After he was arrested in 1973 for the murder of eight women, Ed Kemper was asked by police to provide a handwriting sample by copying the note he left at his mother’s and her friend Sally Hallett’s murder scene. The document is signed by Kemper, detective Terry Medina and inspector with the Santa Cruz County District Attorney’s Office, Richard F. Verbrugge.
Source: Murder Capital of the World by Emerson Murray, 2021
As Ed Kemper celebrates his 73rd birthday today (he was born on December 18, 1948), we revisit his 1973 trial for the murder of six coeds, his mother and her best friend, during his cross examination by District Attorney Peter Chang, where Kemper reflected on his psychiatric diagnosis:
Peter Chang: How would you diagnose yourself, Mr. Kemper?
Ed Kemper: I believe very dearly and honestly there are two people inside of me and at times one of them takes over.
Peter Chang: You disagree with the court-appointed psychiatrist who diagnosed you as a sex maniac?
Ed Kemper: I don’t believe I am.
Peter Chang: Why do you tend to blame others for what you have done?
Ed Kemper: I feel there are others involved. I don’t believe I was born to be this way.
Peter Chang: Do you think society thinks what you’ve done is grossly evil?
Ed Kemper: Right now, yes.
Peter Chang: Horrendous?
Ed Kemper: Yes, but there are times those things don’t even enter my mind.
Source photo and text: Murder Capital of the World by Emerson Murray, 2021 / Photo by Pete Amos
“We got back to Santa Cruz, and we took him in to book him, and as we pull into the Sheriff’s Office, there must have been a hundred to two hundred members of the press waiting there. Keep in mind that I’m supposed to stay out of the press. So, we get around and go in the back and take him upstairs and book him.”
“Jesse Valdez was the booking officer. It gets to the point and Jesse said, “So who do you want to notify in case of emergency? Ed looked at me. He said, “Can I put you down because I don’t have anybody left?”
investigator Michael aluffi, in 2019-2020
Source: Murder Capital of the World by Emerson Murray, 2021
Sara “Sally” Taylor Hallett was Ed Kemper’s last victim. She was Kemper’s mother’s best friend and a colleague of Clarnell’s at UCSC. Born on October 19, 1913 in Washington, Hallett had two sons, Edward and Christopher Hallett. Kemper murdered Hallett in his mother’s apartment on Easter weekend in 1973. She was 59 years old.
After killing and decapitating his mother, Clarnell Strandberg, early on the Saturday morning before Easter, Ed Kemper spent much of the day drinking. That evening, he telephoned his mother’s close friend, Sara Taylor Hallett, saying he wanted to surprise his mother and take her and Ms. Hallett to dinner that night.
Kemper prepared for Ms. Hallett’s murder by distributing weapons around the apartment but in the end, none of them would be necessary. Soon after the phone call, Ms. Hallett arrived: “I came up behind her and crooked my arm around her neck, like this,” Kemper said, bending his powerful arm in front of himself at chin level. “I squeezed and just lifted her off the floor. She just hung there and, for a moment, I didn’t realize she was dead … I had broken her neck and her head was just wobbling around with the bones of her neck disconnected in the skin sack of her neck.”
Later that night, Kemper attempted to have intercourse with Ms. Hallett’s body.
He fled the next day in her car.
Kemper said he had to kill a friend of his mother’s “as an excuse.” In other words, Kemper said he had to provide a reasonable story for friends of his mother’s to explain her absence. If she were away on a trip with a friend, Kemper reasoned, nobody would be concerned about her absence.
