialist in the area of criminology, behavioral analysis, crime scene analysis, homicide, sexual assaults, threat assessment, workplace violence, and hostage negotiation.

He was a twenty year veteran of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, serving sixteen years in the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit as a Supervisory Special Agent and Criminologist, retiring in 1990. He innovated many of the programs which led to the formulation of the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. Mr. Ressler became the first Program Manager of the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (VICAP) in 1985.

Robert Ressler (standing, right) with serial killer John Wayne Gacy

In addition to having been an Instructor of Criminology while at the FBI Academy, his academic affiliations included Adjunct Faculty at the University of Virginia, Research Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, Adjunct Assistant Professor at Michigan State University’s School of Criminal Justice and he was a Clinical Assistant Professor in Psychiatry in Georgetown University’s Program on Psychiatry and Law. He was a visiting instructor with the Department of Forensic Pathology at Dundee University, Dundee, Scotland.

He was awarded the 1991 Amicus Award by the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, the 1995 Special Section Awarded the Section of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and two Jefferson Awards in 1986 and 1988, by the University of Virginia. Mr. Ressler was a member of The International and American Academies of Forensic Sciences, The Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, The International Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Homicide Investigators Association, the Vidocq Society and other professional organizations.

Ressler (left) with serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer

He originated and directed the FBI’s first research program of violent criminal offenders, interviewing and collecting data on 36 serial and sexual killers resulting in two text books, Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives(1988) now in its 3rd edition and the Crime Classification Manual (1992) which was published in its 3rd edition in 2013. He also coauthored his autobiography, Whoever Fights Monsters (1992), Justice is Served (1994), and I Have Lived In The Monster (1997). Mr. Ressler’s books and real life experiences have been the inspiration for many books authored by Mary Higgins Clark and other authors and the films, Red DragonSilence of the Lambs, Copycat, and The X Files.

He has lectured at and been a consultant to law enforcement agencies, universities, writers, television networks, and corporations in the U.S. and abroad. He appeared on many major television and radio networks and has been featured in numerous printed media articles in major newspapers and magazines, worldwide.

Mr. Ressler served ten years with the U.S. Army and was active duty during the Vietnam era. He served in the military police and as an investigator with the Army Criminal Investigation Division Command Headquarters in Washington D.C. He retired at the rank of Colonel with 35 years of distinguished service.

Sources: Wikipedia / FBS International: http://fbsinternational.com/in-memoriam/

“If I went apeshit in here, you’d be in a lot of trouble, wouldn’t you?”

Left to right: Robert K. Ressler, Ed Kemper and John Douglas

Supervisory Special Agent and Criminologist Robert K. Ressler, from the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, famously told the story of his third meeting with Ed Kemper:

Twice before, I had ventured in the Vacaville prison in California to see and talk with him, the first time accompanied by John Conway, the second time by Conway and by my Quantico associate John Douglas, whom I was breaking in. During those sessions, we had gone quite deeply into his past, his motivations for murder, and the fantasies that were intertwined with those crimes. (…) I was so pleased at the rapport I had reached with Kemper that I was emboldened to attempt a third session with him alone. It took place in a cell just off death row, the sort of place used for giving a last benediction to a man about to die in the gas chamber. (…)

After conversing with Kemper in this claustrophobic locked cell for four hours, dealing with matters that entail behavior at the extreme edge of depravity, I felt that we had reached the end of what there was to discuss, and I pushed the buzzer to summon the guard to come and let me out of the cell. No guard immediately appeared, so I continued on with the conversation. (…)

After another few minutes had passed, I pressed the buzzer a second time, but still got no response. Fifteen minutes after my first call, I made a third buzz, yet no guard came.

Robert K. Ressler

A look of apprehension must have come over my face despite my attempts to keep calm and cool, and Kemper, keenly sensitive to other people’s psyches, picked up on this.

“Relax, they’re changing the shift, feeding the guys in the secure area.” He smiled and got up from his chair, making more apparent his huge size. “Might be fifteen, twenty minutes before they come and get you,” he said to me. (…)

Though I felt I maintained a cool and collected posture, I’m sure I reacted to this information with somewhat more overt indications of panic, and Kemper responded to these.

“If I went apeshit in here, you’d be in a lot of trouble, wouldn’t you? I could screw your head off and place it on the table to greet the guard.”

