- Kemper appeared to show deviant sexual desires and wanted to kiss his own sister. On numerous occasions in which he would sneak out of his home with his father’s bayonet and observe his second-grade teacher at her home, peering through her windows.
- Raped and killed six young women in the Santa Cruz, California, area and several members of his family between 1964 and 1973.
Born in Burbank, California Edmund Emil Kemper III was the middle child in what seemed to be a ‘normal’ American family. At a young age, Kemper exhibited antisocial as well as psychotic behavior ranging from cruelty to animals to creating sexual rituals with his sisters’ dolls. At the age of ten Kemper buried their family cat alive, once dead he decapitated it and mounted the head on a spike. As Kemper grew older, he engaged in a more violent behavior, fatally stabbing the family’s replacement cat.
Kemper appeared to show deviant sexual desires. On one occasion, he began to show attraction to his female teacher. When his eldest sister began to tease him, she asked him why he only wanted to kiss her. Kemper responded, “If I kiss her, I’d have to kill her first.” Kemper recalled numerous occasions in which he would sneak out of his home with his father’s bayonet and observe his second-grade teacher at her home, peering through her windows.
Kemper had a relatively strong bond with his father, and as his parents decided to divorce in 1961, he was devastated as his mother would raise him in Helena, Montana. His mother Clarnell was deemed neurotic as well as an overbearing alcoholic that would humiliate and verbally abuse her son, at times even locking him in the basement due to her fear that he would harm his sisters. Carnell constantly told Kemper no woman would ever love him, persistently reminding him that he was inadequate. By the late summer of 1963, Kemper ran away from home to his father in Van Nuys, Los Angeles. He would soon learn that his father had remarried and had another son, he would soon make his return to his mother in Montana. On his arrival, Carnell discovered the remains of the former family cat in Kemper’s closet and sent him to live with his paternal grandparents, Edmund and Maude Kemper.
In late August 1964, Kemper would commit his first murders - as grandmother Maude was working on her children’s book, an argument escalated Kemper to grab a .22 caliber rifle, given to him for hunting, and fatally shot his grandmother. He then dragged her lifeless body into her bedroom and shot his grandfather as he returned from the grocery store in the driveway. Kemper was unsure of what to do and instinctively called his mother for advice, who urged him to inform the police. Kemper told the local police of his crime and calmly awaited their arrival on the porch. When questioned on to why he had killed his grandparents Kemper stated, “I just wanted to see what it felt like to kill Grandma.”
At the time of his crimes Kemper was merely fifteen years old and was sent to the California Youth Authority to go through psychiatric tests that revealed his paranoid schizophrenia but an IQ of 136, well within the genius range. He was committed to the Atascadero State Hospital for the criminally insane, where he befriended his psychiatrist and slowly manipulated the system allowing for access to numerous psychological tests as well as even having permission to administer the tests at times.
On his 21st birthday, he was released from Atascadero after serving five years and proving to his psychiatric staff that he would be safe to release. It was later suggested that he did this by memorizing 28 different assessment devices. Against the urging of numerous psychiatrists within the hospital, he was released into his mother’s care. By November 29, 1972, his juvenile records had been permanently expunged, his last psychiatrist noting: “…I would think that we’re dealing with a very well-adjusted young man who had initiative, intelligence and who was free of any psychiatric illness…”
While Kemper remained with his mother, he attended community college and maintained a relationship with the Santa Cruz police and taking unskilled jobs till he secured a position with the State of California Highway Department. Kemper began to save and was finally able to acquire a small apartment with a friend in Alameda, California. Within the same year, Kemper was hit by a car while driving his motorcycle and severely injured his arm. Due to the accident, he received a hefty settlement of $15,000 in a civil suit against the driver and was soon unable to work. During this time, Kemper began to notice a fair amount of women hitchhiking in his area and began his new hobby - he acquired a 1969 Yellow Ford Galaxie from his settlement and started to pick up women and let them go before deciding on which women he would abduct.
From May 1972 until April 1973 Kemper embarked on his murder spree with a total of six female students as well as his mother and best friend. Kemper would pick up girls hitchhiking, escort them to isolated areas where he would stab, shoot or strangle his victims and take their bodies to his home where he would perform fellatio on their severed heads, have sex with the corpses and finally dismember them.
Kemper would later state that he would obtain victims after an argument with his mother.
On May 7, 1972 Kemper picker up Mary Ann Pesce and Anita Mary Luchessa, two Fresno State students on their way to Stanford University. After driving for an hour Kemper handcuffed Pesce and locked Luchessa in the trunk. He proceeded to stab and strangle Pesce first and killed Luchessa after. Kemper later stated that as he was handcuffing Pesce he “brushed the back of my hand against one of her breasted and it embarrassed me, I even said ‘whoops, I’m sorry’ or something like that. Minutes later Kemper murdered both the women in cold blood.
Kemper returned to his apartment where he took pornographic photographs of the bodies and proceeded to have sex with the corpses as he dismembered them placing their bodies in plastic bags and dumping them near Loma Prieta Mountain. Before desposing of the women’s head he had fellatio with the severed head before abandoning them in a ravine. Aiko Koo, Cindy Schall, Rosalind Thiorpe, Allison Liu, Clarnell Strangberh (his mother) and Sally Hallet all suffered similar fates.
When Kemper was asked why he decapitated his victims before having sex with their corpses he states, “The head trip fantasies were a bit like a trophy. You know, the head is where everything is at, the brain, eyes, mouth. That’s the person. I remember being told as a kid, you cut off the head and the body dies. The body is nothing after the head is cut off … well, that’s not quite true, there’s a lot left in the girl’s body without the head”
Kemper’s own mother would be one of his final victims, before waiting for her to fall asleep she was bludgeoned to death with a claw hammer and her throat was slit with a knife. She was then decapitated and similarly to his previous victims he engaged in fellatio with her severed head and used her head as a dart board. His finally act against his mother was to place her tongue and vocal cords in the garbage disposal, he later said “That seemed appropriate as much as she’d bitched and screamed and yelled at me over so many years”. He proceeded to have sex with his mother’s corpse and left to have a drink.
Sally Hallett, Clarnell’s friend entered the home for dinner and a movie, on her arrival Kemper strangled her had sex with her lifeless body and decapitated and stuffed her corpse into a closet. Kemper would later confess to the murder of his mother, Clarnell as well as Hallett. Once he confessed the police in fact told him to call back later, not believing his confession. Kemper called again confessing that he killed his mother and Hallett, when later asked why he confessed he replied “The original purpose was gone … It wasn’t serving any physical or real or emotional purpose. It was just a pure 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 the point of near exhaustion, near collapse, I just said to hell with it and called it all off”.
On November 8, 1973 he was charged with eight counts of first-degree murder and received seven years to life for each count. Kemper was eligible for parole in 2007 as well as 2012, but on both occasions Kemper stated to his parole board that he was not fit to return to society and was denied parole. He is eligible for parole in 2017.
In a line from the popular movie American Psycho, Bateman misquotes Kemper with the line, “What do you think, now, when you see a pretty girl walking down the street? One side of me says, “Wow, what an attractive chick. I’d like to talk to her, date her.” The other side of me says, “I wonder how her head would look on a stick?”
He is currently being held in the California Medical Facility in Vacaville, California.