Edmund Kemper: The Coed Butcher
The beach town of Santa Cruz lies south of San Francisco on the Pacific Coast . Surrounded by mountains, ocean, and towering redwood trees, it's a tourist Mecca and an upscale place to own a home or rent an apartment. During the early 1970s, when the murders began, townspeople were already torn over the "hippies" moving in, thanks in part to the University of California opening a new campus there. Young people flooded in, and not all of them were what residents called "desirable."
At the time, Damio writes, 95 percent of murders that occurred in America were primarily situational—inspired by tense domestic incidents or the result of some kind of altercation among acquaintances. But the murders during the 1970s in Santa Cruz defied this pattern, and while one killer was quickly captured after his crime, for several months no arrests were made or suspects identified for the other cases. By 1973, people were purchasing guns to protect themselves, because clearly these offenders were boldly entering the homes of ordinary citizens.
But even before that, in May 1972, female hitchhikers began to disappear. To subdue public panic, the authorities tried linking these disappearances to Mullin so they could assure the community that the spate of murders was at an end, but it soon turned out to be another person altogether—someone who surprised them.
Eventually the Santa Cruz Sentinel, the local newspaper, would put together a magazine that reviewed important events in the area across the decades and featured these three killers. "It felt like the actions of a world gone crazy," recalled reporter Tom Honig. The 1970s was an age of violence, and along with Frazier and Mullin, they would add Edmund Kemper, now a young man. Altogether the three killed 28 people, and represented the three basic types of multiple murderers: Frazier killed all his victims at once, Mullin in a spree (accounting for his projected goal of thirteen), and Kemper as a serial killer.