Documenting the Co-Ed Killer case

Category: Sara Hallett

Kemper victims’ manner of death

After Ed Kemper was imprisoned for life in 1973, some crime magazines published articles revisiting Kemper’s case in the late 1970s and early 1980s. These articles portrayed Kemper as a serial killer who used a power saw or a buzz saw to murder his victims, which is far from the truth. But a bit of research revealed that there is a link to the use of saws in Cindy Schall’s murder case: after finding the different parts of her body in different locations in and around Santa Cruz, police and a pathologist determined she had been sawed into pieces with a power saw.

Ed Kemper mainly used firearms, knives and strangulation as his murder weapons. 

He shot to death both his paternal grandparents, Maude Matilda (Hughey) Kemper and Edmund Emil Kemper Sr. on their ranch on August 27, 1964 with a rifle given to him by his grandfather. Kemper also stabbed his grandmother post-mortem. 

Mary Ann Pesce and Anita Luchessa were both murdered by Kemper on May 7, 1972. Pesce was stabbed with a knife and strangled to death in the backseat of Kemper’s car. Luchessa was killed in the trunk of the car in a similar manner. 

Aiko Koo was choked to death by Kemper on the evening of September 14, 1972 right next to his car on a secluded road. He also raped her while she was unconscious. 

Cindy Schall was fatally shot in the head by Kemper with a .22 caliber pistol in the trunk of his car on January 7, 1973. 

On February 5, 1973, Kemper first fatally shot Rosalind Thorpe in the head and then Alice Liu with his pistol in his car while driving on the UCSC campus. Kemper shot Liu several times, including twice in the head.

In the early hours on April 20, 1973, Kemper snuck into his mother Clarnell Strandberg’s bedroom to bludgeon her with a claw hammer and slit her throat with a penknife. 

On the evening of April 20, 1973, Kemper murdered his mother’s best friend, Sally Hallett, by strangling her to death with his arm in his mother’s apartment. 

Source: article “I’ll Show You Where I Buried The Pieces of Their Bodies”, Inside Detective, by Hugh Stephens, August 1973

Ed Kemper’s last victim – Sally Hallett

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

This is not… Sara “Sally” Hallett

The woman pictured in this post is often thought to be Sara “Sally” Taylor Hallett, Ed Kemper’s last victim and his mother’s best friend. It’s not true. This woman is in fact Georgia Tann, a social worker who turned child trafficker. She operated the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, an adoption agency in Memphis, Tennessee.  Tann used the unlicensed home as a front for her black market baby adoption scheme from the 1920s until a state investigation into numerous instances of adoption fraud being perpetrated by her closed the institution in 1950. Tann died of cancer before the investigation made its findings public. 

Read more about her story here and here.

Kemper’s sexual achievement

Inv. Michael Aluffi:   Did you ever have any kind of a sexual achievement while you were killing them [his victims]?

KemperYes, I’m sure it’s happened before, but the only time I actually noticed an ejaculation was as I was killing Mrs. Hallett on Saturday night, as she was dying, it was a great physical effort on my part, very restraining, very difficult, much less difficult that I made it, I went into a full complete physical spasm let’s say. I just completely put myself out on it and as she died, I felt myself reaching orgasm. In the other cases, the physical effort was less. I think with the Koo girl, in the case of a suffocation, the same thing happened. But I didn’t really notice it, because I did have sex with her right after causing her to be unconscious. 

Source: Excerpt from Ed Kemper’s official jailhouse confessions in Santa Cruz on April 28, 1973 (after his arrest in Pueblo, Colorado), pages 27 and 28 / Video of confessions from the Oxygen documentary Kemper on Kemper (2018)

Ed Kemper’s house in Santa Cruz

In the summer of 2018, I went to Santa Cruz, California, and visited places that were important in Ed Kemper’s story. Of course, I went to see the house where he lived with his mother and where he murdered her and her friend, Sally Hallett. 

The house is located in Aptos at 609A Ord Road (ground floor), but it appears under 609 Harriet Avenue on Google Streetview. The two streets meet, and the other house is behind Kemper’s. It’s a bit unclear and I remember that Kemper had mentioned in his 1984 interview for No Apparent Motive that the police had confused the two addresses when they came to take away his .44 magnum gun in 1973. 

It’s located in a really lovely and quiet residential neighbourhood. When you come from the highway, you pass through a wooded area before getting to the residential area. Kemper’s house stands out as it is one of the only ones on the street that has two floors. There are a lot of trees and flowers in the neighbourhood. 