At his 2017 parole hearing, Kemper gave an alternate explanation as to why he murdered Sally Hallett. He said it was revenge for ruining his mother’s holiday. The two women were supposed to go to Europe together for four weeks, but Hallett backed out at the last minute. Clarnell went on the trip by herself. At some point, during the hearing, Kemper referred to Hallett as his mother’s “lover”, but: “When [my mother] got back, she tried sharing those vacation moments with Sally, and Sally got very loud with her and rude, and told her ‘I don’t want to hear about that. I didn’t even go on that vacation, why are you bringing this up?’ So, she – that cut off that release. So, here I am at the house having heard this from my mother and she’s frustrated and I said ‘I’d like to know, I’d like you to share with me.’ So, she went and got all of her travel logs and the papers and stuff from the places that she went and she started systematically sharing this stuff with me, and then all of a sudden, she stops and she looks at me in this strange way, and she said, ‘I’m not gonna let you pity me.’ And she just walked away from the whole thing. And I said, ‘Hey, I wanted to hear this stuff…’
“I had told myself that if my mother ever dies over this stuff that I did, [Hallett]’s going with her. That’s one trip she’s not gonna miss. She’s not gonna back off on that one… I swore an oath to it. I was angry at the time… I haven’t sworn many oaths in my life and everyone that I have sworn I followed through with.”
Sources: “The Co-ed Killer” by Margaret Cheney, 1976 / “Gruesome Details on Tape at Trial”, Santa Cruz Sentinel, October 25th, 1973 / “Coed Sex Murders Detailed by Chang”, Register-Pajaronian, by Marj von Beroldingen, October 23rd, 1973 / Front Page Detective Magazine, by Marj von Beroldingen, March 1974 / Ed Kemper’s 2017 Parole hearing
There were moments, prior to her death, when Kemper felt like punishing his mother. Kemper told investigators he had killed his mother to spare her the suffering and shame that knowledge of his crimes would bring. He said: “There were times when she was bitching and yelling at me that I felt like retaliating and walking over to the telephone in her presence and calling the police, to say, ‘Hello, I’m the coed killer,’ just to lay it on her.”
Kemper’s testimony in court revealed his desire to punish his mother did not end with the fatal hammer blow. He cut off his mother’s head, “put it on a shelf and screamed at it for an hour … threw darts at it,” and ultimately, “smashed her face in,” he recalled for the horrified court. [Kemper supposedly performed irrumatio with his mother’s head, but that story is not verified.]
He went even further and cut her tongue out, as well as her larynx, and placed them in the garbage disposal. However, the garbage disposal could not break down the tough vocal cords and ejected the tissue back into the sink. Kemper found it rather ironic: “That seemed appropriate. As much as she’d bitched and screamed and yelled at me over so many years.”
Sources: “I was the hunter and they were the victims”: Interview with Edmund Kemper, Front Page Detective, by Marj von Beroldingen, March 1974 / Serial Homicide – Book 1 by RJ Parker, 2016 / Intercorpse – Necrophilia: sexual attraction towards corpses including sexual intercourse, by RJ Parker, 2019
Emerson Murray has written the book “Murder Capital of the world”, which tells the story of the three serial killers who were active in Santa Cruz in the late 1960s and early 1970s: John Linley Frazier, Herbert Mullin and Edmund Kemper. As the book is about to be released, we asked Emerson a few questions:
EKS: How did you get the idea to write the book “Murder Capital of the world”, and why was it important for you to write it?
EM: I had been collecting information and pictures for thirty years. I am from Santa Cruz and Herbert Mullin murdered one of my dad’s friends, Jim Gianera. My dad had a picture of the two of them hiking on his wall for years and we just always knew what had happened to Jim. As kids, we knew Mullin was in jail, but he became a sort of boogie man to us. He had killed women and kids and even a priest and he was kind of like Michael Myers from Halloween, just killing indiscriminately. As I said, we knew he was in prison, but just talking about the crimes would freak us out. When the Night Stalker came along, he sort of erased our fear of Mullin. My grandmother worked at the post office and swiped a wanted poster for us. I was around 12, but I remember being out under the streetlight with the neighbors and the Night Stalker had killed people in Los Angeles before and he had just struck in San Francisco, so by our computations there was a 99.99% chance that our block in Ben Lomond was going to be next!
