Documenting the Co-Ed Killer case

Category: Serial Killer (Page 1 of 25)

“He definitely was an outcast, a weirdo”

Ed Kemper (left) and David Berkowitz (right)

“Kemper was probably the closest to the stereotype of what a sex fiend, mass killer is suppose[d] to be like. The news media and public tried it with me, but I didn’t turn out to be as perverted as they’d have liked. He definitely was an outcast, a weirdo.”

david berkowitz

Excerpt from a letter from serial killer David Berkowitz (‘Son of Sam’) to one of his regular confidante, Ms. Dee Channel, dated June 13, 1980 / Photos: Murder Capital of the world (E. Murray, 2021) and AP News Features photo, September 9, 1980

Chronicles of Evil Interview

Our blog’s webmaster, Christine Falco, recently gave an interview to Scott Stick about her research on the Ed Kemper case for his podcast Chronicles of Evil.

Listen to it HERE.

From the Chronicles of Evil website: Not everyone can (or would even want to) spend their time examining, in minute detail, the life story of an infamous serial murderer. Christine Falco, webmaster of edmundkemperstories.com, is however, doing just that – curating a fascinating collection of rarely seen documents, pictures, videos and stories, which serve to take visitors on a deep dive into the world of Edmund Kemper, also known as the “Coed Killer”, a serial murderer, rapist and necrophiliac who is currently serving eight concurrent life sentences, at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, California. 

Kemper interview about the Blind Project

If you are interested in knowing more about the Blind Project in which Ed Kemper participated for many years, this archive recently surfaced on YouTube. 

The Volunteers of Vacaville was founded in 1960 to teach inmates at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville Braille transcription, Brailler repair, and reading for audio books. This 1983 clip from KCRA’s “Weeknight” show, produced by and featuring Steve LaRosa, features serial killer Ed Kemper being interviewed and reading “Star Wars.”

Thank you to the Center for Sacramento History for releasing this archive, and to Diana for her great find. 

Interview with Dary Matera

Released in 2021, the book Ed Kemper, Conversations With a Killer is an entertaining and detailed telling of Kemper’s life and crimes. We asked author Dary Matera a few questions about the process of writing the book: 

EKS: How did you come about writing the book Ed Kemper, Conversations With a Killer?

DM: The publisher, Barnes & Noble/Sterling, recently republished my 1998 book Taming The Beast about Charles Manson’s wild life in prison post Helter Skelter. It’s part of their Conversations With a Killer series. They liked it so much they contracted me to write a totally new one about Ed Kemper, considering that it covered a similar era in California. I went into the project totally blind as I only had a passing knowledge of Ed’s rampage in the early 1970s. I was living in the Philippines back then as an overseas brat. This enabled to me to take on the project with a fresh objective perspective. 

EKS: What was your research process? Was it easy to access people and documents?

DM: Documents yes, thanks to the Internet and remarkable web pages like yours, Christine. Ed was covered widely then and now. That was before the prison system outlawed interviews with incarcerated criminals, and Ed was very loquacious and gave many before the shutdown. Some of the best complimentary research material, oddly enough, came from long forgotten foreign publications in France, Germany, Australia, Ireland and Great Britain that I found on E-Bay. Those countries appear to be fascinated with American serial killers. As for witnesses, that was far more difficult as this happened a half century ago. I was fortunate that my Taming the Beast co-author, Ed George, was an administrator at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville where both Ed and Manson were housed. Ed George knew Kemper up close and personal for more than a decade. 

EKS: What new information about the Kemper case did you learn that marked you?

DM: As mentioned, all the information on Ed was new to me, so that’s a difficult question to answer. As with Taming the Beast, I believe following Ed’s long incarceration after his killing spree was mostly new. Virtually all previously available stories about Ed, then, through the years, and now focus on his inhuman crimes in the early 1970s. My book, Ed Kemper, Conversations With a Killer, of course covered that in detail, but it also takes readers from his turbulent childhood up until today. 

EKS: Which deceased person involved in the Kemper case would you have liked to talk to, and why?

DM: I would have loved to have channeled the person I felt was Ed most tragic victim, Aiko Koo. She was his youngest, only 15, and was already a nationally known exotic Asian dancer, along with being a brilliant student with an eye toward a potential future in politics. I envision her possibly ascending to Congress or the Senate. Her interaction with Ed, if reports are to be believed, was courageous and even humorous at times. She didn’t believe she was in danger until Ed suddenly transformed into killer mode and became the monster he was. Aiko tragically is the one who Ed accidently locked inside the car, with his gun on the floorboard and the keys inside. She was home free at that point – if she could drive or shoot. But Ed simply motioned for her to unlock the door, and she complied. That gives me the chills.  

EKS: Your book covers extensively all the important events in the Kemper case. Is there any part of his story that remains a mystery to you? If so, what? 

DM: Yes. Despite Ed’s wealth of ever-changing interviews, there are many mysteries. I was never able to lock down where he spent his first three years in prison. Some reports say he was doing hard time in isolation in a harsh prison like San Quentin, Folsom, or Pelican Bay. Others say he was at the much easier “Cuckoo’s Nest” at Vacaville since day one. Ed George, the Vacaville administrator, recalls that Kemper arrived there at least three years after his conviction in 1973. Ed himself wrote and spoke of his horrible first three years in isolation – in the “hole” in prison speak – with spiders, vermin, stifling loneliness and bad food. but he didn’t reveal where that was. His life was much easier subsequently at Vacaville, either from being transferred there, or released from the Vacaville hole and allowed to roam around in population. 

As a former police reporter and true crime author, I can attest that this prison secrecy wasn’t unusual. Thanks mostly to Charles Manson and his devoted family, wardens don’t like to broadcast that they are housing a “celebrity” prisoner. They want to avoid followers like the Manson family camping out at their gates, harassing corrections officers and other employees, and flooding the facility with phone calls. 

