Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Serial Killers Who Surrender

The Genius Giant

Edmund Kemper III
Edmund Kemper III

When he was 15, Edmund Kemper III murdered his paternal grandparents. His grandmother had made him angry, he later said, so he'd shot and stabbed her to "see what it felt like" and then eliminated his grandfather to "spare" him from discovering the body. This occurred in 1964, and when Kemper called his mother to tell her, she urged him to turn himself in. He was placed into the California juvenile system, but released five years later with a clean record. Soon the six-foot-nine giant with a genius IQ decided to kill again.

In 1972 and 1973, the socially inept Kemper noticed young females out hitchhiking around Santa Cruz and realized how vulnerable they were. He envisioned violent things he could do to them and then began playing a game. He'd pick them up, sometimes two at a time, allowing some to go free while he selected others to be shot, stabbed, or strangled. "I'm picking up young women," Kemper explained to the police in a later confession, "and I'm going a little bit farther each time. It's a daring kind of thing... We go to a vulnerable place, where there aren't people watching, where I could act out and I say, 'No, I can't.' ...And this craving, this awful raging eating feeling inside, this fantastic passion. It was overwhelming me. It was like drugs. It was like alcohol. A little isn't enough."

Mary Ann Pesce
Mary Ann Pesce

His first murder involved two girls on May 7, 1972. Mary A. Pesce and Anita Luchessa, both 18, were stabbed, decapitated and dissected. Kemper secretly enjoyed the news coverage as the parts were found. Then he picked up 15-year-old dance student, Aiko Koo, on September 14. After strangling her, he removed her head and limbs. Another five months passed, but between January and April, Kemper murdered three more young women.

All this time, he lived with his mother, who he claims constantly berated him; it's likely she also feared him, because throughout his childhood, she made him live in the basement of their home. Shortly after the sixth co-ed murder, Kemper and his mother engaged in a fight and he decided that she should die as well. On April 20, 1973, he bludgeoned, decapitated and dismembered her, removing her larynx to shove down the garbage disposal.

Anita Luchessa
Anita Luchessa

For good measure, he invited his mother's friend, Sara Hallett, over and killed and beheaded her as well. He fled to Colorado, but apparently had second thoughts. From a phone booth, he called the police in Santa Cruz — men he'd often hung out with — and turned himself in. At first they did not believe him, thinking he was joking, but after he sent them to his mother's home he was soon under arrest. Then he began to talk, describing how angry he had been with his mother over the years and how each murder had been an expression of that.

Dr. Donald Lunde, a psychiatrist who interviewed Kemper at the time, thought he exhibited complete awareness and had relished the perversions to which he had admitted, including cannibalism and necrophilia. He later wrote that Kemper's sexual aggression stemmed from a combination of childhood anger and the development during his juvenile incarceration of violent sexual fantasies.

Aiko Koo
Aiko Koo

On November 8, 1973, Kemper, 24, was found guilty of eight counts of first-degree murder. Although he hoped to receive the death penalty (with torture), he was convicted during a time when the U.S. Supreme Court had placed a moratorium on capital punishment, so instead he received life in prison.

Whether he actually felt remorse, Kemper did believe that if he was ever allowed out, he would continue to be a danger. Apparently, the next killer viewed himself in the same manner.

 

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