More recently, there were a few triggers to turn my interest into action. In the early 2000’s, the BBC had done three episodes of a series called Born to Kill on the Santa Cruz killers. Well, they did one episode each with no interest in discussing how the three crossed over and what local law enforcement and the community went through. That got the idea really started as a project. Years later, a friend and I started talking about how someone needed to make a movie about this time period in Santa Cruz history, something like David Fincher’s Zodiac. It was a dream bigger than us. Finally, my wife and I went to see Mickey Aluffi speak about the crimes in 2019. Mickey was a detective at the time with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office. Well, once the talk got started, I looked around and most of the audience was in their 70’s and 80’s. I got pretty scared that these stories would be disappearing in the not too distant future. The next day at work, I just decided I had to do it and made my first call that night.
EKS: What is the concept behind the book?
EM: “Murder Capital of the world” is part true crime and part local history. It tells the impact of the John Linley Frazier, Herbert Mullin, and Edmund Kemper crimes on our community and local law enforcement. The community was already pretty tense. The Manson Family crimes had occurred recently and the older folks were seeing the hippies as a real threat. UCSC opened in 1965 adding to these tensions. There were changes in welfare laws and there were communes in the San Lorenzo Valley. The Zodiac murders didn’t help. The Zodiac killer wrote that he was going to attack a school bus and shoot the kids as they exited. So, local law enforcement was following school buses. It was just a hot time period in this area. In the midst of all this, John Linley Frazier murdered four members of the Ohta Family and Dorothy Cadwallader. That was the beginning.
The story is told through quotes. I fill in the gaps as a sort of narrator. I have a previously published book, a biography of the professional wrestler Bruiser Brody, for which I used this style to tell the story. I find it a fantastic tool for getting across stories with multiple points of view as well as stories where there were few eyewitnesses. Authors who tell you what happened when a killer and victim were alone are pulling from sources. I’d rather read the original sources themselves.
EKS: What was your research process? Was it easy to access people and documents?
EM: I think most researchers start with the internet; finding what is already out there. After I scoured online resources, I started to formulate my questions and see where the gaps were. With this book, I talked to my parents and their friends who gave me names and phone numbers. I’m a firm believer in letters and phone calls. Sure, it’s old fashioned but a lot of the people I talked to are older and not online. Additionally, in the interest of sensitivity, I wanted to send letters to people if the subject I wanted to talk about was personally related. I felt more comfortable calling someone directly if the person was retired law enforcement or attached to the crimes in an official capacity.
As the letters went out and phone calls started coming back, it was interesting who was willing to talk and who was not. Everyone has a different sensitivity to these horrible incidents and I really tried to be respectful. I would write two of the exact same letters and one person was happy, sometimes excited, to talk to me and another was hurt that I would even bring up the subject. We live in a time where language is very powerful and this subject matter is as dark as it gets. I really tried to tip-toe very carefully.
At every point of contact, I asked for documents and pictures. Many had been “borrowed” and never returned by authors and filmmakers before me. Stolen. However, I did manage to find a lot.
I must say that I am extremely thankful to the people who spent their time talking with me and sharing documents and pictures with me.
EKS: What new information about the Kemper case have you learned that marked you?
EM: Page 186. The eyeball.
EKS: Which deceased person involved in the Kemper case would you have liked to talk to, and why?
EM: Without a doubt, his mother. The public has always had only one real source of information on Kemper’s mother: Kemper! Consequently, it is a venomous, loving, hateful, confused portrait that we are left with. I talked with her co-workers, read and listened to interviews with her friends and Kemper’s sisters. I even found quotes from Clarnell herself from after Kemper had killed his grandparents. Consequently, I feel like a more developed, nuanced, picture of her emerges in the book. But she would have been an awfully interesting person to talk with.
EKS: Your book sheds new light on many of the events in the Kemper case. Is there any part of his story that remains mysterious to you? If so, what?
EM: “Mysterious” is a great word. I feel like I understand the events and have a pretty good picture of Kemper’s life, but after he was arrested and started to talk with law enforcement, his attorneys, and mental health professionals, his stories started changing. I feel like it was a result of his insanity plea. He admitted necrophilia immediately, but somewhere along the way stories about cannibalism started. They were detailed and explicit, but the stakes were high during that time period and he had a lot to gain by embellishing stories. So, the absolute truth regarding the nights he was alone with the bodies of his victims, is what remains mysterious and out of reach for all of us.
