Edmund Emil Kemper III was born December 18, 1948, Santa Cruz, California. After his parents divorced when he was 9, Kemper lived with a domineering mother named Clarnell. She had strict standards and doled out brutal punishment when he failed to comply. She locked him in the basement for long periods of time. He hated toward his mother grew and fantasized about killing her. He was afraid of his peers, and had problems making friends. He enjoyed pretending he was in a gas chamber with his two sisters. Edmund buried the family's pet cat up to its neck; he then kept its severed head as a trophy. His mother replaced the cat. Edmund massacred the new cat with his machete and kept the pieces his bedroom closet where they were found by his mother. His own mother referred to him as a “weirdo.” After not being able to live get along in his mother's home and his father, Ed Jr. and stepmother's home, at age 13, he moved in with his paternal grandparents on a rural North Folk, California ranch. He didn't get along with his grandmother. His mother was concerned he may harm her ex-husband's parents. On August 27, 1964, at age 14, following an argument, he shot his grandmother in the back of her head while she sat at the kitchen table working on a children's book, then mutilated her with a kitchen knife. When his grandfather returned from the store, he shot him on the porch and left his body in the yard. After he phoned his mother he called the police to explain he just wanted to see how it felt to kill grandma.
Kemper was committed to Atascadero State Hospital. At the age of 21, after he convinced psychologists that he was sane, he was released in Santa Cruz, California, into his mother's custody against the advice of several Atascadero State Hospital psychiatrists. Still a virgin, Kemper used pornography and detective magazines for erotic stimulation. His mother who three failed marriages behind her was an administrative assistant at the University of California at Santa Cruz. She showed more interest and care towards college students than she did her son. With an IQ of 120 and imposing size of 6 feet 9 inches and almost 300 pounds, he had violent arguments with his mother and others. His mother put him down and blamed him for inability to find a boyfriend.
He worked at a Green Giant canning plant as a laborer before he got on with the State Division of Highways in 1971, a job where he could hang out with law enforcement. He tried hard to get a job in law enforcement but was rejected due to his large size. But his friends supplied him with handcuffs, a training badge and gun. His juvenile records were officially sealed November 29, 1972.
Kemper murdered six hitchhiking college co-eds, resembling his mother, in the Santa Cruz are of California, between May 1972 and February 1973, usually after a fight with his mother. Each murder was more bizarre and brutal. After taking them to desolate areas to stab, shoot or smother the victims, he brought the corpses back to his apartment to dissect and have sex with the parts before he ate them (so they could be part of him) and dumping their remains in the California hills. He would later admit that he got a kick out of going to his psychiatric appointments with the head of a 15-year-old victim in the trunk.
Kemper claimed his mother bellittled and browbeat him continually. As he would watched her sleep he fantasizes about killing her. On an April Easter Sunday in 1973, Kemper crushed his mother's skull with a hammer, decapitated her, masturbated in her mouth, ran her larnyx through the disposal, and cut off her right hand. Then he invited over her friend, a college employee and strangled her until her neck broke.
The following day drove east, while listening to the news of the crimes on the radio. Days later, in Pueblo, Colorado, Kemper was so disturbed that his mother's body had not been discovered that he confessed to the police by phone. (He had difficulty getting them to take his confession seriously.) After his arrest he gave a full confession to murder, necrophilia, and cannibalism. He pleaded not guilty due to insanity, but was found guilty on eight counts of murder. He requested the death penalty, but received life imprisonment with the possibility of parole but was denied parole in 1980. He is in Folsom Prison.
Another Santa Cruz Californian serial killer, Herbert Mullin was active at the same time, making the area the “Murder Capital of the World.” Kemper accused Mullin of stealing his dumping sites.
In The Silence of the Lambs, Buffalo Bill, a serial killer who killed his grandparents as a teenager, is based in part on Kemper.
“When I see a pretty girl walking down the street, I think two things: One part of me wants to take her home, be real nice and treat her right; the other part wonders what her head would look like on a stick." – Edmund Kemper III
In American Psycho, serial killer Patrick Bateman uses this quote but it is wrongfully credited to Ed Gein.
Maude Kemper August 1964
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