Ed Kemper – The Curious Case of the Serial Killer

By: Amelia Deming

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Talk about the infamous killers of America, and the mention of Ed Kemper is a must. Popularly known as the Co-Ed killer, Ed showed signs of his obnoxious behavior from the very beginning. When he was a child, he killed animals, decapitated his sisters’ dolls, and even invented some disturbing games. When he was 15, he murdered his grandparents without any regrets, and there was no turning back for him.

So, what is the infamous case of Ed Kemper, and where is he now? This article covers everything in detail.

Early Life of Ed Kemper

Edmund Kemper, or Ed Kemper, was born in Burbank, California. He was highly intelligent with an IQ of 136. However, he began to display sociopathic behavior from a very young age. Reportedly, as a child, Ed tortured animals, acted out bizarre sexual rituals with his sisters’ dolls, and committed other obnoxious activities. As he grew, his acts worsened. His mother, who constantly humiliated her son and berated him, would often make him sleep in the locked basement due to the fear that he would molest his sisters. Apparently, Kemper’s mother, Clarnell, suffered Borderline Personality Disorder, resulting in her rages and abuse against her son.

Kemper’s Grandparents Became his First Victims

Who would think of killing his grandparents at a very young age?

Kemper did!

After separating from his single mother and realizing his separated father had started his own family, Kemper reached out to his parents. But for him, living with his grandparents was no better. He called his grandfather senile and complained that his grandmother was emasculating. Kemper never got along with his grandparents and would often engage in arguments with them, which made him angrier each day. On the 27th of August, 1964, he got into another explosive argument with his grandmother. This time, he shot her in the head with his grandfather’s .22 caliber rifle. When his grandfather reached the house, Kemper shot him as well.

After killing his grandmother, Kemper explained that he killed her because he wanted to see what it felt like to kill Grandma and kill her husband so that he wouldn’t find out that his wife had been murdered. It didn’t stop there. After committing two murders, he called his mother and confessed everything. As a result, he was sent to the criminally insane unit of the Atascadero State Hospital.

The doctors diagnosed Kemper with paranoid schizophrenia and a very impressive IQ. But despite the crimes he committed, he spent only a few years in the hospital. He was released when he turned 21 and decided to return to his mother.

The Murder Spree Didn’t Stop

After spending some time living with his mother, Kemper decided to move in with a friend in Alameda. He began working for the highway department and was engaged to a 16-year-old high school student.

Around this time, he began to notice a large number of hitchhikers who were young women. It caused him to build his kill kit. As a result, he accumulated knives, blankets, bags, and handcuffs. His murdering spree began from here, and he claimed to have picked up and dropped off more than 150 young women, not killing anyone until his gross sexual urges took over.

When his sexual urge would take over, he would kill female hitchhikers, dismember them, and perform sexual acts with severed heads and bodies. After interviewing Kemper, psychiatrists believed he was using the young female victims as a surrogate for his mother, the one he wanted to kill.

His first pair of victims were Mary Ann Pesce and Anita Luchessa. Kemper killed them, placed both girls in the trunk of his car and drove to his apartment, had sex with the corpses, took pornographic photographs, and dismembered and decapitated both bodies. He then dumped the heads of both girls into a ravine. Ann’s head was discovered later after a few days.

Another of Kemper’s victims was Aiko Koo. He decided to hitchhike the 15-year-old girl home after a dance class because she had missed her bus. After driving to a wooded area, he locked himself out of his car and brandished a gun at Koo. He choked her until she lost consciousness. He raped her, killed her, took her body back to his apartment, and like his previous murder, dismembered her body and treated it much the same day he did his first two female victims. Her body was never found.

Following his spree of murdering female college students, he became popular as the Co-Ed killer. After multiple rounds of murders, he began to risk getting caught. Kemper did it to get an additional thrill into his life. He hung out at a bar popular with police officers and even made friends with local cops. He enjoyed being close to the people trying to catch him. Kemper moved back with his mother in 1973, and even after moving back, he murdered three more college students. He buried a severed head from one victim in his mother’s garden and left it facing toward her bedroom.

Kemper’s Final Murder and Confessions

The truth is that all this while Ed Kemper’s real target was his mother. In one of his confessions, he stated, “My victims represented not what my mother was, but what she liked, what she coveted, what was important to her, and I was destroying it.” When he went back to stay with his mother, it again brought him right back to his childhood, and he started having horrible battles with her.

On the 20th of April, 1973, Kemper bludgeoned his mother to death with a claw hammer while she was asleep. It was not finished for him. He decapitated her and raped her severed head, and even used it as a dartboard. He cut her tongue and larynx and placed them in the garbage disposal.

To shock you even more, he invited his mother’s best friend, Sally Hallett and murdered her. Afterward, he drove to Colorado, and when he didn’t hear anything for a while, he ended up calling the police and confessed everything.

When asked why he stopped killing and made the confession, Kemper said, “It wasn’t serving any physical or real or emotional purpose. It was just a purse waste of time. Emotionally I couldn’t handle it much longer. Toward the end there, I started feeling the folly of the whole damn thing, and at that point of near exhaustion, near collapse, I just said to hell with it and called it all off.”

The Trials of Ed Kemper

After his confession, Kemper was arrested, and his trials began. He faced eight counts of first-degree murder. He attempted to end his own life twice while awaiting trial. While his attorney tried to enter a plea of not guilty by the reason of insanity, the court-appointed psychiatrists found him to be sane, despite a confession of cannibalism, which he later recanted.

Kamper requested death by torture. But, California had a moratorium on the death penalty during that time. He received seven years of life for each count of first-degree murder to be served concurrently. Instead of prison, he was sent to the California Medical facility.

He was denied parole in 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1982, and after these denials, he still waited for his right to a parole hearing. In 2017, he waived his hearing. He wouldn’t be eligible for parole again until 2024.

Where is Ed Kemper Now?

Kemper, to this day, resides in the same prison. During his early years behind bars, he willingly participated in various interviews with reporters and law enforcement officials. However, before long, he was meeting with the FBI to discuss his heinous crimes and why he committed them.

In the recent years of his imprisonment, he garnered a reputation as a model prisoner. Currently, he is in charge of scheduling other inmates’ appointments with psychiatrists and has spent over 5,000 hours narrating audiobooks of stories like Dune and Star Wars. He has been chronicled in the first season of Netflix’s crime show Mindhunter.

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