I was also never able to lock down why Ed, due to his massive size and strength, didn’t become a high school, college, or professional athlete. As mentioned in Ed Kemper – Conversations with a Killer, he was taller and stronger than 90 percent of the highly paid NBA players of his time. If he wasn’t athletic, he still could have used his size and strength to become a blocking offensive guard in football, possibly channeling his internal rage and making it all the way to the NFL. He could have lived a happy, lucrative celebrity life. Instead, he chose to hack up young women. Boggles. 

EKS: You have also written a book about Charles Manson. Are there any similarities in their cases that you find interesting?

DM: What was interesting about Manson and Kemper, who were incarcerated at the Vacaville Medical Facility at the same time for many years, is that they basically detested each other. One a giant. The other a shrimp. No Of Mice and Men type relationship developed. Manson, despite prevailing beliefs, wasn’t a hands-on killer. He never actually murdered anyone. Manson was convicted and notoriously despised for being the leader of a drugged up hippy cult that acted out the brutal slaughters. Manson either ordered the murders, or didn’t stop them from happening. Manson also tried to clean up the scenes afterwards, making himself legally complicit in the homicides. Ed, in turn, was a lone wolf who was very hands on when it came to murder, post death rape, and horrific mutilation. 

In addition, Manson recruited young California women into his family and didn’t physically harm them. They were his bread and butter, his beloved family and lovers. Ed, in contrast, kidnapped and ripped those near identical victims apart. So, the pair not only had very little in common, they had a strong reason to be enemies at odds. 

Ed sometimes pointed out the difference between himself and Manson due to their physical size and strength and how they dealt with their troubled childhoods and incarcerations. Small and weak, Manson was sexually abused in juvenile facilities. Large and strong from his youth, Ed was spared that fate despite being incarcerated as a teenager in an adult psychiatric facility with nearly 1,000 sex offenders. It pays to be the biggest and strongest monster in the jungle! 

Ed Kemper’s handwriting sample

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

“We’ll get to you”

“I didn’t have the supervision I should have had once I got out [of Atascadero]… I was supposed to see my parole officer every other week and a social worker the other week. 

“I never did. I think if I had, I would have made it. 

“Two weeks after I was on the streets, I got scared because I hadn’t seen anyone. 

“Finally, I called the district parole office and asked if I was doing something wrong… was I supposed to go to my parole officer, or would he come to see me, I asked.”

Kemper said the man on the phone asked him, “What’s the matter, you got a problem?” When Kemper told him, “no,” the man replied, “Well, we’re awfully busy with people who have; we’ll get to you.” 

Source: Front Page Detective Magazine, March 1974, by Marj von Beroldingen / Photo: Murder Capital of the World by Emerson Murray, 2021 ©Pete Amos

Ed Kemper’s greatest contribution to society

Edward George, former administrator at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, recalled his many interactions with Ed Kemper:

“Big Ed and I used to chat occasionally about his life on the street. I discovered that he actually lived in Alameda in an apartment two blocks from where I lived. Scary. He worked at a gas station where I used to buy gas. Very scary. One day I asked him, tongue in cheek, what did he consider his greatest contribution to society. He didn’t miss a beat. With a gleeful smile, he cracked ‘I taught women not to hitchhike.’”

Source: Ed Kemper – Conversations with a killer, by Dary Matera, Sterling Publishing, 2021 / Photo: Pete Amos, Murder Capital of the World, by Emerson Murray, 2021

“I was very grateful when I bore Guy.”

“I was very grateful when I bore Guy, to have been given a son – always felt strongly about it. The father never wanted any of them [the three Kemper children] in a planned sense. He always felt we couldn’t afford it and here they are today and he still can’t afford it, and love is actually quite inexpensive.”

clarnell strandberg in 1964 during an interview with specialists at atascadero when ed kemper was arrested for murdering his grandparents

Source: Murder Capital of the World, by Emerson Murray, 2021

“We called him Guy.”

Ed Kemper’s younger sister, Allyn, explained in 1973 why he was nicknamed Guy by members of his family:

“We called him [Kemper] Guy. He had that nickname ever since he was little. He had this little sun suit that said “Little Guy” on it, and we just called him Guy ever since then.”

Source: Murder Capital of the World, by Emerson Murray, 2021 / Photo: Pete Amos

“I was born there, you know.”

Kemper spent five years at Atascadero after he murdered his grandparents in 1964 at the age of 15. He recalled with pride the job he’d held there as head of the psychological testing lab at the age of 19 and working directly under the hospital’s chief psychologist. He said: 

“I felt I definitely could have done a lot of good there, helping people return to the streets … I could have fit in there quicker than anybody else… 

“After all,” he explained, “I grew up there. That used to be like my home. 

“Basically, I was born there, you know. I have a lot of fond memories of the place … And I don’t know anybody else who has,” he added with a rueful laugh. 

It was there that he became a member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce. During his trial, he wore his membership pin in his lapel, apparently with pride. 

Because of his intelligence and ability, he apparently was a valuable aide in psychological testing and research. “I helped to develop some new tests and some new scales on MMPI… You’ve probably heard of it … the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory,” he said with a chuckle. “I helped to develop a new scale on that, the ‘Overt Hostility Scale’… How’s that for a…” He groped for a word. 

“Ironic?” I suggested. 

“Ironic note,” he agreed. “There we go, it was an ironic note that I helped to develop that scale and then look what happened to me when I got back out on the streets.”

Source: Excerpt from an interview by reporter Marj von Beroldingen for Front Page Detective Magazine, March 1974 / Photo: Murder Capital of the World by Emerson Murray, 2021

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