Edmund Emil Kemper III (born December 18, 1948), also known as Big Ed, The Co-ed Butcher, or The Co-ed Killer, is an American serial killer and necrophile who was active in California in the early 1970s. He started his criminal life by murdering his grandparents when he was 15 years old, and later killed and dismembered six female hitchhikers in the Santa Cruz area. He then murdered his mother and one of her friends before turning himself in to the authorities days later. Kemper is noted for his imposing size and high intelligence, standing 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m) tall and weighing over 300 lbs (140 kg) and having an IQ in the 140 range, attributes that left his victims with little chance to overcome him.
On August 27, 1964, Kemper’s grandmother, Maude Matilda Hughey Kemper, was sitting at the kitchen table working on her latest children’s book when she and Kemper began arguing. Eventually, Kemper shot her in the head. (Some sources claim that he also stabbed her with a kitchen knife after shooting her.) When his grandfather, Edmund Emil Kemper, came home from grocery shopping, Kemper went outside and fatally shot him in the driveway. Kemper then 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.
At age 15, Kemper was committed to the Atascadero State Hospital, where he befriended his psychologist and even became his assistant. Tests during his time at Atascadero revealed that he had an I.Q. of 136. Later, during adulthood, he tested at 145. Kemper was released from prison in 1969, after serving fewer than five years. At the time of his release, he had grown to 6 ft 9 inches (2.06 m) and weighed close to 280 pounds (130 kg). Against the wishes of several doctors at the hospital, he was released into his mother’s care. Kemper later demonstrated further to the psychologists that he was well — and his juvenile records were expunged.
He worked a series of menial 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, he weighed about 300 pounds (140 kg).
Between May 1972 and April 1973, Kemper embarked on a murder spree that started with six female students and ended with the murders of his mother and her best friend. Kemper would pick up female students who were hitchhiking, take them to isolated areas where he would stab, shoot or smother his victims. He would then take their lifeless bodies back to his apartment where he would rape their severed heads and bodies and then dissect them. He killed five college co-eds, one high school student, his mother and ending with his mother’s best friend. He would often go hunting for victims after his mother’s outbursts towards him.
Kemper had managed to stay one step ahead of investigators by befriending many Santa Cruz County police officers. Kemper was a regular at a bar called The Jury Room, which was a popular hangout with local law enforcement officers. None of his friends had any suspicions and they freely discussed the case with him.
Mary Ann Pesce and Anita Luchessa
On May 7, 1972, Kemper was driving in Berkeley when he picked up two 18-year-old hitchhiking Fresno State students, Mary Ann Pesce and Anita Luchessa, on the pretext of taking them to Stanford University. After driving for an hour, he found a secluded wooded area, near Alameda, where he smothered and stabbed Pesce to death before fatally stabbing Luchessa.
Kemper then put both of the women in the trunk of his 1969 Ford and returned to his apartment. In his room, he took some pornographic photographs of the naked corpses before dismembering them and putting the body parts into plastic bags, which he later abandoned near Loma Prieta Mountain. Before disposing of Pesce’s and Luchessa’s heads in a ravine, Kemper orally raped both of their heads.
On the evening of September 14, 1972, Kemper picked up 15-year-old Aiko Koo, who had decided to hitchhike to dance class after missing the bus. While holding her at gunpoint, he pulled over to the side of the road and strangled her to death. He then raped her corpse.
On January 7, 1973, Kemper was driving around the Cabrillo College campus, where he picked up 19-year-old student Cindy Schall. He drove to a secluded wooded area and fatally shot her with a .22 caliber pistol. He placed her body in the trunk of his car and drove back to his mother’s house. He kept her body in his room overnight so he could remove the bullet from her head and decapitate her. He buried her severed head in his mother’s garden facing upward toward his mother’s bedroom as a joke, later remarking that his mother “always wanted people to look up to her”. He proceeded to dismember the rest of her body and discarded her remains in a ravine.
Rosalind Thorpe and Alice Liu
On February 5, 1973, after an argument with his mother, Kemper left the house in search of possible victims. He encountered 24-year-old Rosalind Thorpe and 23-year-old Alice Liu, on the UC Santa Cruz campus. According to Kemper, Thorpe entered his car first, which apparently reassured Liu to also enter. Right after leaving the university grounds, Kemper fatally shot Thorpe and Liu with a .22 caliber pistol. He then wrapped their bodies in blankets, and placed them both in the backseat of his car. He sexually abused their bodies and the next morning dismembered the bodies and discarded the remains at Eden Canyon near San Francisco, where they were found a week later.
Clarnell Strandberg Kemper and Sally Hallett
On Good Friday April 20, 1973, while waiting for his mother to come home from a party Kemper fell asleep and was awakened by her coming home. While his mother was sitting in bed reading a paperback book she noticed Kemper enter her room and said, “I suppose you’re going to want to sit up all night and talk now”, Kemper replied, “No, good night”, before beating her to death with a claw hammer. He then decapitated her and orally raped her severed head before using it as a dart board. He also cut out her vocal cords and put them in the garbage disposal. The garbage disposal could not break down the tough vocal cord tissue and ejected the tissue back into the sink. “That seemed appropriate as much as she’d bitched and screamed and yelled at me over so many years” he later said after his arrest. He then invited his mother’s best friend, 59-year-old Sally Hallett, over to the house. Upon her arrival to the house, he strangled her to death. Kemper then left the scene of his final crimes.
Kemper drove eastward, leaving California, driving through Nevada and Utah. Kemper arrived in Pueblo, Colorado, and after not hearing any news on the radio about the murders of his mother and Sally Hallett, Kemper found a phone booth and called the police. He confessed to the murders of his mother and Hallett, but the police didn’t take his call seriously and told him to call back at a later time. Several hours later, Kemper called again asking to speak to an officer he personally knew. Kemper then confessed to that officer of killing his mother and Hallett, but he did not mention he was also the murderer of the six female students. He would do that while being interviewed by detectives. Kemper waited in his car for the police to arrive, arrest him and take him into custody.