The Chilling Case of Ed Kemper

The Chilling Case of Ed Kemper - Mug shot of Kemper on November 9, 1973
The Chilling Case of Ed Kemper – Mug shot November 9, 1973

Ed Kemper: The 15-year-old Murderer

On August 27, 1964, the California police received a strange phone call. A 15-year-old boy named Ed Kemper confessed to them that he had killed both of his grandparents. When the police arrived at the house, they would find a teenager patiently waiting to be arrested.

 The first question the officer asked the young man was: Why did you do it? The answer left the agents dumbfounded.

I killed them because I was angry with the world and because I wanted to know what it feels like to take a life

Ed Kemper

Ed would continue to tell the police how the events unfolded. It all started with an argument between him and his grandmother

His grandmother wanted to take away the firearm that his grandfather had given him. He refused, and as a last resort, he decided to shoot her in the head to end the discussion. But he did not stop there. To finish her off he shot her twice in the chest and thus ensured that she had died.

Young Edmund Emil Kemper III
Young Edmund Emil Kemper III

As his grandmother’s body lay lifeless in the kitchen, he left the house with his rifle in hand and waited patiently for his grandfather to return from running errands. As soon as his grandfather arrived, Kemper shot him and ended his life

Minutes later Ed called the police to confess to both murders. To justify why he killed his grandfather, the young man told the agents that it was to prevent him from finding out that his wife had died.

Ed Kemper's Grandmother - First Victim
Ed Kemper’s Grandmother – First Victim
Ed Kemper's Grandfather - Second Victim
Ed Kemper’s Grandfather – Second Victim

Are Psychopaths Born or Made?

Although Ed was underage, the police decided to transfer the case to the California adult court. It was not normal practice at the time but the agents could see that this case was getting out of hand.

In September 1964, Ed would undergo a psychiatric evaluation for which he would be diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. The judge handling Kemper’s case decided that these crimes were above what a minor would be capable of doing, for which the court decide to sentence him to a maximum-security psychiatric hospital.

Article Clipping - Edmund Emill Kemper III
Article Clipping – Edmund Emil Kemper III

All the hospital workers were fascinated by Ed. Kemper would draw a lot of attention not only because of his height since he was very tall for his age but also because he was polite and very, very intelligent.

Ed took several intelligence tests resulting in a genius-level with an IQ of 136 The FBI agent John Douglas who wrote the famous book Mindhunter (a book that became a series) said that Ed was so good with the evidence that they even let him see the evidence and pass it on to his colleagues in the hospital.

Such freedom and information about tests and evaluations would make Ed take the most information to help himself. Meanwhile, doctors and psychologists began to question the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. Kemper was tested again but this time he knew what to say and what the doctors wanted to hear. When it was time to talk to the parole board, Ed gave them a speech about rehabilitation that finally convinced the board, setting him free. In those years, justice gave more importance to rehabilitation than to punishment itself.

Ed took several intelligence tests resulting in a genius level. The FBI agent John Douglas who wrote the famous book Mindhunter (a book that became a series) said that Ed was so good with the evidence that they even let him see the evidence and pass it on to his colleagues in the hospital. Such freedom and information about tests and evaluations would make Ed take the most information to help himself. Meanwhile, doctors and psychologists began to question the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia.

Kemper was tested again but this time he knew what to say and what the doctors wanted to hear. When it was time to talk to the parole board, Ed gave them a speech about rehabilitation that finally convinced the board, setting him free. In those years, justice gave more importance to rehabilitation than to punishment itself.

Years later, Ed Kemper would recount his experience with the court and his first incarceration for the murder of his paternal grandparents in 1964:

I think I was the only murderer to leave Atascadero with a clean record – in fact, the psychiatrists did not want to release me – they were about to transfer me to Agnew State Hospital, where I would have been released after many years, and then closely monitored. Remember that I was not yet twenty-one, without any love or sexual experience, and that I had never worked in my life.

Ed Kemper. Source: EdmundKemperStories.com

At Atascadero, I found myself, a minor, in a psychiatric hospital for hardened criminals. In 1964, the average age of prisoners was thirty-six. According to the law, I should have been sent to Napa State Hospital, an institution with minimal security, but the judge was so outraged by my crimes that he declared ‘not wanting to send this young man to Disneyland.’ That’s why I ended up in Atascadero, with people on average twenty years older than me. Believe me, I grew up very quickly.

Ed Kemper. Source: EdmundKemperStories.com

When Ed turned 21 in 1969, the doctors were so impressed with his progress that they are practically convinced of his rehabilitation.

‘Big Ed’

Ed was released from the psychiatric hospital and moved with his mother to Santa Cruz, California, a small college town with many academic options, only 180 miles from where he killed his grandparents. Ed’s mother worked for the university, and Kemper enrolled to study with a Community College course, but soon gave it up. He decided to become a state trooper instead.

From the outside everything seemed to be going well, it even made one think that he had really been rehabilitated.

They rejected Ed Kemper’s state trooper application. However, the most surprising part, is that the rejection was not because of his criminal record (which they did not know about or we assume that they had not come to review it) but because of his impressive height. Kemper was 2.6 meters tall and exceeded the height limit that was in the regulations.

