Edmund Emil Kemper III (born December 18 1948), also known as The Co-ed Killer, is an American serial killer who was active in the early 1970s. He started his criminal life as a teenager by shooting both his grandparents while staying on their 17-acre ranch in North Fork, California, a crime for which he was incarcerated. Kemper later killed and dismembered six female hitchhikers in the Santa Cruz, California, area. He then murdered his mother (before performing necrophilia on her decapitated body) and one of her friends before turning himself in to the authorities.
Kemper was born in Burbank, California, to Clarnell Stage and Edmund Emil Kemper, Jr. He was very intelligent (with an IQ of 136), but displayed sociopathic behavior from a young age: he tortured and killed animals, acted out bizarre sexual rituals with his sisters' dolls and once said that, in order to kiss a teacher he had a crush on, he would have to kill her. Worsening the situation was Kemper's mother, who constantly berated and humiliated her son and often made him sleep in a locked basement because she feared that he would molest his sisters. Kemper's mother apparently suffered from Borderline personality disorder, which resulted in her rages and abuse against her son.
On August 27, 1964, Kemper shot his grandmother while she sat at the kitchen table putting the finishing touches on her latest children's book. When his grandfather came home from grocery shopping, Kemper shot him as well. Then he called his mother, who urged him to call the police. When questioned, he said that he "just wanted to see what it felt like to kill Grandma," and that he killed his grandfather because he knew he would be angry at him for what he had done to his grandmother.
Kemper was committed to Atascadero State Hospital, where he befriended his psychologist and even became his assistant. He was intelligent enough to gain the trust of the doctor to the extent of being allowed access to prisoners' tests. With the knowledge he gained from his "apprenticeship" he eventually was able to impress his doctor at the hospital enough to let him go. He was released into his mother's care in Santa Cruz, California, against the wishes of several doctors at the hospital. Kemper later demonstrated further to the psychologists that he was well — and to have his juvenile records sealed forever.
Kemper worked a series of odd jobs before securing work with the State of California's Department of Public Works/Division of Highways in District 4 (now known as Department of Transportation or Caltrans). By that time, his height had reached 6 feet, 9 inches, and he weighed more than 300 pounds (136 kg).
Between May 1972 and February 1973, Kemper embarked on a spree of murders, picking up female students hitchhiking, taking them to isolated rural areas and killing them. He would stab, shoot or smother the victims and afterwards take the bodies back to his apartment where he would commit necrophilia with them, dissecting them afterwards. He would often dump the bodies in ravines or bury them in fields, although on one occasion he buried the severed head of a 15-year-old girl in his mother's garden as a kind of sick joke, later remarking that his mother "always wanted people to look up to her." He killed six college girls (including two students from UC Santa Cruz, where his mother worked, and one from Cabrillo College). He would often go hunting for victims after arguing with his mother.
In April 1973, Kemper battered his mother to death with a pick hammer while she slept. He used her decapitated head for oral sex before using it as a dartboard. He also cut out her vocal cords and put them in the garbage disposal, but the machine could not break the tough tissue down and regurgitated it back into the sink. "That seemed appropriate," he said after his arrest, "as much as she'd bitched and screamed and yelled at me over so many years." His murderous urges not yet satiated, he then invited his mother's best friend over and killed her too, by strangulation. He then drove eastward, but when no word of his crimes hit the radio airwaves he became discouraged, stopped the car, called the police and confessed to being the Co-ed Killer. He told them what he had done and waited for them to pick him up, seemingly unashamed as he confessed to necrophilia and cannibalism. At his trial he pleaded insanity, but he was found guilty of eight counts of murder. He asked for the death penalty, but with capital punishment suspended at that time, he instead received life imprisonment.
At the time of Kemper's murder spree in Santa Cruz, another serial killer named Herbert Mullin was also active, earning the small California town the title of "Murder Capital Of The World." Also adding to the college town's infamy was the fact that Kemper's and Mullin's crimes were preceded three years earlier by multiple murders committed by John Linley Frazier, who murdered Santa Cruz eye surgeon Victor Ohta and his family. Kemper and Mullin were briefly held in adjoining cells, with the former angrily accusing the latter of stealing his body-dumping sites.
Edmund Kemper remains among the general prison population and is incarcerated at Vacaville State Prison, in Vacaville, California.