I was hoping to see the inside of the house. As I was gathering my courage to go ring the doorbell, a SUV arrived and parked in the driveway. A woman and her young daughter came out and headed for the 609A door. I approached the woman and told her why I was there. She was aware of Kemper’s story. I asked if it was possible to see inside the house. She said no, but that it was ok to take pictures outside. She said that a lot of people come to see the house. 

The backyard where Kemper buried Cindy Schall’s head is now made of concrete.

The house has been regularly for sale since the murders. It is currently off the market, as it sold in May 2019 for more than 1,5 million dollars USD.

Photo sources: Edmund Kemper Stories / realtor.com

Upcoming book about the Santa Cruz murders in the early 1970s

A new book by author Emerson Murray is currently in the works. The book will be about the murders committed in the early 1970s by John Linley Frazier, Herbert Mullin and Ed Kemper. Here is the description that can be found on the book’s website:

The Santa Cruz community looks back at the Frazier, Mullin, and Kemper murder sprees of the early 1970’s

Over 25 people murdered in just over two and a half years. What was happening in the small coastal town of Santa Cruz between October 1970 and February 1973?

John Linley Frazier’s home invasion murders of the Ohta Family and Dorothy Cadwallader in 1970 and the serial murder sprees of Herbert Mullin and Edmund Kemper left an impact on Santa Cruz that can still be felt today.

Local law enforcement, victim’s families and friends, classmates and acquaintances of the killers, local historians, voices from the past and present, and the killers themselves all come together to tell the horrific stories and explain why Santa Cruz was dubbed THE MURDER CAPITAL OF THE WORLD in the early 1970’s.

The book will feature new material in the Kemper case, including interviews with Detective Terry Medina and Public Defender James L. Jackson. It will also feature interviews with relatives of some of the victims, and with coworkers at the UCSC of Clarnell Strandberg and Sally Hallett. It will also include new information about Kemper’s young fiancee.

1988 – Ed Kemper parole hearing

Convicted killer Edmund Kemper, left, testifies at his parole hearing on June 15, 1988. With him is his attorney, Richard Shore.

Vacaville – 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.

Kemper, 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.

A 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.

Brown told Kemper his crimes “shock the public conscience.”

During 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.

He 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.

Kemper 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.

He 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.

In 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.

She said Kemper was and still is a deeply disturbed person who will kill again if he’s ever released.

District 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.”

Danner told the parole board Kemper’s greatest danger is that he may some day con his way back out on the street.

He pointed out that Kemper had led psychiatrists and psychologists to believe he was no threat after a five-year commitment for killing his grandparents.

Even 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.

He 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.

After 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.

He said he went to the second interview, later in the day, “blasted off my tail on beer,” but the doctor didn’t notice.

The two psychiatrists wrote that Kemper posed no danger to himself or others.

Kemper 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.

He 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.

He said he only murdered the women hitchhikers because the women in his life, especially his mother, had caused his only grief.

Kemper talked at length about his mother and drunken fights he said they had after his release from custody after killing his grandparents.

Kemper 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.”

Kemper 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.

“There was love and there was hate,” Kemper said of his relationship with his mother.

“I 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.”

Kemper 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.

He 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 explained.

He 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.

He said he believed at the time that he would have to be killed or he would keep on killing.

As 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 telephone booth.

Kemper’s 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.

Now, he appeared to look more like the 6-foot-9, 280-pound giant of a man Santa Cruz residents remember.

In 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

Easter Lily for Mother

Neighbors said the young man [Ed Kemper], who had been collecting workmen’s compensation since an injury last year on a highway construction job, went to his mother’s Aptos apartment last Saturday carrying an Easter lily.

The lily was still blooming on a table when sheriff’s deputies entered the apartment Tuesday and found the nude bodies of the two women [Clarnell Strandberg and Sally Hallett] stuffed into a closet. Mrs. Strandberg had been decapitated and one hand chopped off.

Neighbors said Kemper quarrelled frequently with his mother [Strandberg] about whether she loved him. “You’re embarrassing me in front of my friends,” they quoted him as saying after she upbraided him for “laying around and drinking beer.”

From: Why: The Serial Killer In America by Margaret Cheney (1992, update of The Co-Ed Killer, 1976)

Ed Kemper’s cryptic note

After killing and decapitating his mother, Clarnell Strandberg, early on the Saturday before Easter of 1973, Ed Kemper scrawled a cryptic note for police and spent much of the day drinking. That evening, he invited his mother’s co-worker and close friend Sara Hallett to a surprise dinner, then choked her to death and fled in her car.

“Not sloppy + incomplete, gents, just a “lack of time.” 

Got things to do!!! 

Appx 5:15 AM Saturday.

No need for her to suffer anymore at the hands of this horrible “murderous butcher.” 

It was quick – asleep – no pain. The way I wanted it.”