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Edmund Kemper: The Horrifying Crimes Of The 6'9" Monster Known As The Co-Ed Killer

Updated: Oct 4, 2022

Dubbed the "Co-Ed Killer," Ed Kemper murdered at least 10 people in California during the 1960s and 70s in a horrific killing spree that even included his own mother and grandparents.

Serial Killer Edmund Kemper
Edmund Kemper, the "Co-Ed Killer," terrorised California in the 1960s and 70s

The story of Edmund Kemper is up there with the very worst of the worst. From a young age, all the signs were there that he was going to grow up into a monster, and that's exactly what he did. As a young boy, Edmund Kemper would create sick and twisted games, mutilate his sister's dolls, and kill animals simply for entertainment. At the age of 15, he even murdered his own grandparents.

Even when Kemper made his confession and told police he had killed six female hitchhikers as well as his own mother and her best friend, they didn't believe him. They all knew the 6'9" "Big Ed" and saw him as a gentle giant.

Little did they know at the time, Ed Kemper was anything but gentle, he was a vicious and perverted serial killer who mutilated bodies, raped corpses, and buried the heads of his victims in his yard.

Kemper was an extremely intelligent man, boasting an IQ of 145, making him all the more dangerous, he would use his intelligence to avoid being detected for his heinous crimes.

The story of Ed Kemper has recently been shown on Netflix's show, Mindhunter, the real story behind the "Co-Ed Killer," is much more disturbing than any TV show has portrayed.

Ed Kemper's Childhood
Edmund Kemper as a child with his younger sister, Allyn

Edmund Kemper's Childhood

Kemper was born on December 18, 1948, in Burbank, California, and it didn't take long before signs of his troubled mind became apparent.

His childhood was certainly what one might describe as turbulent, his mother, Clarnell Elizabeth Kemper, suffered from a personality disorder, and to make matters worse was a troubled alcoholic.

Kemper's father, who was a world war II veteran by the name of Edmund Emil Kemper II, once said, "Suicide missions in wartime and the later atomic bomb testing were nothing compared to living with Clarnell."

Clarnell was said to frequently attempt to belittle Kemper's father for his "menial job" working as an electrician. She even refused to show affection or coddle her son as she believed that doing so would "turn him gay."

This childhood environment led to Kemper starting to have dark fantasies from a young age, he started expressing some of these twisted thoughts by decapitating his sister's dolls.

Kemper said later, "I remember there was actually a sexual thrill — you hear that little pop and pull their heads off and hold them up by the hair, whipping their heads off, their body sitting there. That’d get me off."

He also coerced his sisters into playing sick games with him, such as "electric chair" and "gas chamber." It was as if Kemper was getting satisfaction from the thought of his own demise, making his sisters pretend to parade him to his own death.

Serial killer Edmund Kemper
Ed Kemper developed disturbing fantasies from a young age which soon turned into real violence

Kemper at one point in his life even stalked his school teacher while armed with his father's bayonet. His sister, Susan, once teased him about kissing the teacher, to which he coldly replied, "If I kiss her, I’d have to kill her first."

By the time Kemper had turned 10, his morbid fantasies started to turn into violence. His father left the family in 1957, and in response, Kemper decided to kill both of the family cats, burying one alive before later decapitating it.

When his father left, his mother started to take out her anger on Kemper, throughout his teenage years, she often made him sleep in the basement, saying that he might hurt his sisters, as well as regularly insulting him by telling him that he would never find a woman who would ever fall in love with him.

When he turned 14, Kemper decided that he had enough and ran away in the hope of going to live with his father, by this stage Kemper Sr had remarried and sent his son away to live with his grandparents, this is where Edmund Kemper would kill for the first time.

It became apparent that for Kemper, living with his grandparents on their ranch was no better than it was living at home with his mother. He would later refer to his grandfather Edmund as "senile" and described his grandmother Maude as "emasculating."

She "thought she had more balls than any man and was constantly emasculating me and my grandfather to prove it," he said.

Ed Kemper's grandparents
The first victims of Kemper were his own grandparents, Edmund Emil Kemper and Maude Kemper

After a string of fallouts with his grandmother, Kemper got angrier and his resentment towards her grew. "I couldn’t please her. It was like being in jail. I became a walking time bomb and I finally blew," he said.

It was on August 27, 1964, when an explosive argument between Kemper and his grandmother took a violent turn, Kemper, who was full of anger and aggression took his grandfather's .22 calibre rifle and shot Maude Kemper in the head.

His grandfather started walking up the driveway toward the house when Kemper shot him as well, now both grandparents were dead at the hands of Edmund Kemper.

In later interviews, Kemper explained how he killed his grandfather simply so he wouldn't find out that he had killed Maude, he gave an even more disturbing reason for killing his grandmother, he said, "I just wanted to see what it felt like to kill Grandma."

Following on from the double murder, Kemper made a phone call to his mother and confessed to what he had done.

Edmund Kemper was then sent to Atascadero State Hospital where he was held in the criminally insane unit. The doctors there diagnosed Kemper with paranoid schizophrenia, but they also confirmed his extremely impressive IQ.

Despite the horrendous crimes against his own grandparents, Kemper was only ordered to stay in the hospital for a few years, and on his 21st birthday in 1969, he was released.

Following on from his release he went back to live with his mother, who was then working at the University of California in Santa Cruz as an administrative assistant.