The following is from a taped interview between suspect Edmund Emil Kemper III and Investigator Michael Aluffi, held at the Santa Cruz Jail on April 28, 1973.
Aluffi: This interview will be based around the incidents that occurred at your home last Saturday [April 21, 1973]. Is there anything that you want to tell me that led up to this incident?
Kemper: Not really.
Aluffi: Well, let’s start with the reason for it.
Kemper: That’s rather involved. The reason for it is these murders were coming to a head I felt, that I was going to be caught pretty soon for the killing of these girls, or I was going to blow up and do something very open and get myself caught, and so I did not want my mother… A long time ago I had thought about what I was going to do in the event of being caught for the crimes and the only choices I seen open is being that I could just accept it and go to jail and let my mother carry the load, and let the whole thing fall in her hands like happened last time with my grand-parents. Or, I could take her life. Well, I guess that leaves me two choices, I could either do it in the open with her knowing what was happening or I could do it when she didn’t know what was happening. Last Friday night, whatever date that was, I had decided it was the night before the killing, or the day before the killing really, I had been thinking about it for quite a while and I just started working myself up towards the act of killing her. I guess that answers the reason.
Aluffi: All right, you want to get into the actual crime?
Kemper: OK. I got home Friday night, or I got back to her home from Alameda, where I’d been working early Friday in the afternoon and I sat around the house and took care of a few business problems, you know, calling and making a couple phone calls that were unrelated to the problem, and I called my mother at work and let her know I was in town and she told me that she was going out to a dinner, some faculty dinner or something, and she’d be home late. So, I sat around and drank some beer, watched television, stayed up as late as I could and I had wished to talk to her really, before anything had happened. It was my hopes that she would go on good terms and this was impossible because, well I guess it would be good terms because we hadn’t really argued or anything when we talked on the phone. I went to bed about midnight I guess and I woke up a couple hours later. Well, let me see, that doesn’t work out right. I think I went to bed around two and she still wasn’t home and I went to bed and went to sleep. I woke up a couple hours later, around four, and she had already come home, done whatever she does when she gets home late at night and had retired for the evening. This was after I had gone to bed around 2:00 AM Saturday morning. She was in bed, reading a book and I woke up about four o’clock in the morning, two hours after I went to sleep roughly. The lights were pretty much out in the house. I didn’t see any lights on. I hadn’t heard anything and I thought, gee, it’s four o’clock and she’s still not home. So, I got up and I walked out of my bedroom, noticed her small light was on and walked into her bedroom, just as she had taken off her glasses and turned the light off. Without her turning it back on, she commented that uh, I said oh, you’re home, and she says, you’re up, what are you doing up? I said well, I just wanted to see if you were home. I hadn’t heard anything. She said, oh I suppose you want to talk. This has happened several times before, when she’d come in late and I wanted to talk and we’d talk and then she’d go to sleep. She didn’t say it in an abusive manner, it was more or less just jive and I said no. She said well, we’ll talk in the morning. I said fine, good night. She left the light out and I walked out of the room and back to my bedroom, layed down and decided at that point, I was going to wait another hour or so, until she was asleep before it happened.
Kemper: I looked at my watch. It was about a quarter after four, something like that, and I layed there in bed thinking about it and it’s something hard to just up and do. It was the most insane of reasons for going and killing your mother. But I was pretty fixed on that issue because there were a lot of things involved. Someone just standing off on the side, watching something like that isn’t really going to see any kind of sense or rhyme or reason to anything. I had done some things and I felt that I had to carry the full weight of everything that happened. I certainly wanted for my mother a nice quiet, easy death like I guess everyone wants. The only way I saw this possible was for it to be in bed, while she was asleep. The next thing was to decide how to do it. The only possible answer to that I saw was to take a hammer and hit her with it, in her sleep, and then to cut her throat. So, I waited till about 5:15 AM, I went into the kitchen and got a hammer. We have a regular claw hammer at home, picked up my pocket knife, the same one I’d used to kill Mary Anne Pesce with, opened it up, and I carried that in my right hand and the hammer in my left, walked into the bedroom very quietly.
