Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Edmund Kemper: The Coed Butcher


After killing six young women, the six-foot-nine giant turned his anger against his ultimate target: his mother. While most experts later claim that his killing was really about symbolic rehearsal for killing his mother, and once he'd dispatched her, he no longer needed to kill, Kemper's explanation is quite different. He indicated in an interview that he had sensed the cops closing in after Sergeant Aluffi had paid him a call about his gun and he wanted to spare his mother the embarrassment of learning that he was the "Coed Butcher." However, his treatment of her corpse tells another story.

Kemper also said that he feared that his mother had found the items he had taken from the women he'd killed. He wondered if he should flee or kill her. "I can't get away from her...She knows all my buttons and I dance like a puppet. "He knew that he would now kill her, but he waited for the opportune moment. She went out with friends one evening and came home tipsy from alcohol (although some accounts say nothing about her inebriated state).

Kemper went into her room, and according to him, she said, "I suppose you want to talk now." He told her no. In his 1978 interview, he said he then started to cry and put his hand to his mouth. It was the first time he had broken his composure. He'd spoken about the other murders with no show of guilt, compassion or remorse, but his mother's death was another matter.

He waited for her to go to bed, he said, and then went into her room with a claw hammer. "It was so hard." He admitted that to remember it hurt him. "I cut off her head, and I humiliated her, of course. She was dead, because of the way she raised her son." But later he said he'd wished she'd stayed up and talked to him. He put her head on the mantel and said what he wanted to say. He also threw darts. For the first time, she did not argue with him. That felt satisfying, but he also knew it was over for him. He would undoubtedly be linked to this crime. He penned a brief note, quoted in Cheney's book: "Appx. 5:15 A.M. Saturday. No need for her to suffer anymore at the hands of this horrible 'murderous butcher.' It was quick, sleep, the way I wanted it."

Edmund Kemper, in custody, dwarfs others
Edmund Kemper, in custody, dwarfs others
Some sources indicate that Kemper believed having two victims would deflect attention from him, so he then invited Sally Hallett over. He punched and strangled her, then laid her naked on his bed. He spent the night with the two corpses in the house, with blood everywhere, and one account indicates that he tried to have sex with Hallett's corpse. He also beheaded her. On Easter morning, he fled in Sally's car. As he drove, he turned on the radio, hoping to hear on the news that someone had discovered the bodies. Yet there were no news flashes. That disappointed him. By the time he reached Pueblo , after driving some 1,500 miles, he decided to instigate the discovery himself. Stopping at a phone booth, he called the police.

Body removed, Edmund Kemper's home
Body removed, Edmund Kemper's home

Kemper made it easy for the cops. He showed them where he had buried the head of Cynthia Schall in his mother's backyard, saying he had placed it there so he could take satisfaction in knowing, according to one detective, she was on his property looking toward the sky. As they drove, he described each murder in minute detail and showed them where he had deposited each victim's remains.



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