Doc Bonn shares the real life atrocity tale of serial killer Edmund Kemper

 

The following is a real life horror story and atrocity tale that defies comprehension.  Edmund Kemper III, a U.S. serial killer and necrophile, also known as “The Co-ed Killer,” was born December 18, 1948, in Burbank, CA.  He was arrested in April, 1973, at the age of 24, after murdering six female students, his own mother, and her mother’s best friend.

Despite his relative youth upon capture, Kemper had actually committed his first two murders nearly a decade earlier.  Kemper was an extremely intelligent child but he engaged in sociopathic behavior early on, including the torture and killing of animals, a common childhood practice among nearly half of all serial killers.  During childhood, Kemper was physically and emotionally abused by his alcoholic mother, Clarnell, who was divorced from his father.  Clarnell frequently locked her son in a dark basement alone at night.

Not too surprisingly, Edmund grew up to hate his mother and, at the age of 14, ran away from home in search of his father in Van Nuys, CA. After locating but being rejected by his father, young Edmund was sent to live with his paternal grandmother and grandfather in North Fork, CA.  Kemper claims that his grandmother, similar to his mother, was very abusive and he disliked her intensely.

In 1964, at the age of 15, Edmund shot his grandmother in the head allegedly just to see what it felt like, and then killed his grandfather, too, because he knew that his grandfather would be angry at him for killing his grandmother.  Kemper was committed to the Atascadero State Hospital for the criminally insane.  To his chagrin, he was released into his mother’s care in 1969, after less than five years of confinement and treatment.  His juvenile criminal record was expunged.

As a young adult, Kemper stood six-foot-nine and weighed 280 pounds.  He frequently thought about killing his mother but wasn’t yet ready to pursue that goal.  The prospect of killing his mother without first perfecting his murder skills on others was too overwhelming for Kemper.  So, between May, 1972, and February, 1973, Kemper embarked on a series of six shocking serial murders in which he picked up hitchhiking female students along the highway and then transported them to rural areas where he would kill them, decapitate, and have sex with their corpses.  He collected their dismembered heads in his apartment and would later have sex with them, too.

Like certain other notorious serial killers such as Dennis Rader, who called himself “Bind, Torture, Kill” based on his actual criminal motivations and modus operandi, Ed Kemper sought public recognition and acclaim for his murders.  This led him to befriend, socialize and drink in a bar called “The Jury Room” with the very law enforcement officers who were actually pursuing the man they called “Big Eddie.”

After finally realizing his ultimate fantasy of killing his mother (and her best friend) on Good Friday, 1973, and having sex with her decapitated head, Edmund Kemper confessed what he had done to authorities by telephone.  However, the police initially refused to believe him, thinking that “Big Eddie” was just pulling a prank on them.  After several calls and the disclosure of information that only the killer would know, Kemper finally convinced the police that he was “The Co-ed Killer.”  He was arrested and later charged with eight murders in the first degree.  Kemper was found guilty and given a life sentence because there was a stay on the death penalty in the U.S. at the time of his conviction.

Given his homicidal obsession with his mother, one might wonder if killing her finally exorcised the demons that tormented Edmund Kemper and gave him closure.  Perhaps you can decide for yourself based on his following actual words.  Sometime after his conviction, Kemper was asked allegedly by a Cosmopolitan magazine reporter during a prison interview how he felt when he saw a pretty girl.  He said, “One side of me says, I’d like to talk to her, date her.  The other side says, I wonder how her head would look on a stick.”

What are your reactions to this real life atrocity tale? I’d like to hear from you.

 

Dr. Scott Bonn is Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Drew University in Madison, NJ.  He is the author of the critically acclaimed book “Mass Deception: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq”and is currently writing a book about the public’s fascination with psychopathic serial killers in reality and fiction. He is @DocBonn on Twitter.

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Posted on August 30, 2012, in Serial Killers and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I find Edmund Kemper to be one of the scariest of the more well known serial killers. From what I’ve seen and read, he’s intelligent, articulate and quite likeable. Then you look at his crimes…

    My personal opinion is that Kemper was born with sociopathic tendencies. But that’s not enough to turn someone into a serial killer. I think Clarnell Kemper played a significant role in fueling his feelings of rage and inadequacy that led to his later crimes. He always seemed, to me, to be the perfect storm of nature and nurture.

    Obviously what Kemper did to his victims (even his virago of a mother) is the main atrocity in this story and for that I can’t muster up any sympathy for him. But I can’t help but wonder how he would’ve turned out had his mother been a better person.

  2. Greetings Doc Bonn: Very eerie tale….. Author Michael Dooling also relates some interesting information re this heinous killer. His book, “Clueless in New England…” a meticulously researched historical account of three unrelated young women who go missing in New England towns from the 1930′s to the 1960′s via hitch hiking is a good read.

    The fact that Kemper had to convince the police that he was the killer…and a drinking buddy doesn’t reflect well on the police…. Hiding in plain sight!

    Best Regards,
    Donna – “Ladyjustice”

  3. Thanks, Donna. Kemper, like many serial killers are very adept at hiding in plain sight; especially, psychopaths who have poker faces as a “benefit” of their personality disorder!

  4. I find it despicable that society does not even attempt to be more vigilant on all the abuse going on. I can’t evaluate the case of Edmund Kemper, nor do I see his deeds as legitimate. Still punishing the own abusers will never be a real crime to me. Still the side-notes casually mentioned betray our oh so peaceful and educated western societies for the treacherous, and fiendish, mockery they are for real. A child beaten, raped, and brainwashed is abandoned to such torment even by the Law later blaming him or her for retaliating in kind, nearly like a sacrificial victim, and then expected to “function normally”? Nobody could blend out a trauma, if there is only the trauma left at all. Further Humans live, they do not function, like robots or machines, at all. It reminded me of the song “Madcoil – Nightcrawler” as that song had a line about being “born” in fear, and hurt, and anger…

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