Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Edmund Kemper: The Coed Butcher

First Murder

As Clarnell had done with her three ex-husbands, she attacked Edmund on many occasions, aiming at his manhood and sense of worth. Although he wanted to socialize, she refused to introduce him to women on campus. "She's holding up these girls who she said were too good for me to get to know," he recalled. "She would say, 'You're just like your father. You don't deserve to get to know them.'" This kind of talk infuriated him, and he went out to cruise for the girls that he couldn't have. He knew a way to get them on his terms.

Kemper had picked up many hitchhikers. "I'm picking up young women," he said in the interview shown on Mugshots, "and I'm going a little bit farther each time. It's a daring kind of thing. First there wasn't a gun. I'm driving along. 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 then a gun is in the car, hidden. 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."

The experience changed for him on May 7, 1972. Even before Mullin began his reign of terror in the area, Kemper decided to make his move. "It was stupid for anyone to hitchhike," he said, "but to these people who thought it was fun and exciting and maybe even a little bit daring — it is if they're dead." He got insights and tidbits from reading police novels. For example, he learned how to keep the car door locked once the girls were inside. He also knew how to give them the impression that they were safe with him.

Mary Anne Pesce
Mary Anne Pesce
Clarnell had acquired a university sticker for Kemper's Ford, which made it easy for him to go in and out of the campus without raising suspicion. (It should be noted that coworkers at the university found Clarnell charming and easy to get along with, which differed from Edmund's version. She did give him assistance and allowed him to live with her.) On this day, Kemper picked up two 18-year-old college students out hitchhiking, Mary Anne Pesce and Anita Luchessa. He wanted to rape them, but decided on murder to leave no witnesses.

Anita Luchessa
Anita Luchessa
"It was the first time I went looking for someone to kill. And it's two people, not one. And they're dead. Very naïve, too. Painfully naïve in that they thought they were streetwise." In fact, they were quite grateful for the ride. It wasn't far to Stanford, perhaps an hour, so Kemper said he was willing to take them all the way. They couldn't believe their luck, but their glee soon turned to terror.

Kemper drove off the highway and came to rest on a dirt road. The girls sensed that something was amiss. As if to intensify his own game, he told them that he intended to rape them and that he was going to take them to his apartment, although he had learned from listening to the stories of rapists in Atascadero that it was better to leave no witnesses. Handcuffing Pesce to the back seat, he forced Luchessa into the trunk of the car. He then tried unsuccessfully to smother Pesce and to stab her. The knife blade hit her backbone and would not enter, but she felt the pain and put up a tremendous struggle. She also bit through the bag that he had placed over her head. Finally, he slit her throat and killed her. He then turned his attention to Luchessa and killed her as well, though it was an ordeal he hadn't expected. Now he had two corpses all to himself.

And he was nearly caught, as the police learned during his confession. As he drove toward Alameda , he was stopped for a broken taillight. He maintained a calm, polite attitude and got off with a mere warning. During the entire encounter, Kemper later said, he was excited. Had the officer decided to do a routine check and look into the trunk, Kemper would have killed him on the spot.

In Alameda , his roommate was out, so he knew he could work on the bodies there without being disturbed. Wrapping them in blankets, he placed them in the trunk of his car and drove to his apartment. There he brought the bodies inside and laid them on the floor. His own confessions provide the details. He took them into his own bedroom, where he photographed them. As he removed parts from them, he took more photographs and paused from time to time to savor the erotic moments of possessing them so completely. He said that he also engaged in sexual acts with the severed parts.

Placing Pesce's parts in a bag, he left them in a shallow grave in the mountains, making sure to remember the place for later visits. He used her head for sex before tossing it into a ravine, along with Luchessa's head. He then fell back into his habit of picking up girls and taking them safely to their destinations. He would even talk to his riders about the man who was killing female hitchhikers, all the while evaluating each as a potential victim. "When someone put their hand on my car-door handle, they were giving me their life."

He continued with this activity until September 14, 1972.



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