Although he received a rejection from the state police, Ed took it well and ended up making good friends with the police since they always coincided at the same bar. The cops end up being such friends with Ed that they end up giving him the nickname ‘Big Ed’ (the giant Ed).

Ed Kemper - 'Big Ed' - with Police Officers
Ed Kemper – ‘Big Ed’ – with Police Officers

Although he received a rejection from the state police, Ed took it well and ended up making good friends with the police since they always coincided at the same bar. The cops end up being such friends with Ed that they end up giving him the nickname ‘Big Ed’ (the giant Ed).

Kemper got a job fixing roads for the California Department of Transportation. The life that Ed was leading made everybody think more and more that rehabilitation has worked. Even his psychiatrist wrote a recommendation letter assuring that Ed did not have any mental problems and that he was 100% rehabilitated.

Murder Capital of the World

In the fall of 1972, the Santa Cruz police come across a series of murders. It all started in August when they came across a skull in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  The police used the dental reports to discover the identity of the remains.

The victim was Mary Ann, a 19-year-old student who disappeared near Berkley with her friend Anita. Finding only Mary Ann’s skull and no trace of Anita, police assumed the worst was over.

Kemper would later explain to the police that he stabbed and strangled Mary Ann before also stabbing Anita. After the murders, he took the bodies to his apartment and removed their heads and hands. Kemper also reportedly had sexual relations with the corpses.

Anita - Ed Kemper's Victim - Of her friend Mary Ann, only the skull was found
Anita – Ed Kemper’s Victim – Of her friend Mary Ann, only the skull was found

In the middle of September, a 15-year-old student named Aiko disappeared on her way to catch the bus while going to her ballet class. Ed would pick up Aiko in his car when she decided to hitchhike instead of taking the bus. Ed would use the same modus operandi that he used for the Mary Ann and Anita murders.

More and more murders appear until the press started calling Santa Cruz the “Murder Capital of the World”. It must be clarified that at the same time that Kemper was carrying out his murders there were two other serial killers in the area, John Linley Frazier and Herbert Mullins, who were also perpetuating their own crimes in the same area of ​​Santa Cruz.

Aiko-Ed Kemper's Victim
Aiko-Ed Kemper’s Victim

In January 1973 a woman’s body is found. Victim Cindy hitchhiked when Kemper picked her up and shot her. While Ed’s mother was away from home, Kemper took Cindy’s lifeless body to her room, dismembered her and dumped the parts into the ocean. He buried her head in his mother’s backyard. Several parts were later discovered when they washed ashore.

Cindy-Ed Kemper's Victim
Cindy-Ed Kemper’s Victim

In February 1973, Kemper used his mother’s parking pass to enter the university parking lot. There he would meet two hitchhiking girls, Rosalind and Alice. A few minutes after Kemper picked them up he would shoot them. After the murders, Kemper decapitated his two victims and continued to dismember the bodies, extracting the bullets from their heads and disposing of their parts in different places.

In March, some of Rosalind and Alice’s remains were discovered by hikers near Highway 1 in San Mateo County.

Alice - Ed Kemper's Victim
Alice – Ed Kemper’s Victim

In April 1973 Ed Kemper would commit his last two murders. Ed had a heated argument with his mother and when she was about to go to sleep, Kemper attacked her, first hitting her on the head with a hammer and then cutting her throat with a knife. He continued with his modus operandi, decapitated her and cut off her hands, but also removed her larynx and put it in the garbage disposal.

 After hiding his mother’s body parts, Kemper called his mother’s friend Sally. He invited her to come to the house. As soon as he arrived, he killed her and hid her body in the closet.

Ed Kemper's Mother
Ed Kemper’s Mother

The Confession

The next day Ed fled the Pueblo area of ​​Colorado. On April 23 he made a call to the Santa Cruz police to confess his crimes. At first, they didn’t believe that the guy they knew as “Big Ed” was a murderer, but later during their interviews, they found out that Ed was to blame for all the disappearances in the last few months.

Ed Kemper was charged and tried on 8 counts of first-degree murder. In November 1973, he was sentenced to eight concurrent life sentences. Kemper is currently serving his sentence at the California Medical Center in Vacaville.

Ed Kemper - 2011
Ed Kemper – 2011

4 thoughts on “The Chilling Case of Ed Kemper

  1. I saw a lot of interviews about him, very smart, but I believe he had an emotional breakdown because of his mother, this guy was sick, I agree but I believe if his mother had treated differently, he would have turned out better. I’m not looking for an excuse for him, I know what he was and what he did. That is why education, love and respect are important.he grew up with a hatred of women and a very, very big lack of love that clearly affected him.

  2. Tragic story, I wonder what his reasoning was for removing hands? I’d also like to know more about his relationship with his mother.

  3. I think that there are people who are born like this and due to a bad childhood or a traumatic situation, they start to commit crimes. It is a tragic story for him and even more tragic to his victims

  4. it is incredible how childhood traumas can affect a person so much, ed’s story is macabre and tragic at the same time, psychological help is very important, very sad everything that those poor people who were victims of this had to go through mentally damaged man.

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