Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Edmund Kemper: The Coed Butcher

The Psychiatric View

Lunde was in the thick of the fear and hysteria in Santa Cruz as he assessed John Linley Frazier and Herb Mullin. He was also called in to the Kemper case and was allowed access by Kemper's defense attorney to the trial transcripts. To Lunde, Kemper, unlike Mullin or Frazier, seemed like a man who had complete awareness of what he was doing and had fully relished its perversion. He believed that Kemper's sexual aggression stemmed from childhood anger and violent fantasies. Lunde found Kemper's ambivalent relationship with his mother to be common among sexual sadists, and they generally bring the killing of their mother into their fantasy world. The act of killing becomes a powerful aspect of sexual arousal.

Kemper's anger began early, Lunde writes, when he was separated from his father. He laid the full blame for that on his mother, although she had expressed concern about the lack of a father figure in his life. Lunde also recorded incidents remembered by Kemper's younger sister. "He would stage his own execution in the form of a childhood game, in which he had her lead him to a chair, blindfold him, and pull an imaginary lever, after which he would writhe about as if dying in a gas chamber."

Kemper had told Lunde about his strong interest in weapons and his desire to kill women. Instead, he killed cats. "He also imagined such things as killing everyone in town and having sexual relations with corpses." While he apparently longed for a relationship with a female, he felt so inadequate that he decided he could only engage in one form of activity with them: killing them. He would also have sex with the corpses.

Lunde lamented the fact that the years Kemper had spent in a psychiatric institution as a boy had failed to prevent him from becoming such a violent and dangerous person. "There may be a point in the sexual sadist's development," he says, "beyond which sexual and violent aggressive impulses are inextricably interwoven." Effective treatment would have had to have taken place much earlier during his childhood. Yet it's difficult to identify such children, because they generally engage in their fantasies secretly and deny they are guilty of the petty offenses they commit.

Kemper is among those serial killers who have freely offered an extravagant amount of detail about his crimes and his fantasies. Despite how disturbing his revelations are, we can be grateful that we know more about the development of a sexual predator from his accounts.



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