- Maude Kemper August 27,1964
- Ed Emil Kemper August 27,1964
- Mary Anne Pesce May 5,1972
- Anita Luchese May 5,1972
- Aiko Koo September 14,1972
- Cindy Schall January 8,1973
- Rosalind Thorpe February 5,1973
- Alice Liu February 5,1973
- Clarnell Strandberg April 21,1973
- Sally Hallett April 21,1973
- The Berzerker's song "Forever" from the self titled album contains samples from Ed Kemper's testament, including "As I'm sitting there with a severed head in my hand, talking to it, or looking at it, and I'm about to go crazy, literally I'm about to go completely... Flywheel loose and just fall apart". It also contains samples such as "At the age of 24, he murdered his mother, then called police and confessed to having dismembered college co-eds for two years, as well as cannibalizing and raping their headless bodies" and "put her vocal cords in a garbage disposal, then threw darts at her severed head". These are all references to Kemper's murders
- Church of Misery's song "Killfornia" contains a long testament by Kemper, also featuring the line "As I'm sitting there with a severed head in my hand..."
- Optimum Wound Profile also use long segments of Kemper's testimony on the song "Crave", once more including the "severed head" line.
- American death metal band Macabre wrote a song about Edmund Kemper on their 1993 album Sinister Slaughter entitled "Edmund Kemper Had a Horrible Temper."
- Author Thomas Harris based the character of Buffalo Bill in his book The Silence of the Lambs in part upon Kemper. In the book, Buffalo Bill was a serial killer who, like Kemper, had begun his "career" by impulsively killing his grandparents as a teenager.
- The Ed Kemper Trio took their name from the killer. The band formed in the late nineties in Montgomery, Alabama, releasing three albums on Pinebox Records.
- System of a Down's song "Forever" (aka "Fortress" or "Outer Space") from the leaked album "Toxicity II" contains lyrics referencing Kemper including "Edmund Kemper solved it all, He fooled the shrinks." The song was later dropped from the released "Steal This Album!"
- Pioneering industrial act Throbbing Gristle's song "Urge to Kill", performed only once at a 1978 concert, details Kemper's crimes.
- Dr Octagon - The Instrumentalist album has Kemper interview excerpts in the song "I'm Destructive."
- The Discovery Times show Most Evil featured Edmund Kemper in their episode on "Masterminds".
- The intro of the song "The Glorious Dead", by Dutch death metal group Gorefest, features Edmund Kemper speaking "I am an human being and I kill human beings, and I did it in my society".
- Kemper is described as an "exotic" serial killer compared to Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, and Jeffrey Dahmer in the novel Black House, by Stephen King and Peter Straub.
- From the 1990's television series Tales From the Crypt in the episode Confession comedy star Eddie Izzard says "I'm paraphrasing Edmund Kemper...]]
- The 2003 movie Cradle of Fear features a convicted serial killer named Kemper.
- In the special features of the 2007 re-make of Black Christmas, the director states his insipiration for the killer in the film comes from the Edmund Kemper case.
- In the manga, Monster by Naoki Urasawa, in chapter 33, an unnamed character greatly resembling Kemper is being interviewed by criminologist Rudy Gillen.
- A quotation originally from Kemper, phrased as "When I see a pretty girl walking down the street, I think two things. One part of me wants to take her out and talk to her, be real nice and sweet and treat her right. [And the other part of me thinks] what her head would look like on a stick", is mentioned by fictional serial killer Patrick Bateman in the Bret Easton Ellis novel American Psycho, as well as the film adaptation of the same name. In both the novel and the film, the character misattributes the quote to another serial killer, Ed Gein.
- In the book The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen Edmund Kemper's case is mentioned in relation to another fictitious serial killer.
- In the 2003 remake of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Eric Balfour plays a character named Kemper, which is attributed to be a reference to Edmund Kemper.
- Australian band Celibate Rifles wrote a song titled "Temper Temper Mr Kemper" for their 1986 album "The Turgid Miasma of Existence".
- Cheney, Margaret, Why: The Serial Killer in America. R& E Publishers:Saratoga, CA (1992). (Reprinting of the author's The Co-Ed Killer. Walker and Company:New York, NY (1976). ISBN 0-8027-0514-6.)
- Damio, Ward, Urge to Kill. Pinnacle Books:New York, NY (1974). ISBN 0-523-00380-3. (Discusses Kemper plus two contemporary Santa Cruz killers: John Linley Frazer and Herbert W. Mullin)
- Leyton, Elliott, Hunting Humans: The Rise Of The Modern Multiple Murderer. McClelland & Stewart (2005). ISBN 0-7710-5025-9. (Full chapter on Kemper)
- Ressler, Robert K., Whoever Fights Monsters: My Twenty Years Tracking Serial Killers for The FBI. (approx. 20 pages on Kemper).
- West, Don, Sacrifice Unto Me. Pinnacle Books:New York, NY (1974). ISBN 0-515-03335-9. (Story of Kemper and Herbert W. Mullin)
- Douglas, John, Mind Hunter. Pocket Books:New York, NY (1995). ISBN 0-671-52890-4.
- Lawson, Christine Ann Understanding the Borderline Mother -- Helping Her Children Transcend the Intense, Unpredictable, and Volatile Relationship. Jason Aronson.