Born inBurbank, California, Edmund Kemper would commit his first murders by the youngage of 16. However, his deviant behavior began long before that. The bulk ofhis murders follow a specific modus operandi: young, female hitchhikers who hewould strangle. While he murdered others in different ways, he is widely knownas ‘The Co-Ed Killer’, a nickname derived from the murders of the femalestudents he would strangle. Kemper’s primary classification would be hedonistic,but more specifically, a lust killer. After murdering his victims, he woulddissect the bodies, often performing various sexual acts afterwards.
This sexually deviant behaviorbegan when he was a child, where – according to Serial Killers and Psychopaths written by Charlotte Greig and JohnMarlowe – “he began to torture and kill animals, and used his sisters’ dolls inacting out aberrant sexual fantasies and situations” (177). It would later manifest itself in more gruesome,malicious ways when his victims progressed from dolls to young women. Accordingto the same book, “Ed Kemper was once asked what he thought when he saw a younggirl in the street, and replied, ‘One side of me says I’d like to talk to herand date her. The other side of me says I wonder how her head would look on astick?'” (182). To my knowledge, he never carried out this specific fantasy,but he did place his mother’s decapitated head on the ledge of a fireplace beforeproceeding to use it as a dartboard. Though the murders he’s mostinfamous for were completed by means of strangulation, this was not his onlymethod. His first murders, the murder of his paternal grandparents, took placewith a shotgun. The murder of his grandmother could have been a crime of passion,as it’s unsure whether or not his motivations were premediated or whether themurder happened because of the argument that transpired just moments prior toher death.
His grandfather was not there at the time, but was shot as he wasexiting his vehicle upon his arrival home. His mother was murdered through theuse of a pick hammer.The fact that Kemper desiredattention from his murders could leave some to question whether he could bedescribed as a thrill killer, or those who kill and/or taunt the police toexperience some sort of rush. While he does fit that specific criteria, lustkiller would be a more appropriate classification for him because of the sexuallydeviant behavior that took place after the murders. He even went as far as totake several photographs for keepsakes during the dissection process.
For the murder of his grandparents,Kemper was part of the 1% who received a plea of insanity. He spent years in aa psychiatric facility, but was released at a fairly young age. Part of hisparole stipulation was to be reviewed regularly by two psychiatrists. A dayafter the rape and murder of 15-year-old Aiko Koo, the psychiatrists expressedthat “he was no longer a danger” to society (Psychopaths and Serial Killers, pg. 180). For the crimes committedlater in his life, his attempt at the same plea as before was denied.Because of this killer’ssimilarities to Ted Bundy, a killer who also preyed upon young co-eds and partookin the act of necrophilia, it’s fair to assume that his profile matches that ofcommon serial killer myths and stereotypes. One stereotype or myth that we can associateKemper with is the idea that serial killers, on some level, all want to receivethe notoriety spawned from their murders, and therefore have a desire to becaptured.
This is true in Kemper’s case, proved when he turned himself in – notonce, but twice. Additionally, it can be argued that – like Bundy – Kemper wasfairly intelligent. While I’m unsure of his numerical IQ, he attended collegeafter being released from the psychiatric institution he was confined to afterhis first murders, where he earned above average grades.
At this point in time,he even aspired to become a police officer himself. While I’m unsure as to whether ornot we discussed the stereotype or myth of serial killers wanting to keep mementosfrom their victims, it’s one I’ve seen perpetrated by the media often. Forexample, Normal Bates in the television adaption Bates Motel, kept artifactsfrom those he murdered. Arguably, one could say that Kemper fit this myth aswell due to the photographs he took, but the majority of the time, there’s noevidence to suggest this is a fact among all serial killers.
In conclusion, Edmund Kemper was anotorious lust killer. He killed both family members and strangers alike, withsexual activity present perimortem and postmortem. His crimes were similar toTed Bundy’s, both killers primarily preying on young students and engaging in necrophilia.After being charged for the first-degree murders of eight people and beingdenied for the death penalty, Kemper is still serving his life sentence as aMedical Corrections Facility in California.