Ed Kemper during the FBI interviews

My mind raced. I envisioned him reaching for me with his large arms, pinning me to a wall in a stranglehold, and then jerking my head around until my neck was broken. It wouldn’t take long, and the size difference between us would almost certainly ensure that I wouldn’t be able to fight him off very long before succumbing. He was correct: He could kill me before I or anyone else could stop him. So, I told Kemper that if he messed with me, he’d be in deep trouble himself.

“What could they do– cut off my TV privileges?” he scoffed.

I retorted that he would certainly end up “in the hole” – solitary confinement – for an extremely long period of time.

Both he and I knew that many inmates put in the hole are forced by such isolation into at least temporary insanity.

Ed shrugged this off by telling me that he was an old hand at being in prisons, that he could withstand the pain of solitary and that it wouldn’t last forever. Eventually, he would be returned to a more normal confinement status, and his “trouble” would pale before the prestige he would have gained among the other prisoners by “offing” an FBI agent.

My pulse did the hundred-yard dash as I tried to think of something to say or do to prevent Kemper from killing me. I was fairly sure that he wouldn’t do it but I couldn’t be completely certain, for this was an extremely violent and dangerous man with, as he implied, very little left to lose. How had I been dumb enough to come in here alone?

Suddenly, I knew how I had embroiled myself in such a situation. Of all people who should have known better, I had succumbed to what students of hostage-taking events know as “Stockholm syndrome”- I had identified with my captor and transferred my trust to him. Although I had been the chief instructor in hostage negotiation techniques for the FBI, I had forgotten this essential fact! Next time, I wouldn’t be so arrogant about the rapport I believed I had achieved with a murderer. Next time.

“Ed,” I said, “surely you don’t think I’d come in here without some method of defending myself, do you?”

“Don’t shit me, Ressler. They wouldn’t let you up here with any weapons on you.”

Kemper’s observation, of course, was quite true, because inside a prison, visitors are not allowed to carry weapons, lest these be seized by inmates and used to threaten the guards or otherwise aid an escape. I nevertheless indicated that FBI agents were accorded special privileges that ordinary guards, police, or other people who entered a prison did not share.

What’ve you got then?”

“I’m not going to give away what I might have or where I might have it on me.”

“Come on, come on; what is it – a poison pen?”

“Maybe, but those aren’t the only weapons one could have.”

“Martial arts, then,” Kemper mused. “Karate? Got your black belt? Think you can take me?” 

With this, I felt the tide had shifted a bit, if not turned. There was a hint of kidding in his voice – I hoped. But I wasn’t sure, and he understood that I wasn’t sure, and he decided that he’d continue to try and rattle me. By this time, however, I had regained some composure, and thought back to my hostage negotiation techniques, the most fundamental of which is to keep talking and talking and talking, because stalling always seems to defuse the situation. We discussed martial arts, which many inmates studied as a way to defend themselves in the very tough place that is prison, until, at last, a guard appeared and unlocked the cell door. (…)

As Kemper got ready to walk off down the hall with the guard, he put his hand on my shoulder.

“You know I was just kidding, don’t you?”

“Sure,” I said, and let out a deep breath.

I resolved never to put myself or any other FBI interviewer in a similar position again. From then on, it became our policy never to interview a convicted killer or rapist or child molester alone; we’d do that in pairs.

Source: Whoever Fights Monsters – My twenty years tracking serial killers for the FBI, by Robert K. Ressler and Tom Shachtman, 1992

“Mindhunter” memorabilia

With Season 2 of “Mindhunter” coming out on August 16, here are some props from Season 1, related to Ed Kemper’s character.

These items were obtained through a Netflix prop liquidation sale held at the studios where “Mindhunter” Seasons 1 & 2 were filmed in Warrendale, Pennsylvania. All items were sold “As is, Where is” and no certificates of authenticity were provided.

These items are part of my collection of true crime-related collectibles.

A custom-built hospital room set piece as seen in Season 1, Episode 10, when Holden pays Ed Kemper a visit after his suicide attempt.

A lot of four greetings cards sent to FBI agents Holden and Tench by serial killer Ed Kemper in Season 1, episode 10. He sent them various cards after their visit with him. Each card has a message from Kemper, most likely written by someone from the props department.

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