Documenting the Co-Ed Killer case

Category: Vacaville (Page 1 of 4)

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 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

Coming soon: New in-person interviews with Kemper

New information came out this week on the This is Ed Kemper website providing more details about the project.

They revealed this new photo of Kemper taken during an interview at the California Medical Facility in 2020.

The project is titled Ed Kemper and is a limited series detailing the life and crimes of the serial killer Edmund Emil Kemper III.

Based on hundreds of hours of new, in-person interviews conducted in prison, the story intertwines Kemper’s life with his crimes in Santa Cruz in the early 1970s.

It includes insights and information he has never shared in the nearly 50 years since his arrest.

As members of law enforcement have said, “We always felt there was something Kemper wasn’t telling us.”

This is Ed Kemper

This photo of Ed Kemper recently surfaced on Reddit and was first seen on the Facebook page The Edmund Kemper Discussion Group. The photo links to this website:

https://www.thisisedkemper.com

There isn’t much information on the site, but they say it will be the definitive account of the life and crimes of serial killer Edmund Emil Kemper III. To be released in 2021. It’s most probably a book. We’ll be on the lookout!

As for this rare photo, it looks like it was taken in the early 1980s at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, in the cafeteria or in a visitors’ room. It might be that Kemper was having a meal with people from the American Foundation for the Blind in prison, an organization linked to the Vacaville Blind Project, in which Kemper was involved as a reader and a coordinator for many years. 

Today: Ed Kemper’s birthday

Born on December 18, 1948, serial killer Edmund Kemper turns 72 years old today. He is still incarcerated at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, where he has been living since his conviction in 1973. 

Edmund Emil Kemper III is the second of three children and the only son born to Edmund and Clarnell Kemper. Kemper bitterly recalls that his father was not around much when he was young and that his parents separated completely when he was 9, after which his mother moved the family from California to Montana. As a result of the move, Ed almost never saw his father. This greatly embittered him, and he blamed his mother entirely. As a child, Kemper was physically and socially awkward, always the largest boy in his class. He ultimately grew to 6 feet 9 inches and weighed 280 pounds. He was a loner who dwelled in the world of science-fiction and the occult for escape. His mother once wrote, “I was deeply worried during the years about the lack of a father relationship, and so I tried everything I could to compensate for that.” According to Ed, this meant she felt a need to punish and ridicule him in order to “make him a man.”

Source: Murder and Madness by Donald T. Lunde, 1976, San Francisco Book Company / Image taken from documentary The Killing of America by directors Leonard Schrader and Sheldon Renan (1981)

COVID situation at the CMF at Vacaville

On August 25, 2020, we checked the COVID-19 situation at the California Medical Facility at Vacaville where Ed Kemper has been incarcerated since 1973. It seems that the coronavirus has not been a threat, as only six cases were confirmed at the institution, five of which have been resolved since they were reported in late July – early August. No deaths are reported. The current forest fires and hot weather in California seem to be more serious threats at this point.

Source: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation website

New Kemper interview from 1979

HLN’s Very Scary People recently dedicated an episode to Ed Kemper’s case (S02E08). It features an unseen interview recorded in June 1979 with Kemper commenting on some of his favorite books that he read for the Vacaville Blind Project, such as “Charlotte’s Web”, “Stuart Little” and “Trumpet of the Swan”. We also see him in action as he is recording the “Star Wars” book, imitating C-3PO: Behave yourself, R2! You’re going to get us into trouble!

Watch the “Star Wars” excerpt here:

Source: HLN Very Scary People S02E08

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

2002 – Ed Kemper parole hearing

June 28, 2002 – Santa Cruz’s deadliest serial killer will be in prison for at least another five years.

Edmund Emil Kemper, 54, has been in prison since 1973, when he was convicted of savagely killing, decapitating and dismembering six UC Santa Cruz students, his mother and his mother’s friend in 1972 and 1973.

Kemper was set to face the state parole board Wednesday. But earlier this week, he waived his right to the hearing, and agreed not to seek parole again until at least 2007, according to Denise Schmidt, spokeswoman for the state Board of Prison Terms.

Kemper’s agreement came as a surprise to county prosecutor Ariadne Symons. She said Kemper had indicated he would attend the parole hearing at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, and Symons was prepared to go – and to argue that he must remain behind bars.

She wrote in a letter to the parole board that she does not think Kemper is at all reformed, and that he remains a threat to society.

“Apparently Kemper does not like to be referred to as a ‘monster,’” Symons wrote. “However, the term is apt, even though it is woefully inadequate. Mere words cannot convey the horror of what he did.”

Kemper will be 59 when he becomes eligible for parole again.

Symons says that no matter when Kemper comes up for parole, he should not be released.

In her letter to the parole board, Symons wrote:

“In an interview at the time of his arrest, Kemper stated ‘I certainly wouldn’t trust me in society again.’ Let us give weight to those words.”

Source: “Kemper waives parole hearing”, Santa Cruz Sentinel, by Jason Schultz, June 28, 2002 / Artwork: unknown artist (please let us know if you know who it is, we will add credit)

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