Kemper: She had been sound asleep. She moved around a little bit and I thought maybe she was waking up. I just waited and waited and she was just laying there. So, I approached her right side, to my right on the right side of the bed, on her side. I stood there for a couple of minutes and spent most of that day, and most of that week I suppose and most of that night, trying to get myself I guess you’d say hopped up to do something like that, thinking nothing but reasons to do it and the need to do it, trying to keep everything else out of my mind. I stood by her side for a couple of minutes I suppose and about 5:15 I struck and I hit her just above the temple on her right side of the head, the side that was up from the pillow. It was above and behind her temple on the right side of her head. I struck with a very hard blow and I believe I dropped the hammer, or I layed it down or something. Immediately after striking that blow, I looked for a reaction, and there really wasn’t one, blood started running down her face from the wound, and she was still breathing, I could hear the breathing and I heard blood running into her, I guess it was her windpipe. It was obvious I had done severe damage to her, because in other cases where I had shot people in the head, I heard the same, or it had the same effect, blood running into the breathing passages, and this all happened in a few moments.
Kemper: But after I struck, I moved her over in the bed on her back and with my right hand holding her chin up, I slashed her throat. She bled profusely all over and I guess it was an afterthought, I hadn’t really thought of it, but her being my mother, and me out doing those other things, and I knew right off if I had torn everything out in the open, and my plan which I didn’t mention earlier, had been to just, well everything’s getting to an end and I could either kill her and turn myself in or I could kill her and head out with everything I had, my arsenal. This was my choice at that time. So, I decided at that time, it’s a hell of a cliché to use, but I guess what was good for my victims was good for my mother. So, after I slashed her throat, I went ahead and slashed the rest of the way around her neck and took off her head, and I guess half as much of that was to make absolutely sure in my own mind that she was dead instantly and right then, so the whole attack took maybe, less than half a minute, possibly even as little as 20 seconds…
Sources: Ed Kemper’s official jailhouse confessions in April 1973 / Images from David Jouvent’s graphic novel Ed Kemper – Dans la peau d’un serial killer, 2020
We are saddened to hear that Harold Cartwright passed away a few days ago at the age of 80. Mr. Cartwright worked on Ed Kemper’s defense team. He was an investigator for Kemper’s lawyer, Jim Jackson. Thanks to @8folddharma on Instagram for letting us know.
“Tell you a little bit about my interaction with Eddy, with Ed Kemper,” said Cartwright. “One day, I had a really stiff neck — I couldn’t move my head hardly at all.”
Cartwright continued, “[Kemper] said, ‘I know a lot about anatomy. I can make your neck feel better.’ So, I went around, and he worked on my neck for maybe, I don’t know, five minutes. And you know? It worked.”
Cartwright said that even though the 6-foot-9-inch, 285-pound Kemper “could have probably killed [him] with one hand,” he “never felt unsafe in his presence.”
“I felt that if somebody had attacked me, he would have come to my aid,” Cartwright told “Kemper on Kemper: Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer.”
The two spent “a lot of time together,” and Cartwright said he and Kemper were “friendly.” While Kemper was in jail awaiting trial for murdering eight women — including his own mother and her best friend — many members of law enforcement also described him as “friendly,” “cooperative” and a model prisoner.
Still, defending an admitted serial killer took “a horrible toll” on all those involved in the investigation.
Cartwright said, “If I could change things in my life, I would definitely not have participated in these mass murders. I had a wife and two little kids; I worked 13 months without a day off. Within five years after these trials were completed, the district attorney was divorced, I was divorced, several of the police officers involved were divorced. … It was difficult, difficult time [sic], and it’s always a part of you.”