Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Edmund Kemper: The Coed Butcher

The Beginning

Kemper's crimes began before Mullin and stopped after him. What precipitated it, according to his account in several interviews, was his mother's constant needling and humiliation. When released by the parole board from Atascadero in 1969, the psychiatrists had advised that Kemper not be returned to Clarnell, because it could trigger more violence. But it appeared that no one was keeping watch. Having no means of support and no assistance from the Youth Authority, Kemper did move in with Clarnell and, according to him, she took up berating him again.

Clarnell, Edmund Kemper's mother
Clarnell, Edmund Kemper's mother
Having left her third husband, she had taken a job at the new university in Santa Cruz as an administrative assistant and moved into a duplex on Ord Drive in Aptos. They had frequent arguments that the neighbors overheard. Whether or not Clarnell was a primary influence in his subsequent actions, there is no doubt that they had an unrelentingly toxic relationship. As part of his parole requirements, Kemper went to a community college and did well, but he hoped to get into the police academy one day. When he learned that he was too tall, his consolation was to hang out in the jury room where the police gathered and listen to their stories. They knew him as "Big Ed" and generally thought of him as a polite young man. His voice was soft, his manner polite, and his speech intelligent and articulate. He idolized John Wayne and everyone knew it. Little did they know that they would eventually be telling one of their most bizarre tales about him.

He got several different jobs and finally ended up with the California Highway Department. When he had saved enough money to move out of his mother's home, he went north to Alameda , near San Francisco , and shared an apartment with a friend. But he often had no money and sometimes ended up back with Clarnell. He purchased a motorcycle, but got into two separate accidents, one of which Damio says paid out in a settlement that gave him $15,000. With this he bought a yellow Ford Galaxy and began to cruise the area. He noticed young females out hitchhiking - the popular mode of travel for college students in those days along the West Coast. And when he looked them over, as he described in later interviews, he thought about things he could do to them. Quietly, he prepared his car for what he had in mind, placing plastic bags, knives, a blanket, and handcuffs that he had acquired into the trunk. He had only to await an opportunity. For a period of time, he picked up girls and let them go. By his estimation, he picked up around 150 hitchhikers, any of whom might have been chosen for his plan. Finally, he felt the urgent inner drive of what he called his "little zapples," and he acted.



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