Edmund Kemper Victims
Edmund Kemper quickly built up a list of victims to his brutal crimes

To start with Edmund Kemper attempted to lead a normal life, however, it didn't take long for him to give into his murderous urges.

He applied for a job as a state trooper but was denied the position as he was deemed to be too large at 6'9" and over 300 pounds, but he did manage to secure a job with the Department of Transportation.

During this job he would be constantly driving around California and started giving rides to female hitchhikers, initially he picked up over 100 different girls without any incident.

He said: "At first I picked up girls just to talk to them, just to try to get acquainted with people my own age and try to strike up a friendship."

Kemper simply couldn't suppress the urge to murder that he had in his thoughts. When he was later questioned about what crossed his mind when he saw an attractive woman, his response was, "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?"

In 1972, Kemper's violent instinct struck again, on May 7th, near Berkeley, California, he picked up two students from Fresno State, 18-year-old Anita Luchessa and 18-year-old Mary Ann Pesce.

Kemper took the two women to a secluded woodland close by with the intent of raping them both, but he panicked, lashed out, and choked and stabbed the two women to death. He put the bodies of both of his victims into the trunk of his car and drove to his home in Alameda, on route a police officer pulled him over for having a broken taillight, however, he never searched the car. If he had, he would have found the bodies of both Anita Luchessa and Mary Ann Pesce and possibly stopped Kemper's future murder spree in its tracks.

Ed Kemper the "Co-Ed Killer"
Ed Kemper seen here enjoying a smoke with a police detective, the Co-Ed Killer’s amicable attitude fooled almost everyone during his crime spree

Once he got the bodies back home, he proceeded to rape both of their corpses before dismembering them, putting their body parts into plastic bags, and dumping them into a ravine near Loma Prieta Mountain.

Just several months later, Kemper would strike again, on September 14, 1972, he picked up another hitchhiker, this time it was 15-year-old Aiko Koo, who had missed her bus to take her to a dance class.

During this murder, Kemper actually locked himself out of his own car accidentally, but managed to persuade the teenage girl to let him back in before choking her until she lost consciousness, raping her, and then killing her.

Just like the previous murder, he stuffed the body of Koo into the trunk of his car, and later said that he recalled looking down at her body and feeling proud, he said that he "admired his catch like a fisherman."

Edmund Kemper started drinking in a bar called the Jury Room, which was popular with police officers, he made friends with many of the local police, who even referred to him as "Big Ed," he got a kick out of being so close to the people that were trying to catch him.

Kemper moved back in with his mother in 1973, but he still murdered a further three college students that he had picked up around the nearby campus.

He buried the dismembered head of one of the victims in his mother's garden and placed it so it was looking towards her bedroom, he later said that he did this because his mother "always wanted people to look up to her."

Edmund Kemper shows police victims burial spots
Ed Kemper is seen here showing police officers were he had buried some of his victims

It later became known that Edmund Kemper's mother had been his real target the whole time, "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," he said.

Living back with her brought Kemper right back to his memories of his childhood. "My mother and I started right in on horrendous battles, just horrible battles, violent and vicious," he later explained.

It was on the night of April 20, 1973, when Edmund Kemper bludgeoned his mother to death using a claw hammer while she slept.

After the violent murder, he decapitated her body before raping her severed head and then proceeding to use it as a dartboard.

He also screamed at the severed head for an hour straight, before cutting out her tongue and larynx and throwing them both into the garbage disposal. The mechanism couldn't manage to break up the tissue and quickly spat her remains back out into the sink, "That seemed appropriate," Kemper said, "as much as she’d bitched and screamed and yelled at me over so many years."

Where did Edmund Kemper bury his victims
Detectives pictured here digging in Edmund Kemper's yard in the search for the remains of his victims

Kemper quickly came up with a plan to ensure he was never caught for the murder of his mother, he invited her best friend, Sally Hallett over to the house. His intention was to say that Hallett and his mother had gone on vacation together. When his mother's friend arrived, he quickly murdered her and stole her car, before driving to Colorado. He was convinced that he would see the two murders on the news, but after he didn't hear anything for a while, he made the decision to call the police from a phone box and confessed to everything.

The police initially didn't believe his claims, there was no way that "Big Ed," the gentle giant that they had grown to like could be a murderer, it soon fell into place when Kemper started to describe things that only he as the Co-Ed killer could have known.

When Kemper was later asked why he stopped killing and handed himself in, he said, "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."

He continued, "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."

Following his confessions, Kemper was arrested and then convicted of eight counts of first-degree murder, he then attempted suicide twice and even requested the death penalty, but this was refused and he was handed seven concurrent life sentences.

Edmund Kemper trial
Edmund Kemper during his trial

Edmund Kemper was imprisoned at the California Medical Facility with the likes of Charles Manson and Herbert Mullin. Kemper, who is now 73 years old, still resides in that same prison to this day and is said to be the model prisoner. Kemper is now in charge of booking other inmates' appointments with psychiatrists and has even narrated over 5,000 hours of audiobooks for stories such as Star Wars and Dune.

People who knew Kemper personally before he went to prison don't believe that he will have ever changed.

"It’s laughable," said Kemper’s half-brother, who goes by an alias to protect his identity. "He is a complete sociopath."

"He could look you straight in the eye telling you how sorry he is for everything he did while at the same time plotting your demise and you’d never even have a clue."

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