Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Herb Mullin

Serial Killer Rivalry

 "Yes, judging from my years in Atascadero, I would say he is mentally ill." — "Coed Killer" Edmund Kemper's evaluation of Mullin

While waiting for trial, Mullin came face to face with the other "homicidal maniac" who had been terrorizing Santa Cruz, Edmund Emil Kemper III. After a murderous bender in April 1973, when he dismembered his mother and her friend, he drove nonstop to Colorado. After being disappointed that there wasn't a national manhunt out for him, he stopped at a payphone called Santa Cruz police to confess that he was the notorious "Coed Killer." Finally, after repeated calls, they sent officers to the phone booth, where he was patiently waiting.

Edmund Kemper (AP)
Edmund Kemper (AP)

Someone thought it would be amusing to give Kemper and Mullin adjoining cells. The two mass murderers mixed like fire and brimstone. At 6' 9", Kemper towered over the petite Mullin, and hassled him in any way he could. Kemper boasted of his power over Mullin: "Well, [Mullin] had a habit of singing and bothering people when somebody tried to watch TV. So I threw water on him to shut him up. Then, when he was a good boy, I'd give him some peanuts. Herbie liked peanuts. That was effective, because pretty soon he asked permission to sing. That's called behavior modification treatment." He also called Mullin a "creep with no class," and offered to rat on Mullin if he heard him say anything incriminating. In return, Mullin was disgusted by Kemper, and complained constantly about the noise when he was trying to meditate.

Both Mullin and Kemper viewed their own killing rampages as missions, and thought the other was a heathen. Mullin killed to save the world from earthquakes, and despised Kemper as a brutish sex maniac. In turn, Kemper said that Mullin "was just a cold-blooded killer . . . killing everyone he saw for no good reason." Kemper thought he was the one with the social statement, making a "demonstration to the authorities of Santa Cruz" by killing the young women society treasured the most. Together, the lumbering Kemper and diminutive Mullin must have looked like the Laurel and Hardy of multiple murder.

Kemper is well-known for his mother issues. Mullin, on the other hand, was transfixed by his father. Killing a Catholic Father and a retired war veteran might be considered displaced aggravation against his own parent. He insisted that his father, Martin William Mullin, was a mass murderer. "I want his fingerprints to be taken and compared with all murders which occurred in California and Oregon since 1925," he demanded. In addition to being responsible for all murders on the West Coast since the twenties, Herb also believed that his father telepathically ordered Dean Richardson to commit suicide by crashing his car in 1965.


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